Featured Typographers, Graduates

Madeline Deneys

January 2016

One of our favourite Melbourne type chicks, Madeline Deneys made the list 16 for 2016, as judged by Simon Hipgrave (The Hungry Workshop). We chat about all the different opportunities there are for graphic designers, having mentors to work under, and avoiding the post-uni depression. 

When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?

The love started early but wasn’t a path I wanted to take until later in high school. But there were some formative moments: a week of work experience in a small studio in my small hometown, my first paid job in year 10 when I created custom type for the yearbook, and a trip to Europe when I was 17. I put all of my energy into my design folios in my final year of high school and set my sights on a university course in Melbourne.

What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?

I was anticipating one last long, cruisy summer holiday before I looked for work, but I applied for the internship with Veronica Grow at Old School New School for Design and Typography a few weeks after graduating, and I luckily got accepted. It was exciting – the best start to the year and to my career, and to my summer. I had previously learned copperplate calligraphy from Veronica and was ecstatic to be welcomed back as an intern, which has since lasted as an on-going collaboration. During the internship, we worked on brilliant creative projects such as Supergraph, created branding projects, practiced methods of drawing type, went on expeditions, worked on marketing and copywriting for the school – all with a focus and passion for typography. I thankfully avoided the post-uni depression I had been sternly warned against – instead I was still motivated and supported by a wonderful mentor, and it was a catalyst for projects throughout 2015.

What have been your highlights since you started out?

Meeting and working with kind, genuine, talented and fun people has really made it. Through these people, I’m lucky to have had varied and interesting experiences, in both freelance, studio, teaching and other projects. Using hand lettering skills for freelance work has been a real dream, and combining it within design work. I’ve been lucky to do this through signage, lettering and calligraphy. Plus, live lettering events through OSNS. A huge project was a calligraphy exhibition we created at OSNS in November. I wrote a brief for our collective of letterers around the work of Corita Kent, who during the 1960s and 70s was an artist, activist and teacher. We had 25 people hand craft their own poster in copperplate calligraphy – completely by hand. Some works were A2, so it was quite a feat, and a celebration and proud moment for all involved. The experience was great, and executing it with the right people made it brilliant. I also landed an in-house design position at my university a few months ago, which is boosting my skills, keeps me disciplined and I love bouncing off the interaction with colleagues. It’s really valuable.

Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if and how it shapes your practice?

Veronica at OSNS encouraged me to begin teaching typography workshops on behalf of the school. Getting to share your knowledge with people makes you hyper aware about the specifics of the skill and how much focus, attention and mindful practice it requires. It also demands you to really own it. It’s just been wonderful and rewarding. Sharing knowledge with students who want to craft letters properly, amongst a community who values the true craft of letterform. In terms of it shaping my practice, I think they bounce off each other. The work you do for yourself might spark an idea for a class, and vice versa.

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?

I try not to get too comfortable in one spot. You never know when things will change and you’re caught at a loose end. Or, you end up with a great job which catches you out of the blue. For me it’s best to jump into projects and keep things moving. Why wait? This is all exciting anyway, to stay fresh and on the ball. To reframe mistakes as useful learning experiences. These are positive and essential. I’ve broadened my idea of what I thought a graphic designer was, and what we’re useful for. That was an exciting discovery this year. I’ve learned to look for opportunities everywhere. There are so many more ventures and projects and business ideas where design plays a major part, beyond specific graphic design projects. It’s important to take time to watch movies, see people, go on trips, have a conversation, read something. Simple things which aren’t time wasters. Allow yourself the space to feed your brain in other non-design related ways. It all takes a lot of effective managing. Managing yourself, clients, the process, the money.

What’s on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

I'm yet to plan the year, but 2016 will be working full time and freelancing, hopefully another exhibition, doing enough side projects and freelance jobs to create exciting work and fund plenty of trips! I’ll hopefully head overseas, and I should really get my P plates.
Website: madelinedeneys.com
Instagram: @mad_deneys

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