Featured Designer

Mona

July 2018

After seeing Mona (Museum of Old and New Art) Senior Designer David Campbell speak at Semi Permanent in Sydney earlier this year we were craving more of his wit and knowledge. Here, we chat about how he got involved with art organisations and museums; the design nerds he follows on Instagram, and his top 5 design crushes right now.

When did you fall in love with design?

We were never in love. I was young and needed the money.

What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why?

I follow a lot of design nerds on Instagram, like poster.reposter, selectedwork, mister.studio and actual_source. I also occasionally check out design-ish/nerd-ish blogs like visualgraphc.com and designeverywhere.tumblr.com.

For must-read design books, I’d definitely recommend the classics: Müller-Brockmann’s Grid Systems in Graphic Design; Goudy’s Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works; and Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. I’d advise any designer to read them, use their lessons until they become internalised, and then forget everything they say.

Who are your top five design crushes right now?

Paula Scher - In an industry that has more than its fair share of cheerleaders and charlatans, she speaks about her work, and the process required to get it made, with an honesty and practical mindset I find refreshing.

Irma Boom - The book designer’s book designer. She relentlessly plays with the format and structure of publications, as if teasing out all the possibilities of print. Her work lands somewhere between being slightly annoying and a noble cause.

Ordinary People - I just got recommended these guys this week (thanks Aaron), so I may get over them by next week, but for now I’m loving their style: kind of a cross-over between current high design and a South Korean aesthetic.

Mash Design – In an era where everyone (myself included) is going too minimal, I’m confused about how they manage to make work that is that busy, while looking that good.

Tom O’Hern - He’s not a designer. He’s possibly the most Tasmanian artist ever. He is smarter than all of us. Or stupider. It‘s hard to tell. Follow him on instagram @tomohernia

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Work leads to more of the same work. By this I mean whatever you focus upon, whatever you care about, will lead to more of the same.

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Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I did a fine art degree at the Queensland College of Art (QCA), some post-graduate art theory at the University of Queensland (UQ), followed by some design-focussed post-graduate stuff at RMIT. My first proper job was laying out a brochure for meat-packaging equipment. After that, I quickly decided I would do anything I could in future to never lay out a catalogue for meat-packaging equipment ever again.

My next job was doing an architectural project with Lab Architecture, who had just recently finished designing Fed Square. During the interview they said ‘John Warwicker normally does most of our design, but he’s too busy at the moment, so you’ll be filling in for him.’ I felt like someone who had just learnt their first four chords on a guitar, and then was asked to fill in for Prince.

From there I took on small design projects working with a range of artists and small commercial firms. I learnt a bit of everything: from layout and typography; through to coding, video creation and VJing; through to screen-printing and painting. Looking back now, being able to experiment across a broad range of projects was a great experience. Without realising I was doing it, I accidentally developed a broad skill set that has become the foundation of my design career.

What advice would you give students starting out?

Work leads to more of the same work. By this I mean whatever you focus upon, whatever you care about, will lead to more of the same. I’d always had a strong interest in art and museums, so I started out doing really small, inexpensive projects with artists. I can chart a clear career path from doing a photocopied flyer for a friend’s painting exhibition in a cafe, through progressively larger and better-funded art organisations, through to working with the kind of artists Mona attracts.

My designer friends who started out caring about UX all now do great UX. My designer friends who cared about the craft of logo design are now great logo designers. The unhappy ones are the ones who’ve done the less exciting jobs for purely career reasons and have found themselves stuck with a portfolio they’re not happy with. In the words of Quentin Crisp, “It's no good running a pig farm badly for 30 years while saying, 'Really, I was meant to be a ballet dancer.' By then, pigs will be your style.”

Design is not the easiest career. If you really want to do some good in the world, or if you really want to make money, there are far better ways of doing it than design. Get out now and do something else. If you can find a certain degree of interest in the challenges of the work, and a certain degree of respect for the craftsmanship, and a certain degree of satisfaction in the end result, stick around. You might even enjoy it.

2018 for you in asentence.

“Everytime is about as polluted and needy and beautiful as most other times.” - JerrySaltz

Website: inksniffer.net, mona.net.au

Instagram: @inksniffer, @monamuseum

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