Featured Designer

Stefan Downs

August 2019

Stefan Downs, designer at Christchurch arm of Strategy Creative, caught up with us and shared how he's living up to the title of 'Creative', the importance of exploring in design, and how to swing a design internship whilst in the supermarket.

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

I studied at Ara Institute of Canterbury (formerly known as CPIT) in Christchurch New Zealand. After graduating, I was super pumped to get into the industry to cut my teeth on some real-life work. I soon got some part-time work for a few places around town, at one of which I found myself superimposing giant pink slushies with polar bears wearing sunglasses for a diary franchise in the states. During this period I managed to get a sweet gig doing a few projects for illustrator & designer Brett King. I then got a paid internship at a local design studio McCarthy after spotting and approaching Stephen McCarthy in the meat section at the grocery store. After this a full-time job opportunity came up at Strategy Creative — so I took it and I’ve been there since.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

My job title is ‘creative’. Initially I was a wee bit unsure about these industry buzz words but I think ‘creative’ actually encompasses far more of what you do as a designer at Strategy. Working with a smaller team has been really awesome, because it has given me the freedom to do far more than just be a ‘designer’. Over the past few years, I’ve been able to have a lot of input into initial ideas and direction right through to the nitty-gritty execution.

Who are your top five design crushes globally right now?

I always get really excited by what national and international designers are doing, and I totally have a few design crushes. A couple of type design legends for obvious reasons are Kris Sowersby and Seb McLauchlan, both of whom are from New Zealand. Mitch Paone, founder and creative director at DIA, I love this guy's music influence and how he incorporates it into kinetic design and identity. Mike Giesser from Melbourne studio M.Giesser — always has perfect type and pleasing grids. Also, a photographer whose work I love because of the correspondence with design and layout is Australian surf photographer Woody Gooch.

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There is so much opportunity with the exposure of the internet that you can find your place.

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What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

If you’re studying design and racking up a student loan, you might as well be finding and exploring what you love and getting really good at it (while learning the fundamentals). It’s easy to get stuck into the pattern of designing what you think your tutor might want to see, or what everyone else is doing, but these days there is so much opportunity with the exposure of the internet that you can find your place, even if it is illustrating cats with long legs and small heads.

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

I’ve been working on an exciting new product with my mate Blue Hamel who’s been working in New York as a Junior Art Director. This will be in the line of health and beauty, I can’t say too much about it now but I’m pretty excited to see how it all goes. Stay tuned to our instagrams for any updates.

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

There’s a lot of change happening for me in the next wee while. I’ve just recently taken a job opportunity back with the team at McCarthy. Strategy has taught me so much over the past few years that I am really grateful for, but I’m pretty excited about this next step and what the year ahead will look like. Personally, I’m just really looking forward to summer and going for a surf after work while the sun’s still up.

Website: stefandowns.com

Instagram: @stefandowns

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