Well Studio Papa was kind of an accident to tell you the truth. I’d been moonlighting as a freelance designer since I was a student, kept it up after graduating while I worked in other studios and eventually I ended up turning it into my full time day job when I moved to Melbourne a few years back.
I’ve been really lucky to build great relationships with clients and collaborators across Australia between living on the East Coast and moving back to the West Coast. Studio Papa gives me the opportunity to work with people who care about doing jobs right and I’m fortunate that I’ve met enough clients who want that service and keep me pretty flat tack these days!
As Studio Papa I’ve done all sorts of work in graphic design, exhibition design, 3D modelling, a little sign writing, festival design and packaging but my favourite kind of work to do is branding and in particular with a focus on custom typography when it fits the job. For me it’s all about the details so I tend to try and design the hell out of everything I get the opportunity to.
I racked up 8 years study over the years starting with a BA in Communications and Cultural Studies at Murdoch University, then followed that up with a Cert III in Fine Arts and finished it off with an Advanced Diploma in Graphic Design at Central TAFE (Central).
The first studio I worked at hired me as a web developer (not my strongpoint by a long shot) but over time I corrected my path, figured out what worked for me and what didn’t and started doing more traditional graphic design work and was lucky to land jobs and freelance work with some great local design and advertising studios. I guess some of my earliest projects were for AGDA as part of my time being a state councillor and there was always plenty of jobs to do for the family business.
In my early days I once did a rock star themed 60th birthday flyer for a woman who was the PA of one of the clients at my first studio job. She wanted me to photoshop her face together with Lady GaGa’s. That got interesting.
I’ve always been a pretty adventurous designer in terms of trying new techniques and always trying to level up my skill set and with that comes a long list of mistakes and rewards which you have to accept as the necessary trade off. The good thing is – you mess up, you learn, you move on and you’re a better designer for it. The last thing I want to be is a safe designer who never challenges themselves or takes the challenge of the brief they’re working to and only emulates what they can see around them because they’ve seen it so many times they know it’s going to work. Otherwise you just end up with an ocean of brands and designs that all look the same, fail to communicate their unique message and nothing ends up floating above everything else.
Running your own business (or two) means you have a whole other set of experiences you weren’t planning on and that means plenty of new and exciting mistakes. I’ve learned the importance of a tight project management process, a sturdy contract and most importantly good client communication to do your best to eliminate any misunderstandings that may come up. Being legally in the clear is absolutely peace of mind but having a good relationship with your client where what you deliver is in keeping with what you both understand the brief to be is good business and saves both parties time and money which means you look like a champ and get more referrals (unless it’s for you Mum and then you don’t really want to be referred to her friends).
I’d be remiss if I didn’t start by paying a massive tribute to Leah and Ange of Studio Bomba who took me under their wing as a young(ish) whippersnapper student, taught me most of what I know today and really introduced me to a world of inspiring design work that had a profound affect on me. Beyond that we’ve got an amazing pool of creative folks in Perth such as Michelle Leslie, Ben Hagley, Tracy Graffin, Studio Lost & Found, Public Creative, Block Branding, Dessein, Bronwyn Rogers Design Studio and a stack more. Honestly I’d like to give you a much longer list because it feels like there’s more and more super talented folks popping up here all the time.
Well as I said, I was lucky enough to intern with Bomba in my grad year back when it was small operation run out of Leah’s house and I’ve seen it transform, grow and move several times over the years. I was back visiting WA when the girls first caught wind of an exciting new location opening up and I was blown away when they invited me to not just take a seat in the studio but to also rebrand them as they transformed once again adding a cafe to the mix and becoming more of a share space than a traditional design studio.
We wanted branding that matched the mid-century feel of the interior but also something that had plenty of parts to dress the logo up and promote all of the dynamic aspects of the space/business or strip it right down for simpler branding requirements. We also needed to try to level out the personality of the brand a little to be a bit more gender neutral than it had been historically.
This was probably one of the most comprehensive branding jobs I’ve ever done to be honest. A stack of typography was drawn from scratch and three full typefaces were customised to include new characters and rounded letterforms throughout to age everything in a bit more. The girls were super great to work with, open to ideas and pretty much let me go wild coming up with messaging, signage and whatever else I could think of. We had some trouble getting a good sign writer to paint the signage for us so in the end I called my buddy Jarrad Burley and we just decided to do it ourselves which was a whole other amazing experience. It’s certainly one of the projects I’m most proud of.
Studio Bomba handpainted rebrand: vimeo.com/77464885
– The possibilities of the diverse kind of jobs that can walk through your door at any point
– The crafts and skills that you learn that liberate you and allow you take something from a concept and build it into an experience. I don’t have a womb so this is as good as it gets for me.
– Collaborating with other people, learning new ideas, approaches and techniques from them and getting to share the experience of both enjoying something new and being a part of building it at the same time.
– The long long hours.
– The value of the work in our society considering the level of expertise, range of skill sets and responsibility you need to execute it. There’s certainly easier ways to make a buck.
- The RSI and back problems.
Stationery, not stationary – or that’s probably what you’ll be after you graduate.