Both of my parents are architects, so the value of design was never in question in my house growing up. It was such an everyday thing to me: I didn't realise that everyone's parent's weren't bringing them on guided tours of obscure buildings when we were on holidays; or snooping around building sites when were travelling in Ireland.
At age 11 I visited Antwerp with a boy’s choir, staying in the home of a local family. The dad was a graphic designer and showed myself and the other boys staying in the house some of his work. I was amazed that anyone would be paid to do such a fun job! I settled on studying graphic design at that point.
Useful, beautiful graphic design. The sightly longer "stuck in an elevator" version is that we believe that successful outputs are the product of a design process that addresses conceptual and practical requirements, not as opposing forces but as interdependent and complementary aspects of the work. Outcomes should balance what are sometimes seen as contradictory elements — big and small, fast and slow, analogue and digital. The right process will bring these together to create a unified solution.
In graduates (and interns) we are always looking for similar things. Of course, we will respond to those with well-conceived and realised projects, like anyone else. But when it comes down to a fit for the studio we are very specific. We look for the same quality that we seek in all our team and ourselves: the desire and ability to learn. In the studio we make space for constant development, and view every role as a learning position. Everyone on the team is either enrolled in an ongoing course, attending seminars or events associated to the work, or simply working on exercises within studio hours but outside of client work that will have a learning outcome for them.
A good outlet for all of that actually been our Instagram account. We have started to use it as a way to show work from our own archive back to 2006, and to play around with some stats about the studio and ourselves, as a fun exercise. We’ve also built up a collection of beautiful/old/interesting books that we’re posting every few days.
I’m involved a few activities that run parallel to the studio practice, as is my partner Conor. In 2012 I co-founded the 100 Archive with representatives from three other studios here in Dublin. There are so many good studios and practitioners out there and I think the archive has done an amazing job of showing them and their work all in one place.
I’m also a mentor for the Design and Crafts Council, and on the board of the IDI (Institute of Designers in Ireland). Both roles demand a view beyond the confines of graphic design into the wider environment, which is very worthwhile. I’ve taught both in graphic design courses (NCAD, LSAD, DIT and IADT) and in architecture courses in UL and DIT. Every teaching and mentoring experience is a big opportunity for me to learn, to see the work I do from a new perspective and to question any assumptions that might have built up in my mind over time. In short they’re a great way to stay fresh and connected.
I think that the design landscape is in great shape in Dublin. WorkGroup is one of a number of independent studios that I think are always trying to push working practice forward. Alongside that, I think those studios are eager for the common discourse about design to reflect the hugely talented community of practitioners here.
There are still very many problems to be fixed at every imaginable scale and context, but it feels like there is an engaged and active community of designers who are willing and able to take on this work — whether together or alone.