I’d do more and say ‘yes’ more often. The people who you see achieving the most interesting and exciting careers in the creative industries, are the ones that go out there and make things happen for themselves. They start club nights, set up their own labels, make films and enter them into competitions. They learn, collaborate, participate, attend, support and initiate. I don’t believe in regrets, but if I were starting from scratch again, I’d work harder to bring more of the ideas I had to life, because you never know what will come of them.
When I was growing up, every year I used to go to the degree show at Edinburgh College of Art. There was all this amazing art and design on display - pottery, jewellery, sculpture, mixed media, textiles. I used to wander around and visit every single room and just get totally lost in it all. Some of the students would sell their work, and on the last day they’d slash the prices to get rid of it, so you had all this amazing artwork going for next to nothing. I’d normally leave with at least five or six pieces of work rolled up under my arm.
Yes, it’s a part of my job I really enjoy. I’ve mentored design students and regularly teach and present to those looking to break into the industry. In 2014 we started a hands-on design event series called A Brief Night where we open up the studio to groups of students, grads and junior designers. We set them a 90-minute design brief, they power up their laptops and the clock starts. The idea was to try and provide a taste of what it’s like to work in a real studio environment and I think the industry needs to do more to bridge that gap between education and industry. There’s a big difference between being a designer and working as a design professional.
For me, a great portfolio is full of bold, exciting and relevant design work. I like to see the thinking behind the work, not multiple sketches and variations of the one thing, but the creative route from inspiration to end result. For branding projects, I’m looking for knowledge of the breakdown of the brand, so detailing on colours, typefaces and identity systems. Then I like to see really thoughtful rollouts full of great ideas across print and production, messaging, marketing and strategy. It’s also important to have a commercial viability to your work. Conceptual, artistic pieces are good to see, but remember, you’re trying to land a job, so show your work can fill the requirements of the role, whatever they may be.
The difference is in the detail
Pay attention to every aspect of your work and your career – from the way you introduce yourself at meetings, to the kind of staples you use on your documents – it all counts.
Go with your own way
Don’t make decisions if they don’t feel right. Trying to live by your actions is pointless if you don’t believe in them in the first place.
Create drunk, edit sober.
This doesn’t have to be taken literally (although sometimes it can help!) it’s more about letting your imagination run wild when you’re trying to think creatively and then coming back to it with a clear head for a sense check.
Find the idea.
The best work is always based around a good idea. It’s that little ‘ah ha’ moment that turns something static into something full of truth and wonder.
A recent highlight was a larger, one-off version of the A Brief Night design event that we run. Imaginatively titled A Big Brief Night, it was part of Melbourne Design Week’s 2015 program and supported by AGDA and, of course, The Design Kids! We had eight really talented studios taking part including Alter, Wild Hen, and Fluid in Torquay, with over 70 designers tackling the same brief on the same night. To see it all come together was pretty awesome and I definitely want to do it again – maybe on an even bigger scale next time. Another proud moment for me was when I took part in The Pitch on ABC’s Gruen Planet. It’s one of my favourite shows so, even though we didn’t win, just being invited on was pretty special. Hopefully, I’ve got a few more highlights still to come!