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Interview with a Graphic Designer

Tell me a little about your background – what path has led you to what you’re doing now?

The path has been very long, very winding and slightly rocky! I graduated with a Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication at Monash University, which I loved. However that same year was a traumatic one for my family, with life changing events that forced me to consider what was really important in my life and question if I was on the right path. Even though I persisted with graphic design, working with some incredibly talented people over the past 7 years, including Marcus Piperat POL Oxygen, Dianna Wells at Dianna Wells Design, Soren Luckins at Buro North and the talented Camilla d’Antoine at MOZI, I have always felt a drive or a yearning within to do something more. I just never knew what it was.

In 2008 I launched Head Case – an art exhibition to raise awareness about people living with Acquired Brain Injuries (ABI). Inspired by my experience with my own mum (she has an ABI as a result of an extremely rare virus), I wanted to use my design skills to affect a positive change around this silent disability.  This was a real turning point in my career and probably the thing I am most proud of to date. The event was hugely successful, with over 400 people attending the opening, loads of press and 70% of the artworks sold on the night, not to mention collaborating with some incredible people including photographer Mark Munro and all the inspiring Melburnians with larger than life stories. I hope to do another project along those lines in the future. In a way, it gave me the inspiration to embark on my own art practice and the courage to start my own business. 

Where might we have seen you work? What are some favourite illustration projects, clients or publications you have worked with over the years?

 I have really only just started out on my own, so a lot of my favourite jobs have been while working for other people. At Buro North all the jobs were fantastic because they have a great team. MOZI has been amazing because the owners Olivia Tipler and Camilla d’Antoine are inspiring, hardworking and hugely successful. Travelling to India for a buying and manufacturing trip was a highlight this year, as was working alongside Camilla on the new range called ‘The Way to my Heart’, which has just been released At LifeInStyle this week(!) and the ‘Oh, Christmas Tree’ range for 2010. There was a lot of illustration work, hours of sketching and refining the elements – and then there is the challenge of making the designs work across a whole range of products, from aprons and candles to pillow covers and door stoppers! I can’t wait to see these in the shops. I also just started a collaboration with UK based Kartimarket, which designs and ethically sources fair-trade furniture & homewares from around the world. My idea for these designs came from the everyday conversations (sometimes cute, sometimes cheesy) we have with those we love. They will be on sale soon!

This year you have taken the plunge and dived back into tertiary education, studying Visual Arts at VCA. How have you found the transition from fulltime work to part time study / running your own business? How is your time structured to make it all work?!

 I am still figuring this one out! The combination is working well so far because I have the best of both worlds: the creative outlet of painting which is very free, personal and expressive, and the structure of designing to a brief, meeting clients’ needs and maintaining relationships (I really like that bit!). Finding the right balance is another thing altogether. One slightly quirky time management skill that helps structure my day is my Moleskine diary (I have had the same diary for six years!). It sounds a little nutso but I write everything in my diary and colour code with felt-tip pens. Pink is social, red for exercise, black for appointments and blue for ‘to do today’! I would say studying at the VCA is one of the best decisions I have ever made and it actually gives my week structure. Mondays and Wednesday nights are dedicated painting time, which gives me the rest of the week and usually the weekends to do my graphic design work.

 What does a typical day look like for you at the moment?

 It usually starts with a walk or a yoga class, followed by a soy flat white and I sit down at my desk by 7.30am to check emails, write my list for the day (in my moleskine!) and scroll through a few blogs to get me in the zone. As I am just starting out working for myself, I try to do a bit of new business development early, ringing potential clients, sending out my portfolio and chasing invoices. It’s hard, but it has to be done. Then green tea, which is my obsession left over from living in Japan. On the days I am not at the VCA for classes I get cracking on work straight away. My design process starts with a clean desk because I am such a messy worker. Then writing, researching, drawing, cutting and pasting, scanning and then I take my ideas to the computer. Some days I head into MOZI to do some work, or pop out for client meetings, and I try to see an exhibition at least once a week because I find it helps me stay motivated. It’s the best!

 Where do you turn for creative inspiration? – travel, art, local or international print publications, the web etc?

 For me, inspiration is cumulative and comes far more from personal experiences than anything else. By nature I am very curious and that’s important for my work because it means I am always asking questions, pushing boundaries and finding new ways of seeing the world. Travel, nature and film are probably the top three things I turn to for creative inspiration because they move me the most.  If I am feeling flat and uninspired I will head to see a foreign film (I just saw Women Without Men at MIFF – amazing), flick through old travel photos and try to conjure memories and feelings from the past.  My husband introduced me to hiking and nothing is more inspiring than the colours, patterns and textures in nature… mountains can be pink and ghost gums are shades of green you never imagined.

 Which other artists, designers or creative people do you admire?

 Oh – so many people! This week the list would be; Tara Donovan, Yayoi Kusama, Tadao Ando, Sally Smart, Dale Frank, Abbey McCulloch, Chris Johanson. Old favourites are Sonia Delauney, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Helen Frankenthaler, Charley Harper. Jewellery people I admire are Elodie Darwish, Natalia M.P, Katherine Bowman (maker of my divine wedding ring!) and my teachers Tony Garifalakis, Nadine Christensen and fellow students at the VCA!

 What would be your dream creative project?

 I am yet to dream it up, but when I do you’ll be the first to know! I think it’s probably some kind of fusion between, art, design and social responsibility. In fact, I have an incredible friend who is a journalist and we keep talking about collaborating, but all our ideas are top secret for now! Stay tuned…

 What are you looking forward to?

 I recently got married, so I am looking forward to what the future holds for us… Aside from that it’s all the simple things; more rainy Sundays; a home cooked meal with Jules (my hubby); good coffee; a challenging film at MIFF; turning 30 and having all my favourite friends and family around; Melbourne Art Fair; good conversations with my best buddy Jen; exciting ideas, new colours, yoga, travel, art and hiking.


Reinvent Your Career would like to thank The Design Files where this article first appeared.

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