Welcome to Hot New Things 2019 – an opportunity to profile a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. This week, we speak with duo Luke Guilford & Nathan Walker both from AUT.
Luke Guilford & Nathan Walker
Bachelor of Design (Communication Design major)
You completed your full time studies at the end of 2018. Can you tell us what your final year’s project was about and what you focussed on?
Luke Guilford: For my final project I conceptualised a shared work space with a point of difference. TBBR specialises in freelance professionals, it enables them a versatile environment to thrive in their creative endeavours. Throughout the last year, Nathan and I also led creative direction for Shift, AUT’s graduation exhibition for 2018.
Nathan Walker: I designed and built a website and interface for Project Make, a new company I co-founded alongside my friend and long-time collaborator Demelza Round. Aimed at bringing together educators, researchers, design industry practitioners and student designers, Project Make provides educational experiences that are supported by the breadth of knowledge and skills that New Zealand’s creative industry has to offer. My main focus was the Project Library section that houses our courses, which are co-written by teachers and design professionals.
For our first studio project this year, Luke and I created Variable Futures, which is a website and publication with an accompanying flipbook that explores the new OpenType variable font specification that’s being introduced to browsers and design software as we speak. If you’ve ever wanted to shave a hair off the weight of that bold or bring in the set a little to get rid of that orphan – or perhaps the italics are a little too askew – look no further than variable fonts. We were lucky enough to snag a couple awards for it this year too.
How has what you’ve recently been working on influenced your design process, and what momentum does it bring to your practice?
LG: At the start of the Variable Futures project Nathan & I set ourselves a concise brief. It outlined the areas of variable typography we were looking to explore & how we aimed to package our findings into a cohesive design output. 8 weeks later Nathan was still trying to make the word caterpillar move like a caterpillar. Meanwhile, I was printing microscopic 3D A’s with the slim hope we might be able to do something edgy with them. Things can turn to custard pretty quickly. I learnt during the VF project that you must be able to re-evaluate your position. It’s important to constantly manage expectations (personal and external). When you’re in the thick of it, it’s easy to develop a false sense of reality. I guess the more work you do the better you get at setting manageable project parameters.
NW: Most of my work lately has involved some form of web development, which has taught me the benefit of designing restrained systems, but also given me the freedom to explore the crazier ideas – who in their right mind comes up with wheelbarrows floating and rotating in 3D space? The result of this is that I now find myself thinking a couple steps ahead when I’m designing, asking myself how I’m going to build something, and whether it’s even a good idea to build it that way (or at all). I definitely don’t always get it right and there are still plenty of new challenges, but I think that approaching problems systematically increases the chances I’ll pick up big flaws earlier.
What were some of your most exciting discoveries?
LG: Don’t ever forget the difference between 100k & registration. There’s nothing more exciting than having to tell Nathan our fresh print has been ruined by my inexperience and naivety. Still worked out ok in the end.
NW: The fact that the ever-so-slightly-too-big gap between bold and semibold can now be a thing of the past. That is, of course, if the good typefaces ever become variable. Thoughts, Kris?
And also some of the challenges along the way?
LG: As a designer I enjoy being disruptive, I don’t really do whispering, I like to make sure my concepts are heard loud and clear. I struggled with this when devising the strategy for the exhibition. As Nathan mentions, it’s all a balancing act, how visible do you make the brand? Do you allow all the students to fit inside, or run it alongside? We decided to go with a loud concept that allowed the students to be contained inside, literally. We used the motif of a wheelbarrow to speak for the exhibition concept. It managed to carry the required themes of versatility and resourcefulness in a tongue-and-cheek manner that was just the right amount of silly. In our messaging we weren’t looking to add anything extra, we wanted people to make their own conclusions about the connection between the concept of shifting & the wheelbarrow motif.
Aside from that, designing the Shift identity to represent our graduating class was challenging on multiple levels. It’s a balancing act between pushing/staying true to the concept and creating something that’s flexible enough to fit everyones’ unique styles and projects. Finding time for sleep in amongst the exhibition, my own final project and freelance work proved difficult too.
What did you love doing most?
LG:I’m a big fan of typography – my perspective on the matter is as follows: as a graphic designer you have two main elements at your disposal; typography and image. Now if you don’t have any great talent in image making (like myself), you better be damn good good at typography. Although I specialised in UX/UI while at AUT I always had a fondness for the more traditional graphic design disciplines, such as editorial & branding design. I think what I enjoy most is incorporating a range of mediums (digital, print & anything in-between) and gluing them together with a strong use of brand.
NW: Across all the projects I’ve enjoyed working on this year I’d say the common theme is that I love seeing the work out in the real world, whether that’s getting a website up for people around the world to interact with or seeing a giant A0 poster hanging at uni on opening night.
Where do you go to find inspiration (websites, resources, designers, etc)?
LG: I find the time of day makes a dramatic influence on my level of design output. Recently my golden hours have been between 9PM – 1AM, I enjoy the darkness and complete lack of distraction. In terms of typical design inspiration, I look in all the standard design inspiration areas of the internet. Websites such as www.maxibestof.one and www.brutalistwebsites.com as well as various Instagram feeds – a couple of my absolute favourites are @grafikfeed & @poster.reposter. I find it’s important to keep up with the ebbs and flows of graphic trends but I’m hell-bent on staying out of the trend trap, I want to produce a style of work that is recognisable. Why bother blending in with the rest of the crowd right?
NW: I always keep an eye on all the usual suspects, and I have a bunch of magazines and books that I crack open from time to time for layout inspiration. Sometimes I’ll deconstruct how apps and software on my phone and laptop are designed as well, since the relationship that you have with something you use everyday is very different to something you only see in passing.
Why did you choose to study at your design school, and what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed your course?
LG: I always intended to study in Auckland and AUT was the best option. I had heard good things from recent graduates as I was going in. It wasn’t a hard sell; it was more of a given. During my time at AUT I encountered a number of great design educators, some of which I feel have made a substantial contribution to shaping who I am as a designer today, I thank them for that.
NW: I’d paid attention to AUT’s design programme throughout high school and visited their previous graduation exhibitions so I was familiar with the school and how it all worked. I also checked out one of Peter Gilderdale’s lectures when I was in my last year of high school as part of a research paper I was doing, and to this day it’s always great to listen to the legend himself. My younger self liked the idea of a 3-year degree as well. Looking back I’d say the main takeaway from my time there is the sheer range of skills that I’ve picked up across print, digital, research disciplines as well as the courage to push that idea a little further.
Where to next for you? What does 2019 hold?
LG:Who knows? I’m currently attempting to cultivate a few exciting opportunities for next year. Ideally I would like to slip into a smaller sized boutique studio with a range of like-minded clients. I understand I still have a long way to go – so it would be great to find somewhere to take me under their wing and teach me the game.
NW: I’ll be continuing work on Project Make and taking on freelance projects through my company Align Left, as well as working with dev/design studio Cactuslab. Apart from that, I’m interested in work that involves mix of interaction design, UX and web development – wherever that may take me.