Each summer DA profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions.
We welcome these talented emerging professionals to our industry, learn about their passions, final projects and dreams for the future.
Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick design as a career path?
I’ve been doodling and drawing since I was young, and coming out of high school I knew that I wanted to keep doing that sort of thing.
One of my older sisters at the time was studying design at Victoria University and seeing what she was doing and the areas that she was working in (she did her Masters on a pig farm, which is enviable) further convinced me that I wanted to do design.
You were recently featured in the RNDR19 exhibition, can you tell us the focus of your featured project?
My biggest work on display at the exhibition was a twelve page comic I did called ‘Human History at the Edge of the World’. The story was based on one my mother told me; the tale of her visiting her boyfriend’s (my father) homeland of Gibraltar in the ‘80s. The story focuses on an individual character — based on my mother — as she swims from Gibraltar to Spain, as the border was closed to foreigners at the time.
I used the story to explore the idea of an individual’s place within history, and how insignificant an individual life seems within the timeline of a place. Basically I was exploring the grand idea of cosmic insignificance and how we’re all just blips on a timeline… which is pretty bleak and hard to wrap your head around. But throughout I was weaving in the story of the individual and the idea that, despite being mere specks of dust in the grand scheme of the universe, there is always comfort to be found in our own little lives.
What were some of your most exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your project?
Having been born in Gibraltar, it was an opportunity for me to explore both the history of the place (which is rich and fascinating) as well as the story of our family within this place. In the research phase I discovered a number of interesting facts about Gibraltar or in Gibraltar’s history. It’s nice to do projects where you learn something new about the world.
What did you love doing most?
I really enjoyed the research phase and delving into Gibraltar’s history. I also loved hearing my mother’s stories from her travel journal which the ‘Human History’ story came from. It’s always fun to hear about what your parents were getting up to when they were your age…
Another part that I only realised I loved doing in retrospect (because it was so difficult and confusing at the time) was crafting the story. Before anything was concrete and before I could get onto the actual drawing it felt like all my ideas and feelings about the story were scattered and disconnected. Over time and with the help of my teachers, things began to fall into place and I was able to weave something that rings true to my ideas without being (I hope) overly-pretentious. That was very satisfying.
What has been your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
Particularly before this year, I struggled with thinking I didn’t ‘belong’ at design school or that I wasn’t a proper designer (whatever that even means!). I still sometimes feel this way, but I think with time you just have to accept that you are who you are and it doesn’t matter what label you fit within, or if you don’t fit in any. What matters, I think, is that you’re doing what you want to do. This year I did a lot more drawing focused work, as well as taking courses that pushed me to think critically about issues in the world and design practice, and I found myself not caring so much about these insecurities. In the end they’re all just baseless (as well as pointless)!
How has your ability and confidence progressed since the beginning of your studies?
To build on what I said in the previous question, I felt very insecure in my first year at design school; that I didn’t ‘belong’ and I couldn’t be a designer. I think this is partly because first year is commonly not enjoyable for students, but as you progress you get to narrow down your focus and take classes that you really enjoy. Taking classes that I really wanted to meant I wanted to push myself and work hard, and by doing this I can see improvements in myself and my work. I think your confidence and ability naturally get better the more you do something, and it always helps to actually want to be doing that something.
How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?
I’d like to continue doing comics and illustration, but potentially with more of a critical approach. I’d like my work to have some kind of integrity; some truth in it, whether that be a truth to myself, truth to the world, or truth to some kind of reality.
With my work I always want to make the people who look at it or read it feel something (laughter is the best). It’s always most satisfying when I can make my family laugh (better if I can make myself laugh too), and it would be nice to bring that to other people. I also want to take my work outside of myself too; bringing in other people or interpreting other people’s ideas visually.
Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
I guess I’m most proud of the comic. Because I initially battled with it so much — trying to make sense of the ideas and story — it was satisfying to get what I had in my head (or what I was feeling) onto the page. It’s also satisfying to see how much work I actually did — holding and flipping through a booklet stuffed with pictures you drew is a good feeling. All that struggle wasn’t for nothing!
You have recently undertaken a new major, what inspired your shift in direction?
I was originally intending to major in Design for Social Innovation, and have taken a number of papers from that major. When the Communication Design stream was introduced to the school I decided to make the switch to that because I wanted to work more intensely on my illustration and visual storytelling skills. I feel that the classes I’ve taken outside of Communication Design have greatly informed my work and shaped what I want to continue doing.
Ideally, I’d like to combine the two. My main focuses outside of Communication Design were on design ethnography and sustainable design. If I were to do comics or illustration I’d like to incorporate these interests to drive or inform my work.
Why did you choose to study at Victoria University?
Victoria University appealed to me because I’m drawn to academic or research areas in design. I like to think critically about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Design isn’t done in a vacuum; I think you have to really be present in the world and asking difficult questions to do well by other people as well as getting as much out of it as you can. The classes I’ve taken at Victoria have really pushed me in this sense, and I’ve had a number of inspiring and great teachers.
What does your dream job look like?
It looks like me playing with sweet old dogs and cats in the sunshine. But really, I’d like to be able to create pictures or stories which add a little more kindness or humour to the world. Sometimes I think it’s these things that make life bearable. I won’t presume to say that I’ll be solving all the world’s problems, but I’d like whatever work I do to contribute something good and thoughtful to the world.