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 just always known I wanted to be a designer! My mum used to tell stories about how I would come home from kindy looking like I’d painted myself instead of the paper, yes, I was that kid. But growing up my job aspirations would change from architecture, to fashion, to artist, nearly every day. It was actually my high school art teacher who set me on the path of graphic design. I think I enjoyed the freedom and broadness.
You completed your full-time studies at the end of 2019. Can you tell us what your final year’s project focussed on?
G.B.Bonisch was a very intense and personal project. George Bernard Bonisch, known as Bernie by his friends, was my great grandfather. He served in WWII. At approximately 6.30pm on 15th July 1942, his whole battalion was taken prisoner of war. Bernie kept a nearly day-to-day diary of his time for over three years. He kept every pay book, beer label, sticker, photograph, artwork and almost any badge or patch he was given. I took this content and created a publication to archive this time, to provide a keepsake of family history. All elements of G.B.Bonisch were crafted entirely by hand.
What were some of your most exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your project?
This project almost came about by accident, or maybe as a sign, either way it wasn’t what I initially had in mind. I had collected thousands of photographs, from my family’s albums, markets, second-hand stores, anywhere. I had this fascination with the propaganda-like qualities they held. The family photo album is created to celebrate birthdays, weddings, holidays, meaning the images are only half-truths. They aren’t the story of someone’s whole life and I wanted to fill these gaps.
With these ideas looming I decided to delve deep into the archives of my own family, and that’s where I came across the belongings of my great grandfather. My pop had spent a huge amount of time typing his diary entries onto the computer. Because the diaries were slowly fading and decomposing, it was important to him that our family would still be able to see his father’s stories. In 2018 my pop passed away. I wanted to finish this story for him. For our family, and all of our future generations, in his honour.
What did you love doing most?
What I loved was spending time with others. Asking the questions and pushing the boundaries. I sat down for hours and hours with family members and doing research online trying to find missing pieces. Projects like this are always my favourite because it brings us closer together.
And even though it was a very personal project, I think a lot of people and their families can relate to it. I know a few people who afterwards were driven to ask questions about their own histories. I am honoured and excited by this passion.
What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for me was learning to remove myself emotionally from my projects. I used to get too attached to my work and once I was able to separate that, especially during feedback and critique sessions, I got so much more out of them. It helped to better respect and understand more opinions, and helped me to design for others, not just myself.
How has your ability and confidence progressed since the beginning of your studies?
Oh, so much! It is incredible to look back on some of my work and see how much I have grown and learnt since starting. Plus I managed to make some really talented and special friends, so that always helps!
How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?
I’m really looking forward to growing my portfolio and skill set. I am just so excited to continue learning!
Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
That’s a hard one! Other than my final project, G.B.Bonisch, the project which had the most impact on me was tehuratanga. Most people at some point of their lives have felt disconnect, or a confusion with identity. Tehuratanga was the discovery and grounding of my identity. Led by the discovery of a painting of my ancestor Te Tuhi o Te Rangi at Auckland Art Gallery, I embarked on a personal journey into discovering a lost connection with whakapapa and Tainui, Waikato. The project is a combination of digital and analogue photographs used as a form of documentation. This project can be seen on my online portfolio.
What does your dream job look like?
As cliche as it might sound, I want to do good work. I strongly believe that as young creatives it is our role to find solutions for our greatest challenges. It’s my passion for storytelling, cultural identity, and activism for equality that play a vital role in this.
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?
It was the 2016 student exhibition. The level of work produced was like nothing I had seen before, it was so far from the constraints of high school. It was almost as if you could feel the freedom and passion. It was exciting, and from that point there was no going back. AUT helped me discover myself and my identity. I feel a strong sense of who I am, what I stand for and what I want my future to look like. I don’t think I would have it got this anywhere else.
Where to next for you? What does 2020 hold?
After the graduation show I dove into the world of freelance, and have had some incredibly fun jobs! But I love working with people, in teams. I would love to move into a buzzier space and learn from people with experience. 2020 is exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me!