By Day By Night is an interview series that profiles graphic design tutors from design schools throughout New Zealand. We learn about their role as a teacher and their own personal design practice.
What is your official title at work?
Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your career path, and how you got into teaching
After finishing my studies at Massey Wellington, I discovered that finding a design job was difficult, so I worked at Coco’s Cantina (the best place ever) while freelancing for around 2 years. After working in a small studio as a junior I landed a job at Design Dairy where I learned a great deal and was challenged a lot; I still consider Johnny and the team family. I then did the usual 20-something-ish thing and moved to Europe. I landed in Amsterdam and got an interview at Studio Thonik, a studio I’d dreamed of working at since uni! All that hard work was paying off and those goals were so close. The interview went well but two days later I jumped on a plane home because my mum had fallen sick and I needed to help look after her. Five weeks later she passed away and everything changed.
Grief is a truly subjective experience, you can never know how it will affect you until you’re in it. I tried working, doing the odd contract and freelance work where I could, but any amount of pressure or stress would make me spiral. Panic attacks were common and it felt like my brain had just stopped working, I also seriously started questioning if design was even in my future. I moved to Raglan to have a year off and after some hard but rewarding personal work my creativity and passion for design started to come back. During my time off working as a cook and healthcare assistant, I realised how much I missed people, hated sitting in front of a screen all day, and had this innate want to help. So, I emailed Wintec and now here I am—Tutor Trudes. I didn’t expect that this would be a part of my journey, but I’m very happy to be here.
Outside of work hours what creative projects and/or research are you involved with?
I’m currently tutoring 3 days and freelancing the rest. I’m working with a local Brewery on their packaging, a variety of projects for a local NGO and a cookbook. I don’t qualify for research yet but I’m currently very interested in the role design plays in storytelling. I’ve been collecting photos and recipes to make a book about my Mum—a literal domestic goddess. It started as a recipe book but has now evolved to include a bit more of me too, our story and poetry I’ve written. My next goal is to save up so I can rent a cabin in the bush for a month and make it, or maybe I’ll do my Masters. I like the idea of being able to fully immerse myself in a single project again so we will see.
How does your personal practise feed into your role as an educator?
As you can imagine I’m a bit of an advocate for mental health so I’m feeding that into my role as an educator. I’ve always been aware of how limiting my expectations can be in creating unnecessary anxiety and stress and I see this a lot in our students. I do my best to create a dialogue around expectation-setting in the hopes that they can learn to work with their expectations, rather than against them.
At a design level, my experience in packaging, branding, and publication is what feeds the most into my role. I was taught typography by Annette O’Sullivan at Massey University, I wouldn’t be the designer I am without having had her as a tutor—I hope I’m half as good as she is! Her strict type rules, and love of a red pen are definitely flowing through to my students.
What are you inspired by, and how do you keep the momentum for your personal work alive?
I don’t think creativity is prescribed to the roles of ‘designer’ or ‘artist’ so I find myself being inspired by how peoples brains work, how they think, how they create and solve problems. From someone’s kooky shirt to a cake they baked, a hand-painted garage sale sign, how somethings been built, the patterns the water makes in the sand or someone’s choice of mug from the op shop. Of course this is mixed in with the usual flow of Instagram filled with amazing designers and websites, that’s a constant.
My momentum definitely comes and goes. I’ve really enjoyed getting back into drawing, sewing, and pottery, I find having these other creative outlets that aren’t linked to paying my rent helpful.
How do you balance these two roles (educator and practitioner)? Are there any particular benefits and/or challenges?
Having a team around to discuss ideas and projects is a definite bonus! It makes freelance life less isolating. I intentionally teach 3 days so that I’m able to do both, this balance is easy enough to achieve, and clients know when my freelance days are. So, so far so good!
What are the best bits about working at Wintec?
There are lots of great things! A big part of why I think Wintec is awesome is that I really value how the degree is designed to be equally academic and trade-focused. Learning tools and software is just as important as thinking. I think this is important because not all students aspire to work in an award-winning studio, some would prefer to work in-house or as a Mac-op, and so Wintec is accommodating for everyone and it produces well-rounded designers. We especially try to instill a safe and healthy culture where no student is deemed lesser than another because of their aspirations and marks. Students learn to work as a community, rather than in competition with one another. After all, our industry needs all types of designers
Due to our small number of students and staff, its created a kind of Design Whānau. The students are all supportive and inclusive of each other, they interact between year levels and are able to build positive relationships with all their tutors. We’ve even started a regular bowling competition to celebrate the end of semesters. They’re all much better than me!
And finally, the Media arts team, and specifically our design team have been so welcoming and accommodating. A specific highlight is co-teaching (2 tutors to 34 students), It not only offers a variety of skills and opinions to class but has been a great way for me to learn. This has helped with my confidence in this role and definitely makes it more fun! Fozzie (Jordan Foster) and I teach the second-year students; we have a great balance of banter and nerding out about type.
And, finally, where can we see more of your own work?