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, developing creative confidence and ambitions for the future.
Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick design as a career path?
It took me a while to figure out that design is where my passion lies, even though it was staring me in the face my entire life. In school my day to day was occupied by presentation: wrapping my plastic pens and generic yellow pencils in tape that I thought looked cooler, drawing over my pencil cases in designs that made them unique. Christmases revolved around surprising my family members with gifts wrapped in custom made paper and the gifts themselves were removed from their generic packaging and placed into my own designs. Yet, later in life, I chose photography because the world looked so beautiful to me through a lens. It wasn’t long though before I wanted to control that world with more of my own artistic input and imagination and that is when I finally saw that design is where I needed to be.
Can you tell us what your graduation project focused on?
“Moral Fabric” is a motion graphics and printed poster series based on the impact of fast fashion on our environment. Realising that sustainability fatigue (and frustration) is an issue that affects many of us, I wanted to create a campaign that took a slightly different approach by reducing the onslaught of information and presenting it in simple geometric form. The poster series could be considered an infographic, in a sense, while the motion graphics portion brings to life the impact that we (consumers of fast fashion) and the industry (producers of fast fashion) have on our environment.
What were some of your most exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your project?
I really got to experience the joy (and importance!) of minimal design which is something I didn’t know I had in me! When I started studying I threw everything but the kitchen sink at my work thinking that I needed to pack as much information as I can into a single frame. Philographics by Studio Carreras was a true inspiration here, where a single shape, for example, was used to replace Stanford’s Encyclopaedia of Philosophy’s 28,000 plus word explanation of the concept of relativism. We are so bombarded by information, visuals, ads and imagery that minimalist design finds a way to cut through all that – I am inspired to dive more into this design aesthetic going forward.
What did you enjoy most during your course at UNITEC?
My tutors. Hands down. They aren’t just teachers, they are true artists who are passionate about art and design. Their very passion would drive me crazy half the time because they would make us dive so much further than we wanted to go. Every little thing needed to be dissected and investigated and it was tedious, but in hindsight it was so necessary to encourage us to always question, to challenge ourselves and to answer to our audience.
What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
2020 – lest I say more! Working in lockdown was the easy part for me because I am normally very good at time management and self motivation. The bigger challenge was being creative when my mental state wasn’t great. Creative block seems like such a frivolous term nowadays now that we have gone through a pandemic which is essentially a life block. Learning to compartmentalise that and dive into that creative space was a monumental task. I overcame that by just starting, and trying not to judge how big or small my progress was from day to day. A productivity mindset was replaced by one foot in front of the other and that led to more productivity as the project developed. Do I feel that I could have done better? Oh yes! Moral Fabric doesn’t quite feel complete, I think had I been in an environment where I was bouncing ideas off my peers and gaining outside inspiration that I could have added an extra dimension there but at the end of the day I am proud of what I was able to achieve under the circumstances!
How has your ability and confidence progressed since the beginning of your studies?
Confidence is a funny thing, it doesn’t move on an upward trajectory necessarily, it is a constant roller coaster ride as we transition from one phase to another, learn a new craft, a new programme, try a new style, meet new people, work in new places. In terms of my own work, I think more confidence will come as I work and gain experience and feel that I am successfully contributing to a project within a team. In terms of ability, I’ve come a long way in the last three years. Interpreting briefs and executing them successfully is happening a lot faster and that is always a great feeling! I am also less afraid of learning new programmes and would like to pile on a few extra ones like cinema 4D in the upcoming months. One can only do a handful of courses in 3 years, so there is still much to learn!
What does your creative process look like?
I always start my projects by jotting down my initial thoughts on the subject. I then put that paper away and don’t look at it again. I then research my subject quite extensively, printing and pinning my notes, images and ideas up on a wall into a big gigantic mess of a collage. This is when I start seeing themes pop up, something like a memory match game but with words and ideas. They don’t always resort to anything, but do spur research into directions I didn’t originally think about. Sketching is next which is where I normally hit my first roadblock. This is when that first piece of paper that I stowed away comes in handy. I’ll look back in time, throw out the bad ideas and keep the ones that are still relevant and add them to my collage of ideas. I’ll mix them up, cut them up, combine them, break them, then sketch them again. When I have a few ideas I’ll refine them on paper and only start fleshing them out in Indesign or Illustrator when I have a really good idea of what I want to do. After several versions I’ll either put them away for a few days (if I have that luxury!) and see how they appeal when I am not so close to them or get input from other creatives and continue from there.
How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?
Packaging design is an area I didn’t get to explore much during my studies and would really love to experience that. It is a space that makes my heart sing, but because we had so much to learn in 3 years I didn’t want to stick to an area that felt familiar. I was determined to learn design around several other outputs so that I could experience what’s out there and what surprises might pop up that I hadn’t necessarily thought about. Working at a studio that offers a broad range of services that allows me to do packaging, publications and everything in between would be perfect for me.
Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
I am most proud of the spot I did for Big Street Bikers. The client offered a brief to students who wished to do it as part of their motion graphics semester project and I was really excited to take on a potentially great piece for my portfolio. I hadn’t even opened after effects before that so the prospect of having to learn a new programme and submit a polished spot at the end of it all was very daunting but also extremely rewarding. Not long after we started we went into our first lockdown and studies were suddenly via zoom which just added to the difficulty. I had never worked so hard on anything in my life but pulled through and managed to deliver something I was really proud of. The client loved it so much that he used it on all of Big Street Bikers’ social media outlets. That was a big win for me!
How do your interests outside of design inform the work in your portfolio?
I love creating photorealistic charcoal portraits. I have been working on one that is about 1 meter tall for the past 2 years. I find working on the tiniest details so meditative and don’t mind spending hours on something as simple as the fleck of light reflected in a person’s eye. I also love painting with watercolours, especially buildings. I am not nearly as good at it as I want to be but it’s one of those mediums that I get to enjoy for myself without judgment of it being good or not. I think my interest in fine art comes out quite strongly in my work. I also can’t help but be meticulous when it comes to my design projects, ensuring that every little detail is intentional and executed in a way that adds to the overall message.
Why did you choose to study at UNITEC?
I initially chose Unitec because I liked how they had taken a traditional Fine Arts Degree and turned it into a more contemporary Creative Enterprise Degree which centred around giving students the best of both worlds, an education as well as preparation for the workforce. Giving students access to outside clients with real live projects gave us invaluable experience instead of learning inside a university bubble. After some time at Unitec I realised that the tutors are something special too. Their passion for what they do inspires everyone around them and their investment in the wellbeing of their students really shows.
How are you feeling about the future?
Despite all the uncertainty floating around these days, I am pretty positive about the future. I think people have taken a step back recently and reassessed what’s important in their lives and this will flow over into other areas of life from personal choices to how we treat each other, our work environment and creative projects. I am excited to work with people who love their job, who are inspired creatively and who want to design projects that bring joy to other people.