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.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m Courtney, 22 years old and just finished studying a Bachelor of Visual Communication. I’m originally from Auckland and moved to Hamilton back in 2019 to study. I’m super passionate about bold, thought-provoking and well-crafted design.
What did your graduating project focus on?
I wrote and designed a publication called A Place To Call Home. I wanted to explore how graphic design could be used as a medium to encourage reconnection and re-engagement with heritage and whakapapa.
I was born in South Africa and moved to Aotearoa, New Zealand with my family when I was 7. Moving so young and desperately wanting to fit into my new surroundings, I very quickly adapted to life in New Zealand as it became my home.
However, as a result I ended up neglecting my culture, heritage, and identity as I grew up and became further removed from where I was born. 15 years later, I wanted to try reconnect with my whakapapa, using the craft I knew best as a means to help bridge the gap for a part of my life which had been previously quite painful to acknowledge.
The publication explores the historical context and importance of the land and cultures in both of the places that I call home, and how belonging and identity can be found through them.
Why did you choose to study at Wintec?
Back home in Auckland, I was spoilt for choice with study options but I decided to go out on a whim and study at Wintec. It ended up being the best decision I could have made for myself! I loved the smaller classes as they made getting to know each other and our tutors so much easier. We were super privileged to have our tutors, who all constantly went above and beyond for us every year. I’m also really grateful for all of the industry experience we were equipped with alongside being taught the craft of graphic design. I think it has made all the difference for us now that we’ve finished and are moving into the workforce.
What did you enjoy most about your course, or what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed it?
I loved how practical our degree was, I feel like our design papers were really well rounded and we were able to explore so many of the various categories within graphic design. Class was always so fun, I hardly missed any over my 3 years of study haha. I also really loved how many opportunities we were given that were optional outside of our expected course. Opportunities such as attending DINZ events, Semi-Permanent or any relevant workshops that were happening. Wintec also put on an industry conference called RAMP Festival every year which was a great networking event for us. Our tutors were constantly having guest speakers come in to share their work, knowledge, and experiences. They always tried to bring the industry to us, to give us a taste of real life outside of study. The opportunities totally gave us the chance to further enhance our studies and careers.
Were there any exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your studies?
Figuring out how much I loved design was pretty exciting haha. I came into my degree with no graphic design background and so I didn’t really have any expectations. Within the first week I knew that I had stumbled on my dream job. I got excited by the fact that as a designer I got to become a mini expert for a brief period of time on whatever diverse and often random subject that I was being asked to create creative responses for. I got excited by the collaboration and experimentation that naturally comes with the creative process. Study has been a very cool time to reflect on. I’ve grown a lot as an individual since starting my studies and I think my design has been a reflection of that and grown with me.
What’s next for you?
I’m super lucky to have been hired by Hamilton based studio, Designwell. The team are super fun and incredibly talented so I’m really looking forward to the year ahead working full-time and continuing to learn and grow in my craft. I’m currently on an indefinite study break but I have also been thinking if I would ever do my Masters… maybe one day, we’ll see!
What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
As exciting as it was falling in love with graphic design, I think it also became the biggest challenge for me. Being so passionate about what I was doing often meant that I had crazy high expectations for myself. I learnt pretty quickly that designers can tend to be perfectionists and with that comes a lot of self-driven pressure. Also having the realisation that design isn’t always easy. That the creative process can be super frustrating, as well as incredibly draining and demanding. There isn’t really any perfect formula that can be followed that will always guarantee perfect results. So yeah, having the dreamy design bubble burst was definitely a challenge, especially when you still have to produce work and come up with innovative ideas. I think I’ll always be trying to manage my expectations and balancing the ideals I have about design within my creative practice, maybe that gets easier with time and experience. However, I think being aware of those expectations already makes it easier when you’re in the thick of it and going around in circles, to prompt yourself that it’s time to take a step back and re-gain some perspective.
What’s the most valuable lesson you learned during your studies?
Following on from learning how challenging design can be, one of my good friends who is also a designer, once told me how important it is to have interests outside of design that can fill you up because of the nature of our work. If we’re constantly giving everything to design than we have nothing left to give to any of the other areas in our lives. That’s always stuck with me, it’s pretty crazy that our job needs us to be creative all of the time. So I guess if we have those spaces that we can return to, than it’s more likely we’ll be able to always work out of a full creative cup. As often our interests end up becoming places of inspiration for our work as well, so it’s a win win.
How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?
I would really like to start developing some more creative play into my practice. Now that I’ve finished studying, I’m looking forward to experimenting in my own time and creating work without there being any specific service or purpose that needs to be achieved. I’m excited to just have fun with exploring and pushing the boundaries of my practice. I want to get curious about the world around me and collect any bits of research or inspiration that I find along the way.
I aspire to become an expert in my field. I’m not sure if it’s even possible, there will always be something new to learn. But I think this is me, Courtney the graphic designer, for the next 60 years and that excites me so much. I hope that my creative practice takes me around the world and allows me to meet all sorts of interesting people—creating ingenious and top quality design solutions along the way.
How can people get in touch or see more of your work?
Best place to see my work is on Instagram, @courtneyburchell_graphic which is also the best place to get in touch, or an email to email@example.com. Looking forward to hearing from ya!