2022 Hot New Things: Nick Zeff, AUT

5 months ago by

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.

In this article we talk with Nick Zeff, from AUT. You can find out more about Aotearoa NZ creative study options by visiting our design schools page.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’ve never quite known how to answer this… but to get to know me you need to know that I have a passion for being creative. When I’m not in my creative state, I love being outdoors whether that be at the beach or going for a walk taking photos with mates. I’m also a huge fan of anything with four wheels and an engine (trust me I could speak for hours). I take my sport seriously as I love some competition, but also enjoy the other side of life kicking it back with
friends and family.

What did your graduating project focus on?
My graduating project explored the wonderful world of imagination and creativity among young people in New Zealand. Taking inspiration from my childhood, “Wonder Activity Cards” provide children and parents with a chance to re-establish the special bond that has been lost with the rise of digital technology. These cards create an opportunity for children and parents to explore their inner creativity. Kids are naturally curious. With the rise in the use of digital devices in everyday situations, children and parents need to balance family time with screen time. These activity cards are an opportunity to get involved, have fun, and most importantly learn something new.

Why did you choose to study at AUT?
I chose AUT due to the facilities that they had on offer. I knew from the open day in 2018, I had to come here because there was an opportunity to expand my practice from digital to more physical based products, creating my visions in the real world instead of seeing them on a screen. The real defining factor for me, however, was that the whole environment feltbreal. The tutors gave us the trust and space to create for ourselves. I loved the ownership we had over our space and our work, but also the sense of community within the studio setting.

What did you enjoy most about your course, or what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed it?
Studying at AUT was a great experience. The ability to be able to come into a space where we felt safe to explore our inner creativity was a key highlight for me. I also think that coming into the studio and working with and alongside my peers expanded my views of design, engaged me in thinking critically about my work pushing me to find myself as a designer.

The high calibre of teaching staff with their knowledge and experience provided us with a guide for the start of our creative journey. Now that I have finished, I feel that I have made meaningful connections moving into the industry and look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

Were there any exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your studies?
When I first started at AUT, I found myself thrown into the deep end. I was suddenly bombarded with this huge workload that I felt college didn’t prepare me for. As I progressed, I started to become more invested in my learning taking much more time to iron out the finer details, ensuring that every piece of work that I produced was to the best of my ability.

During my studies, I fell more and more in love with design with the more work I produced. I developed this passion for the finer details which has helped me progress into the designer that I am today. I got to experience the joy of exploring my inner creativity. Having this sense of freedom within my work which allowed me to get to know my strengths and weaknesses moving into the creative industry.

What’s next for you?
I would describe myself as having attention to detail, focusing on the finer elements of a project until it’s just right. I have this sense of patience when it comes to working with others and myself as I understand at times things can be difficult and we all get frustrated and need someone to calm us and listen. Therefore, I believe that it is a crucial element of any workflow to take small breaks often.

Ultimately, one day I would like to be a creative director of my bespoke studio somewhere in the South Island (maybe Wanaka/Queenstown) where I get to work on branding projects for high profile clients. I would like to employ people that I know and trust to produce the high standards of work that our company would produce.

As a graduate, I would initially see myself starting in a junior designer role to gain valuable experience and more knowledge about how the industry works. I would like to work on tasks for clients, gain that valuable experience, build up my portfolio and get my name out there. I would want to work my way up in titles and continue to gather experience and insights into the ever-changing design world.

How has your ability and confidence progressed since the beginning of your studies?
When I was a child, my parents bought me my first LEGO set. I can vividly remember building it and then ripping it apart to create my own set. I was never really constrained to a set of instructions, and I would say, that trait is reflected in some of the work I produce now. In some of my more recent work, I tend to stray away from some basic principles and push the limits, learning from the mistakes. 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 with a clearer purpose.

How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?
Branding is an area of design that I find super interesting. I got to dabble a little in branding during my 3 years of studying, however, I believe I still have so much more to learn. 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.

What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
The last year has been challenging. Recent lockdowns meant we lost valuable classroom time where we would have in-depth discussions and critique sessions about our work. These lockdowns ultimately meant we could not produce the outcomes that we desired. Lecturers and peers were not able to get hands-on with elements that we had produced such as screen-printing, test prints and prototypes. As we moved online, our studio sessions allowed us to produce work in a fast-paced environment. Producing something completely different in a matter of days was a challenge but the fast-paced environment is what it would be like in the industry.

How can people get in touch or see more of your work?
I would love to hear from you. Flick me an email at nick@zeff.design or check out my web portfolio: https://nickzeff.myportfolio.com/. You can even find me on Instagram at @zeff.design. I’m also on LinkedIn just search my name, Nick Zeff – https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickzeff/


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