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 originally from Auckland but now based in Whanganui. A great city that just keeps pushing with its opportunities for collaborative and solo projects in both arts and design. I’ve always had an interest in people so I started this with a degree in Social Anthropology first in Auckland and a few years later with the Bachelor of Design & Arts at the School of Creative Industries – UCOL in Whanganui after discovering that design is all about the communication and connections between people. I’m also passionate about all things Typography (especially book design) and Photography (anything and everything Holga).
What did your graduating project focus on?
Tawhero School is an evolving project from my internship earlier in the year, through my final studies, and into my current work locally at Morrie Gibbons Signs. In consultation with the Principal, a timeless modern look was designed for the school. The Logo drew upon two Māori design styles – a Poutama design signalling the Gateway to Heaven through the advancement of knowledge and Niho Taniwha – a triangular design to represent the new school values of Tūmanako, Aroha, and Whakapono. These two styles were extended into the wall art for the front office and a full School Values wall design being made for the school hall. As the school continues being redeveloped, more of the new brand identity will be shown.
Why did you choose to study at UCOL?
I fell into design and photography through several part-time courses at UCOL. I liked the design lab environment and the tutors were very knowledgeable so I jumped into the full-time degree the following year along with a few others who were inspired to do the same.
What did you enjoy most about your course, or what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed it?
The open briefs for projects while daunting at first, allowed for research into new tools and time to learn for the design trade. I learned to be both a designer and an ‘operator’ of new software without becoming heavily reliant on one software or design method to get the job done. Experimentation through a lot of failures on the road to success was the journey for me and I am glad to have taken it.
Were there any exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your studies?
I approached Morrie Gibbons Signs to get a quote for the signage I designed for Tawhero School and was given the heads up on an upcoming designer position before it was advertised. So, I applied and successfully got the job mid-year. UCOL were immensely helpful in advising how to finish my degree around full-time work for the second Semester.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently a designer for Morrie Gibbons Signs, a local and independent sign maker in Whanganui. The sign making industry is pretty interesting and there is a lot of variety in work from designing small decals for aircraft instruments, through to vehicle graphic wraps and full building signage. It’s a great way to test out a range of your design skills and make great connections with a wide variety of clients.
What’s the most valuable lesson you learned during your studies?
Don’t pigeon hole your design career into only replicating the latest design trends and software tricks. I learned this early on in the degree and this helps a lot especially if you are on a deadline and have to use whatever you have got to get the job done. Taking the time to learn a wide range of design methods and software is very valuable in the degree as there is limited time to do this in the workplace.
What does your creative process look like?
I jot down notes from the brief or client meeting then when the ideas start coming in – I use Chronicle Go-To Dot Grid Notebooks for all my thumbnail sketches. I come back to this notebook a lot as it saves wasting hours in front of a screen. If the idea can be field tested fast on paper to see if it will work, it will save time in the long run. For printables – drafts have to be test printed – I have learned the hard and fast way of when colour settings do not work as originally envisioned. I research a lot into design and the subject for the brief – I like if I can get an angle that has not been focused on heavily by other designers and the scope of a subject always informs the final design even if the design only touches on a few aspects of it.
How are you feeling about the future?
The future is great and I think the signage industry has a lot of potential for new designers. While the job can be hard and fast at times, there is a great feeling when you can see the signage you have designed out in public for people to see.
How can people get in touch or see more of your work?
You can get in touch with me on my portfolio at leomtait.pb.design