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.
Today we speak with Sophia Hornabrook, one of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington creative graduates. You can find out more about Aotearoa NZ creative study options by visiting our design schools page.
Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick design as a career path?
I’ve always had a passion for art, particularly drawing and painting which I was involved in all throughout school. I always felt like I owed it to myself to keep this creative part of my life alive as it’s always been something I genuinely enjoy doing. This is where communication design came in – it allowed me to continue exploring my creative side while also opening up doors to more professional opportunities.
Can you tell us what your graduating project focused on?
My capstone project involved creating a website portfolio of the (revised) university projects I’ve completed over the years as well as a few self-initiated projects. The website had the purpose of collating and displaying my style through a mixture of graphic design outputs such as typography, proposed brand identities, illustration and more. The intention of my website project was to create a self-promotion tool for my design as I move beyond university and into the creative industry. The website isn’t heavily weighted towards any specific area of design – this was important for me in portraying a broad portfolio of my capabilities as a designer.
What were some of your most exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your project?
I think the overall exciting discovery from my project was seeing all of my work come together at the end. Between the planning of the project and the final deadline, I had about six weeks to review 5 existing projects and create another 5 from scratch. That six week process was admittedly gruelling, especially on the days that I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired – and there really isn’t much you can do about that unfortunately. Reaching the end of that process on time and having created work that I was truly proud of was really very special.
What did you enjoy most during your course at VUW?
Having the time, company and resources available to really develop my style during the time that I was there. Starting my course four years ago, I was really unsure of myself as a designer and whether design was the right fit for me. The design school at Vic was a space where I could experiment, make mistakes as well as new discoveries alongside my peers who introduced me to new forms of interpretation and approaches.
What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
At university I studied a conjoint with a major in communication design as well as a major in finance and a minor in economics. This uncommon combination forced me to regularly switch between completely different parts of my brain so when it came to getting creative, I found it difficult to get inspired from time to time. Making the effort to surround myself with my peers and tutors really helped me to make that transition from analytical to creative when I needed to.
What’s the most valuable lesson you learned during your studies?
I really learnt to value the importance of physical/practical experimentation in the lead up to a final design. For example, in my typography classes I often started a project with the simple act of ripping, cutting and folding paper in an attempt to extract further meaning from a character. In most cases this process of stepping and stripping back helped me to redefine or reinterpret what I was looking at. It’s most definitely a process that I will come back to whenever I’m lacking direction in my work.
How has your ability and confidence progressed since the beginning of your studies?
I think the progression of my ability and confidence has manifested itself in the ever-growing range of work I’ve produced over the years. Since starting design I’ve slowly gained the confidence to expand my creative horizons through different mediums and projects, which has inherently pushed my ability. In saying that, I definitely experienced a fair bit of “imposter syndrome” in the week leading up to making my website live. The thought of publicly displaying my design, something that is so personal to me, still and probably always will cause some anxiety.
What does your creative process look like?
For each project I try to come up with some sort of narrative that defines the purpose of a particular project. From there I begin researching and finding inspiration regarding what kind of style would work well. I found Behance especially useful when brainstorming for my portfolio projects – it provided a lot of perspective from which I was able to really grow my ideas. The next step is creating some concept designs, I will use either Procreate, Illustrator or InDesign for this part depending on the type of project. I’ll usually spend a lot of time in this process making iteration after iteration until I land on something I’m happy with.
How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?
I’m always open to learning new things when it comes to design and there is definitely still a lot to learn! I want to keep exploring multiple areas of design, rather than honing in on one thing in particular. I am keen to learn a bit more about e-commerce and UX/UI design and see if that’s something I’d be interested in.
Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
I think I’m most proud of the proposed brand identity Barleigh. Consisting only of menus and postcards, the design tells stories of NZ summertime at the family bach, a time that I will always cherish.
How (if at all) do your interests outside of design inform the work in your portfolio?
I think my appreciation for reading/liter and art is something that partly manifests itself in my design. I find myself constantly searching for a story or meaning in my work, I think this tendency correlates to those interests.
Why did you choose to study at VUW, and what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed your course?
I was attracted to Vic because I wanted to follow my friends, get out of Auckland and it offers a range of other courses – I always wanted to pair my design degree with something else. From it I’ve gained a great sense of project/time management and a diverse network of people.
How are you feeling about the future?
Generally quite nervous!! I don’t have a set direction that I want to head in so the idea of finding work within a broad scope of opportunities is both exciting and daunting at the same time. All I know is that I’m keen meet new people and try anything that comes my way.
What does your dream job look like?
Ideally I’d love a role in a like-minded design studio or somewhere that combines both the creative and analytical side of things, such as an ad or design agency.
How can people get in touch and see more of your work?