Women in Design . . . Laura Feavearyear
In our Aotearoa New Zealand Women in Design series, we celebrate Aotearoa New Zealand Women in Design as they share their work and processes and we learn more about their day-to-day routines, diverse career pathways, and how they achieve balance.
Today we chatted with Laura Feavearyear, Creative Director of Creative Jam who‘s shares how she’s navigated her design career journey and grown her design business despite having a rare eye disability which limits her vision.
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What or who were your early creative influences?
I come from a very creative and well-travelled family, and creativity has always been encouraged in my home. I started a perfume bottle collection at 8-years-old, which I continued to grow either from purchasing or birthday gifts. Even as a child I was fascinated by the colours and shapes and spent a lot of time analysing the bottles, working out how they were made. I now have 56 different perfume bottles, and it finally makes sense that there is a connection to my love of packaging design.
Can you describe the creative path you took to get where you’re at now?
My path has been a rollercoaster! After leaving school I got a scholarship to study fashion design at AUT where I discovered it wasn’t so much the sewing that I liked but the drawing. I decided to leave the course and go overseas to teach English in Spain. My lessons always had some element of creativity and something in my gut told me I needed to pursue it. So I came home and went for an interview at Media Design School. I fell in love with Ad School and began to discover my creative energy. At the end of Ad School, we were plunged into the recession in 2008 with job scarcity, so I decided to keep studying and took up the diploma in graphic design – the best decision I ever made!
When it came time to hunt for a design job, I struggled. Having a visual impairment created quite a few roadblocks with employers. So I started my own business to find clients and build a portfolio of work. My first big client was OOB Organic, followed by Dr Feelgood. Both these brands gave me the profile I needed to secure a job and I ended up working for MediaWorks Radio, looking after nine radio brands’ design needs and eventually a junior designer too. After working for MediaWorks for four years, I left to be the Senior Designer at Mexico Restaurants. All the while I still kept my FMCG clients on the side, working late nights and weekends. After the birth of my son, I decided to go out on my own full-time and follow what I was truly happy doing: packaging! I have never looked back – niching down to focus on FMCG floats my boat and I have found pure joy in learning all about the world of food and beverage.
What does your typical workday look like? (we are keen to hear about the extraordinary routines/juggle of women in design.)
My day starts with being woken up well before sunrise by my son. We sit and watch cartoons and eat breakfast together and I get him dressed and ready before my husband takes him to kindy. This gives me time for breath work before turning on my Mac (and my brain) for the day. I always start my day with emails, checking in with my team and a few quick easy jobs to get things in gear. I’m a morning person, so I tend to work on big projects that require a bit of thinking first. I like to stick to a schedule, so I can concentrate on the task at hand. I manage to fit in some life admin on quiet days like a load of washing (which I admit can sometimes sit in the dryer for a day or two until I get time to fold everything), and if I am really lucky, I can pull myself away from the desk at 4:30 and go for a walk before starting the evening meal prep. I’m not a huge fan of working at night as I like to put my mum hat on and be present with my family.
One of the biggest challenges for me is that I can’t drive. So I’m reliant on others to help me get around. I’ve become very resourceful at planning my day around appointments and using taxis and Ubers a lot. Working from home has helped me to get more work done and having a supportive network of family and friends has been a huge gift in my life.
Do you have a project that is memorable because it challenged you, if so what lessons did you learn from that work?
Dose & Co has been the most memorable for me to date, it was a big step up in my career! I established a design process for myself with this project, with a lot of elements to put together in just a matter of months, while having the client in a different time zone. I learnt to be clear with my rationale in a written and visual format and to provide options, but not too many!
It also taught me to put myself out there. I got into the Dose & Co project by messaging the client over Instagram as she was enjoying a Dr Feelgood Ice Block, one of my other brands. I said to her that I hoped she enjoyed the ice block and that I made the brand, to which she replied “oh I am starting a company do you have a portfolio?”, the rest is history.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and rep the hard work you’ve created, it can open more doors for you.
How do you mix things up and foster innovation in your work?
I’m knowledge hungry; I love to learn new things, travel and experience different cultures. If you are always excited and amazed by the world, new ideas flow like water.
I am also well known for getting far too excited about exploring new supermarkets. I could spend a good hour looking at all the different brands and products to coax my inspiration from.
What does career/creative success look like to you?
When a client sees their brand for the first time and says “Wow! That is exactly what I wanted, you’ve nailed it”, or when I see something I’ve designed in a shop, I smile so much inside walking around a supermarket seeing products I have helped to create. Something about influencing a consumer’s buying behaviour to pick up a product, try it or take it home fills me with joy.
I also take great pride in being someone with a disability in a creative field. If I can inspire other people that you can follow your dreams and make a career in an area deemed unfit for you, then I have achieved success in my life.
The best piece of advice I’ve received is…
There is no such thing as a bad idea. It’s just that some take longer to realise and some are problems to solve in the future.
The worst piece of advice I’ve received is…
My third-form art teacher pulled me aside at the end of class one day and said “I don’t think a career in the creative arts is a good idea for you, it will be difficult with your eyesight”.
What barriers have you come up against ( or have seen ) within the design industry throughout your career and how has that affected your work?
Being someone with a visual impairment from birth, I have experienced discrimination many times over. I don’t like to think of it as discrimination, rather a misconception. I would always be the one to get down to the final two in job interviews and naturally, the other would be chosen over me because someone who is partially sighted can’t do a visual career right? That’s why I began my own business.. If I had the portfolio to prove my worth then no one could judge my abilities solely on my disability. I’m proud to say I’ve worked with some very well-known brands all on my own. The effort and time that I have put into my career has paid off, and every single project I am fortunate to work on brings me great joy.
What do you hope for the future of design in Aotearoa NZ?
I would love there to be less pressure on designers to be everything – from social media specialists to animators. We’re all good at something, and having the space to be an expert in packaging has allowed me to upskill so much faster. If we are given the space to be a master instead of a jack of all trades, we’ll not only create more jobs for other experts but also more creativity and passion for a particular niche.
I would love to see more people with disabilities become incredible creatives. Having a different perspective on the world allows for amazing talent to shine.
Finally, where can we see more of your work and connect with you?