I was 16 when my uncle invited me for some work experience where he worked as a Sign Writer. It was there, covered in Signage World’s sticky vinyl or immersed in screen printing inks, that my love of design was ignited.
Ahhh, memories. Street signs to shop fronts and even a massive signboard covered in individually cut flowers that all had to be stuck down without bubbles or creases. But the most memorable experience? The size of the application tape ball we made with all the used tape from the weeks jobs. The things that stay in creative minds. Weird.
My final year of high school summed this Design tragic up. Home time had come and gone… everyone had left… but, me? In the design & art studio until 5 or 6pm, with my Design teacher Ms Ewer playing Lior and designing, until she kicked me out for the night.
The only drawback of studying a Visual Communications course at TafeSA in my final year, was that I never got a “final score” for high school. Meh! A piece of paper “qualifying” you to be a creative isn’t what get you hired anyway, right kids?
The huge thing was I had found what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a Designer.
Three years in Creative Industries Centre (TAFE) followed where, whenever we were given a project, I’d seek out a client that needed that brochure or logo or digital design. The idea of work for the sake of (portfolio) work bugged the crap out of me. When you can create something that someone could then benefit from that’d be way better, surely.
On top of that, I working in a signage shop. My strategy: creating functional, purpose-driven design made me love what I was creating. Adelaide Aquatic Centre livery, Government Vehicles car wraps (Note: reflective vinyl is a bitch), massive printed banners the size of truck curtains… every job needed design to create purpose. Every job was a new creative challenge… and I thrived.
After Graduation, I took on the job that’s served me best in my career so far: Designer and Print Room Operator – for one of the best printing houses (and businesses) I’ve worked for. This job fulfilled a fundamental design principle that had been drilled into me by a wonderful lecturer;
To create great design, go to the end of the job first.
As well as preventing problems down the production line… working backwards helps you discover some pretty awesome design solutions. Yes, write that down!
My experience grew working with marketing companies, including short in-house freelance roles for branding companies. even worked on branding for businesses that have grown so much since I now barely recognise that they were once small too.
Every job you take, you pick up a small nugget of information which adds to your skillset, even though I didn’t realise this at the time.
Then, on a Musical Theatre whim, I moved to Melbourne. (Yeah, I was also singer and loved to perform.) It flopped. I hated that industry and flew back into the loving arms of Graphic Design in a heartbeat. Mind you, I had kept working with a global magazine throughout my musical interlude, so no real creative harm done.
But… what did come out of that was… Melbourne! The complete ‘reverse type’ of Adelaide. Adelaide’s studios are smaller, with one person wearing many hats and responsible for a wider range of tasks than Melbourne Designers.
In Melbourne, I wasn’t as Graphic Designer per se, but a Finished Artist. This was a new term to me. Hell, yes I could design. But my background and extensive understanding of ‘pre-press’ artwork, meant I was more specialized and valuable in Finished Art.
So, thanks to a recruitment company, I proceeded to score work across a huge range of companies, the calibre of Melbourne Business School, Uniqlo and Officeworks. Each one, needing an extra pair of hands and ‘design eyes’ for their brand.
But, my biggest placement, in both time and prestige, was Rolex. A year-long (maternity leave) contract meant hundreds of ads a month to create. I was in OCD heaven.
Every job gave me more insights into how many businesses, workplaces and industries needed design. Along with design, there are solutions to business problems that demand creative thinking. They knew the outcome they wanted, but didn’t know how to get there. Hello, industry experience!
Fast forward to February 2018. I’m now full time freelance for a year… worked with global brands like Australian Open (two years in a row!), Redbull and Rolex… and handled projects with over 100 freelance clients.
Corporate reports… floor to ceiling murals… designing bride’s special days… and I’m still learning. Every. Damn. Day.
But, the very best part?
That moment the solution to the design problem pops… where I can create something that truly surprises the client. That was my happy place was a decade ago… and still is today.