May 2009

Bloody nice livery.


Not since the movie Dumb & Dumber and their wonderful dog car has the imagination gone wild for the possibility of interesting livery. The Another Bloody Water truck that scoots about Melbourne comes so close to fulfilling that dream of livery at its best.

The cargo hold of this van is a skin of thick fake grass, with lettering reversed out of it somehow. It is lovely to see something so silly, so green doing business. Well done Sub Group for the design and Another Bloody Water for commissioning it.




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Getting a job in design in interesting times


Andrew was recently asked to comment on the state of the design industry and the working environment for graduating designers in the current market conditions at RMIT. The unscripted conversation touched upon the doom and gloom factor (as one student stated), yet that said if one takes the time to assess and understand the situation it also offers opportunity for the brave.

Not since the market correction in 1987, has the working environment been similar to today’s market conditions. Shares, money and jobs take up much of the air time, yet the social cost to the community is commonly misrepresented. This sentiment was recently touched upon by radio commentator Stephen Crittendon on the ABC television’s Q&A programme. Crittendon stated – the latest market correction will have a significant emotional and confidence impact upon a whole generation of new and emerging workers in Australia. This generation will find it difficult to establish and define their space in a personal and social sense.

We have amassed the following thoughts to assist new and emerging designers with the process of getting their work out to prospective studios.

1. The most important project for any emerging designer is to gain employment and embark upon the development stages of a life in design.

Getting a rewarding job in design is challenging and very difficult. A select individual (that freak born a designer) may have a choice of work options, where as the majority of graduates will be challenged. Remember that life rewards persistence.

In the sphere of education it is very easy to be totally immersed in a world of learning. Many graduating designers looking for work often state that they wished they had a greater sense of the working world, while studying. Mainstream commentary of design creates the impression that the design field is vast, employing armies of people who pump out rafts of designer things to buy, yet the reality is a very specialised sector that is difficult to secure work in. As compared to many sectors, jobs are scarce in communication design; a job in a high quality studio is rare and highly competitive; a job with an individual designer of acclaim is a fine tuned combination of timing, luck, persistence and social engineering.

2. Develop an insight of the graduate landscape, people and studios you are trying to contact.

Unmovable Fact 01 – Thousands of designers, from hundreds of courses, graduate every year to a very limited number of rewarding jobs – getting a rewarding job is the biggest project you will undertake while studying.

We also recommend to all new and emerging designers to gain an understanding of the typical working studio environment. In Australia, studio’s range from three to fifty staff, the average being between three to four staff. Many studios have its senior people doing anything from paying accounts, liaising with clients, developing design to putting out the recycling. An appreciation of the different studios will also give one a meaningful insight into the mind spaces of prospective employers.

3. Well before graduation, volunteer, apply and gain as much experience in a variety of working studios.

There is no substitute to gaining insights from work experience. From the inside it becomes very clear what obstacles your application faces. Start this process in first year if you can.

4. Understand the mediums used to make contact with studios and their designers, then understand their effectiveness.

If your application doesn’t look like an application from a promising designer don’t bother sending it – it is amazing how many applications we receive look like they were prepared by the local typing service. This application is not ironic, or good ugly, it is lazy, it is clueless, unresearched, a waste of paper.

It is popular for applicants to put together an intro letter and portfolio, amass contact details and names, and smash out a flurry of faceless emails.

With five to thirty such applications hitting any studio a week, one is taking a gamble with works ability to attract attention and that the designer at the other end will be in an open state of mind. The reality in a time poor studio is that a new designers email folio can be treated more like spam, than two to six years of creative thinking and effort. Long before email, regular mail was an effective delivery method for packages designed to lure, inspire and communicate – experiment with all the delivery mediums.


Just today a strange poster was left in our letterbox by a Mr Oswin Tickler – strange, tasty, curious… must visit his website.

5. Work out your contact tactics.

Designers who are not masterful with the art of cold calling will often call a designer to encounter an awkward and uneventful conversation.

Don’t assume a designer will want to speak to you after you have emailed your portfolio. With the mass of work and life commitments, many designers don’t have time to acknowledge the many of the applications and contacts that are sent to their studios, let alone be prepared to talk about an application.

It amazes us how often a unfamiliar designer will call out the blue expecting a conversation, to then only offer the conversation the prospect employing that designer. Conversation is fine art, or a courtship. A great conversationist will engineer a contact to have a positive conclusion, or outcome. Again, a long term approach to making contact requires a range of interactions and this process will often reward patience.

6. Many  studios will employ an emerging designer they know first, rather than advertise a position.

An advertised position can attract countless candidates. An example… An expression of interest for a junior designers for Precinct Design in Melbourne advertised on the AGDA website in 2002 attracted over 100 candidates. Can you imagine the time involved in assessing, vetting, communicating and selecting appropriate candidates? Many days of work and process. Many designers we know will ask fellow colleagues of potential candidates before advertising a position.

Emerging designers that facilitate long term contact, via work experience, mentorships and industry contact increase their chance of consideration when a work opportunity arises.

7. Design your initial contact to incorporate every detail.

A short, accurate, well written intro letter opens doors. A savagely edited and well groomed preview of work (in PDF format) draws attention and completes a good impression. One has to seduce employing designers – three to six excellent projects maximum, presented in an inspired manner, has a better chance of seducing a busy designer’s attention, over a comprehensive folio.

An effective email and a concise PDF folio are often forwarded onto other colleagues as part of a professional friendship. Email messages not followed up with a phone call are bound to be forgotten within a few days – so if you choose to not make contact expect to be not remembered.

Don’t text, it’s weird – leave texting to your friends.

Also watch the file size of your PDF anything larger than 3mg is a pain.

8. Understand that many candidates are often selected on the basis of their fit within the studio’s team.

A studio is a close and energetic working environment. It is not unusual for many designers to work for up to ten, twelve, even a crazy fifteen hours a day and a cohesive team is critical in these working environments.

A talented designer with a demanding personality will often find it challenging to keep the team on side.  The days of putting up with big egos, because they are talented, made an exit from the industry around the 1980s’. It is not unusual for a senior designer to put the studio team first and train a candidate with promise, prepared to work with the team, over undertaking a talented designer with a challenging ego.

9. If you make an appointment.

Suggest a short meeting time. Be on time and dress professionally. Check how much time has been allowed. Be nervous, as nerves show that you care.

A savagely edited and well groomed review of work is mandatory – six to ten well presented projects is recommended. If you are presenting work featured in your intro PDF, reward the designer with new detail. Bring to the presentation detailed mock ups, work books and other samples.

Only ask about salary if you are asked about salary. If the meeting is a folio review, focus on your process and work, as a good meeting can be tainted by money talk. Leave the meeting with a calling card, or memento. Be sure to thank the designer for their time and leave the meeting with the impression that you are able to develop, learn, work and contribute to their studio.

10. Follow up

If you see the designer at a function, make an effort to say – hi, then run away. Follow up the contact with a project update, or send something in the post.

A studio’s staffing needs can change unexpectedly and rapidly, this principle applies for new work opportunities.

11. Developing your folio

There is nothing more frustrating than spending time with a young designer who thinks they are the greatest thing with a pulse. There are many design heros who are jerks, as there are many  design heros who are humble people, and if you didn’t know that their work was amazing, there are few signs that give away their endeavors. Many design heros will often claim that they have got so much to learn and do, to worry about what people think of their work – sickeningly gracious yes.

A broad understanding and appreciation of creative thinking and expression, while being your harshest critic is a good place to start.

The process of developing our work is a constant life process – graduating, hitting time milestones, or evolving one’s work practice are some of those most notable moments. Be prepared to talk about your work as if it is a work in progress. Be clear and up front with your influences, references and heros.

Be open to constructive criticism and feedback, be prepared to talk constructively about other designers work, and take the time to know the work of the designer who is giving time to you. Be comfortable with the idea that the folio you are showing on the day could be vastly different to the folio you will develop after twelve to twenty four months work experience.

12. If a working designer makes time to participate in a discussion, exploit the opportunity.

It is amazing how many times that one has gone to the trouble of visiting a group of students, to have a latent one sided forum take place. Getting a decent question from a group of students is like pulling teeth. Witnessing an interesting design dialogue is rarer than a straight answer from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Out of 110 students that were meant to attend my last forum, forty to fifty bothered to turn up. A less than inspired dialogue took place, two students fell asleep in the front row, one guy couldn’t stop picking his nose… the hour slowly passed. The lack of interaction was so uninspiring, I was tempted to walk out and get some lunch. The forum wrapped after yet another silence, students with a new found energy charged for the door, via scrambling for studio samples. A single student bothered to ask a question after the session and one other student sent a thank you card. In such a lack lustre landscape of graduates, it is an amazing opportunity for those emerging designer looking to create a dialogue and find a job. Andrew May 2009

If there are any other constructive questions or remarks, send us a comment or two.

Good luck!


Are designers exclusive to pushing boundaries?


On the daily walk to the studio, one is often confronted with a raft of living things, exceeding boundaries and creating new expressions. It is a natural process to question conventions.

Who said to this plum tree that property boundaries need to be respected?

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Command / Control “p” at MMOP








The Melbourne Museum of Printing invited the studio to make a work using letter press for it’s fundraising programme.

Each studio was given three hours to make a work. It is tempting in this instance to make more time, yet we felt it was appropriate to treat the project more like a performance, rather than an invitation to create a highly engineered design – we had the printing studio for three hours, and we made what happened within that time frame.

After half an hour, it became pretty clear that letter press printing is a physical reminder to contemporary designers of the flexibility and speed readily available for generating complex design solutions.

The simplest of design layout can take many hours to generate with letterpress – as compared with a desktop computer, software and a printer, it is with this appreciation of output and time required by designers past. Furthermore we have an insight into why so many invited artists and designers took more than three hours to make their work.

The exhibition of works can be viewed at the Melbourne Museum of Printing, next door to 34 Mooreland Road, Fitzroy. Thanks to Warren for a wonderful experience, we will be back, with a layout and three hours soon.

Visit the Museum here

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Love is a drop shadow


or are type drop shadows a typographer’s idea of tasty, yum, yeah baby?

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