Career Insight: Creative Director / Design Lecturer
In a nutshell, what do you do?
I am creative director of a graphic design studio and I lecture a range of courses at Griffith University.
Why did you decide to become a Creative Director?
It was a job that selected me! I started to study Education when I first left high school thinking that it would be a secure and guaranteed job. I quickly realised it wasn’t for me and not something that would make me happy, since I had just finished high school myself. I switched courses and took a few fine arts classes which made me realise I was well suited to graphic design, so I changed majors and graduated with a BA in Design.
Going through this process taught me that selecting what ‘made sense’ or seemed to be the practical option wasn’t the best path. It’s my opinion that if you aren’t passionate about what you are doing, it’s very difficult to achieve great outcomes. And who wants to spend the next 60 years doing something that they don’t like? I believe strongly that if life offers you a vast number of options it’s your duty to know and follow your passion.
What path did you take into it?
It’s funny actually – but design lead me back into education. In hindsight, I wasn’t the right age the first time – to go into education. But now that I’m 20+10 my path has come full circle. Honestly, the first few years of study I felt that I had wasted time and money on courses that I didn’t finish, friends around me started to graduate, set themselves up financially with great jobs – and I was doing first year again.
Now I am so grateful for taking the long way. I can say that I go to work and enjoy what I do. My passions and my work often cross over – most of the time ‘work doesn’t feel like ‘work’.
What, in your opinion, is the best bit of being a creative director and design lecturer?
I am a part of other peoples professional and personal life journey. I see people have ‘light bulb moments’ daily. I love seeing students surprise themselves and become closer to their authentic selves. I am constantly learning myself – discovering the power of Design as an agent for change. I am always learning. My job is different everyday. However – in so many ways, your work place is only as happy as the people you work with. I am lucky to also work with people who are passionate about others, about learning new things and life long learning.
I know this sounds like some kind of marketing pitch! It hasn’t always been this great – I’ve done the hard yards in retail and customer service so I know the value of what I have now.
Every job has its downsides. What do you think are the worst bits?
In the past four years of teaching – there have subtle changes in social behaviour, respect for our peers, the appreciation for what we have and the opportunities before us. I have conversations with ‘more experienced’ members of staff and most will agree that it’s not common for anyone to consider how, as a society – we value and respect the people around us.
I see first hand the growth in the lack of respect people have for their seniors and peers. The effects of the global economy, technology and the environment impact greatly on the individual and the community but the real crisis is that few of us are aware of the change.
Is it what you expected when you first started out – and what’s different?
No one told me that I would have to spend many, many (many) years without much money, with limited job opportunities. I think students are under the misconception that their skills and knowledge are the only thing needed to get work.
This relates to the previous question – It is my opinion that they way we work as a team, the respect we have for the people around us, our common sense and initiative are what is most valuable – and what employers appreciate. This is very important in the design industry. Now anyone can download Adobe Suite and watch a YouTube tutorial on design, or punch some words into an online business card generator. Great and successful designers in today’s environment are the ones who can think for themselves and work well with the people around them.
What do the public least understand – or mistake – about what you do?
Starting out as a junior graphic designer can often be one of the most uncreative jobs to have. You aren’t employed to come up with innovative design, multi-national corporation branding or million dollar marketing campaigns. You’re fixing typos, using templates and saving print files.
However that is the foundation for greater things and demonstrates passion for the industry you want to be a part of. Often as a freelance designer – you need to make money by doing what the client wants, rather than producing ‘good design’. The designer is often the person who has the least power in how things look. But this is also a step in understanding what you stand for and what your goal is.
What kind of people tend to do well?
People who are fun to work with, show attention to detail, think for themselves… People who want to always learn and do more.
Finally, any advice you’d offer to people looking to get into this line of work?
There are so many things… Firstly not to put too much pressure on yourself to make the right decision or take the right path. It’s so important to know who you are and what you stand for – not what will make money, who your parents think you are, what your friends are doing. Find out what you love doing the most in life and discover a way that people will pay you to do it.
Read the book “How to win friends and influence people.” Find a company you want to design for and take any job they have. Prove to them you’ll turn up for work on time, work hard and have a good work ethic and be there when an opportunity to slip into the design department comes up.
So many students are in their third year of a design degree and say “I’m not even creative and I don’t like this”. It’s both sad and frustrating. Take time out to know who you are and what you love, what you’re passionate about. Then the path is easy.
Focus on becoming the person who is the best to work with, not the person who wears the coolest scarf or has a half shaved head and sees obscure bands on the weekend. (My friends will find that funny because I once did the half shaved head thing.)