SWO Magazine — 2016

Please could you tell me a little bit about your background?
I’m originally from a small town in the central north island of New Zealand called Rotorua. During high school I took design and photography subjects which persuaded me to pursue a creative career in graphic design. After completing undergraduate studies in Auckland I moved to Melbourne, Australia and studied a Master of communication design. Whilst studying I have completed a number of internships, including a 3 month stint at Sagmeister & Walsh in New York which has been pivotal in my career so far.

How does your typical working day look like? 
Typically I’m working on 2-3 projects at one time and the client’s could be based anywhere in the world. Email is the primary communication tool but Skype is also used regularly to discuss more expressive ideas or present concepts. I get bored incredibly quickly, so switching between several projects as well as administrative tasks helps me to stay productive. I tend to settle on concepts very quickly in the timeline because generally there is an overwhelming amount of tasks to complete when working for independently. This could include single-handedly rolling out a large-scale identity, to set design, photography, website design and editorial.

Your clients, who they are? Where can your projects be seen?
As the creative industry has become more globalised I find myself working with clients in all areas of the world. I’m currently working with Mieux Derma Skincare (Melbourne), -ING Conference (Dubai) Terrace (Rotorua) RMIT University (Melbourne) and Aromas in Coffee (New York). You can see all of my projects at my website or my behance account

What has been your most challenging experience/project so far?
I have been working with a creative community in Dubai for the past two years to brand their annual design conference and other events. This has been a very rewarding experience because we’re able to do innovative projects that push visual boundaries in the region. Because the audience is so diverse it can be challenging to find results that appeal to such a wide social demographic. In 2014 I had the opportunity to be based in Dubai for three months while working closely with the organisation to understand the city and their people. This was a memorable experience where I met a lot of talented people that have inspired me to create work that I find personally fulfilling.

Could you please tell me about your project Aromas in Coffee - how have you met Junia & Joseph and decided to cooperate on their book?
Joseph & Junia reached out to me over email because they’d seen previous work of mine and thought I’d be a good-fit for their upcoming project. Because they’re based in New York we have relied purely on Skype as our communication tool. Expressing the flavour through imagery was extremely challenging because an aroma is so much more than just a scent. I wanted to capture the entire mood that a flavour can express, this was achieved by a strategic use in colour, patterns and props to create compositions that work on both communicative and emotional level.

Most of your works have a minimal number of details - is simplicity one of your goals? 
Simplicity isn’t the goal but is commonly used as communication method to clearly present an idea or story. Now more than ever, minimalism has become incredibly important in communication design where we’re often competing in a hyper visual landscape, oversaturated with advertisements fighting for attention. In order to communicate with people it is important to distil an idea into it’s most simplistic form for the audience to easily digest.

You have already got quite a long list of awards - are there any you are still striving for? 
At this point I am satisfied with the recognition I’m receiving for my work, but understand that awards are a good way to legitimise my practice and gain a wider selection of clients. In the future I would love to win an Art Directors Club Young Gun awards. In the past I have thought of entering but would like to purse more innovative projects before applying.

It looks like you have been travelling quite a lot - why have you chosen to stay in Melbourne? Do you have any future plans of moving?
Location isn’t a huge factor as to where I live so I’ve decided to base myself in Melbourne but travel regularly to New Zealand and other countries. I have friends, two sisters and a girlfriend in Melbourne so can’t see myself moving anytime soon, but am open to living in other cities in the distant future.

The main question is - do you consider yourself a happy person? 😉
I’m lucky to be working for myself, pursuing projects I’m passionate about. Because of this, I have found happiness that fulfils me on both a personal and professional level. But ultimately it is things like friends, family and a healthy relationship that keeps me happy. 

Work and life
The Loop — 2016

Australia’s freelancing community is estimated at more than 3 million and is increasingly being debated as the ‘future of work”. Thinking it could be the direction for you? This week we’re picking the creative mind of freelance Graphic Designer/Art Director/Globe-trotter Ryan Romanes who, in 2015 was named one of 15 under 30 “New Visual Artists” by Print Magazine.

We noticed from your Loop profile, after graduating you spent some time interning for two big design firms. Can you tell us a little about your experiences?
The internship at Saatchi & Saatchi was my first experience in the industry; I was assigned to a small in-house design team that operated separately from the advertising agency. We were working across a range of corporate and cultural projects at the time, but it was the advertising campaign for Auckland Theatre Company that interested me the most. I was fascinated to see the process from conceptualisation, to the construction of sets, to the photography, and design of the advertisements. The Art Director was very approachable, and would often take me aside to explain the finer processes of large-scale projects. Shortly after, I had been following both of the partners from Sagmeister & Walsh through social media, Jessica Walsh posted a tweet about an intern dropping out and needing someone to start immediately. As a fresh graduate with nothing lined-up, I thought there was no harm in applying. The next morning I woke up to an email from Jessica asking, “when I could start?”, and a week later I was in the office. I had the opportunity to work across commercial branding as well as assisting on their personal projects, such as their studio exhibit “6 Things” at the Jewish Museum, and Stefan Sagmeister’s Happy film. New York was an incredible experience, although three months was a relatively short time, it really sculptured the kind of work I wanted to pursue in the future.

How did this experience influence you to start up & go freelance full-time?
The lifestyle and satisfaction Jessica and Stefan got from their work was a massive encouragement to discover what I found fulfilling, and then pursue it as a career. This experience also taught me that doing the work I love doesn’t cost a lot of money. Once I had solid base of clients, I took the plunge and started freelancing full-time. You hear this all the time, but working on client work will never be as fulfilling as personal projects. This has definitely been the case for me, so I’ve always tried to have a balance between working for commercial and cultural clients, while also committing to at least one personal project.

We read on Design Assembly that a lot of clients have come to you from being so active online, how important is social media and your digital identity, to your work? 
I don’t find personal satisfaction through self-promotion, but it has enabled me to reach a larger range of clients, and it has allowed me to collaborate with like-minded people who want to produce innovative work. For instance, in 2014 a creative community in the UAE approached me to design their brand identity and direct their campaigns. It gave me the opportunity to spend three months Dubai and living there was a fascinating experience. I saw another side of the city that was completely different to what I was expecting. Working in such a fast-paced and culturally diverse city has inevitably made an impact on me both personally, and professionally. I would have never had the opportunity if I never put my work out there.

Describe your current working environment. Can you take us a quick snap of your desk?  
After sharing a studio space for the past year, I’ve gone back to working from home. The amount of travelling I do doesn’t justify the extra cost, and it can be inconvenient not having everything in one place when my work is so diverse. I’m often hopping from the computer, to crafts, to photography, so I prefer to have all of my materials in one space. When you’re an individual business there are a lot of hats to wear, and administrative tasks tend to consume a huge chunk of my time. Generally I’ll spend a couple of mornings a week working from a cafe where I can respond to emails, work across accounts or run errands, and drown myself in iced lattes.

What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on so far, and what was involved?
A couple of years ago I rebranded a local Skincare company, Mieux Derma. I worked with my good-friend, and regular collaborator, Morgahna Godwin. Basically everything changed aside from the brand name. Morgahna consulted on the creation of new formulas, named every product, wrote the copy, brand story and formulated an entire new strategy while I designed a new identity, packaging, website and directed the campaign imagery. We’ve worked on an ongoing basis with Mieux Derma, it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience to see the brand grow over time.

What are you looking forward to this year? 
I’m thrilled to be doing a series of talks and workshops in New Zealand, exhibiting work at a design conference in Dubai, and working with my Mum to open a new restaurant on the lakefront of my hometown, Rotorua.

Who’s someone we should we follow on Instagram?
There’s a lot of people I’ve talked about above who’re worth checking out, but I haven’t mentioned one of my good friends Jiani Lu. We met in Dubai through a mutual friend and have collaborated on several projects since. Jiani is an amazing freelance designer/photographer who is constantly traveling to exciting places. She is seriously someone to watch.


5 Creatives 5 Days
Kelly Thompson — 2016


1. Stepping out on your own and deciding to make your creative hobby into a job is a big and often daunting step. What were some of the things you know now that would have been really helpful to know from day one?
Learning the hard way is inevitable but there were things I wish I had done differently. Engaging with an accountant from day one will save you a lot of money in the long run, even if it’s just a quick consultation. There were also pieces of equipment that I could afford to buy but didn’t prioritize and ultimately waited a lot longer than I should have. I only recently purchased a DSLR camera and lighting equipment, initially to just document my own projects for self promotional purposes. After experimenting and upskilling my photography skills I now have a lot more independence and have clients approaching me for for photography work. I previously worked entirely off a hard drive which was the absolute worst decision. Now, all of my live projects, portfolio and other important information is on dropbox. I pay for a professional subscription which provides up to one terabyte of data over multiple devices. This has increased my productivity immensely as I travel regularly and need to have access to all my files. Even if I’ve just popped out for the day I can easily share files by generating a link via the mobile app.

2. Working for yourself is full of rewards, and equally a struggle sometimes. What are some of the things you find most rewarding and most difficult?
Having flexibility in my work hours and location are the ultimate self-employment perks. This has really influenced the type of work I’m doing and the clients I have. I enjoy being completely involved in the process from meeting the client, conceptualizing ideas, designing and the production managment. The great thing about self employment is retaining full credit to your work, it permits a personal investment that you don’t always get in a studio environment where so many stakeholders influence the end result. But working alone can also be isolating. It’s important to share your work regularly and get feedback from friends you trust, otherwise you run the risk of creating self indulgent work. Something I find challenging is presenting quotes or proposals that are tailored to a specific client’s requirements. This can take a lot of time, especially for branding projects where clients often struggle to  effectively communicate their needs. It’s important to spend time to fully understand the project before committing your services. I have been working with some of the same clients for longer than 3 years because they’re a pleasure to work with. But others have lasted 3 months and then I’m out.

3. When you run your own business for a long time you are your own PR person, accountant, motivator, creative and emailer. Do you have any special tools or processes to help manage your time?
It feels like I use an overwhelming amount of apps that ultimately contradicts the purpose of making my life feel more organized. There is the core range I use every day; Dropbox for file sharing, Intuit QuickBooks for accounting, Behance for inspiration and sharing my work, Checklist+ for daily tasks and Year Planner for scheduling my upcoming workload and travel. I have used various messaging apps in the past (slack, evernote, skype, whatsapp) to help organize client communication, but typically find myself coming back to email or iMessage. Day-to-day I generally have spotify playing in discovery mode in the background, but also enjoy listening to podcasts from design observer or videos from creative mornings and ted talks. Systemizing repetitive tasks like quotations, canned emails responses and getting an accountant has increased my productivity and allowed me to focus on the work that matters.

4. One thing that I always struggle with is how to grow my business when I basically am the business, I have many ideas, but only two hands. Do you ever find this a struggle and do you have any advice from personal experience about how to expand your practice or diversify?
In the past I have been able to expand my practise by simply saying ‘yes’ to every job that came my way. I don’t think I could or would want to make a living purely off graphic design, which is why I’m constantly trying to upskill. Having skills in Art Direction, Photography, Animation and Videography has allowed me to diversify my project-intake and get higher budgets.

5. My business partner very much believes that working hard and being successful requires full days at the desk no matter what, and for many years I did too. Now I am much more inclined to step back, take a breather if I’m not feeling it, and instead work more focused in bursts. What are your thoughts about hard work, how do you like to work?
I would agree that working hard (at least in the beginning) is the only way of getting ahead. However, it’s also important to be reflective and make sure you’re working productively to avoid burning out. I typically work with 3 to 5 clients at once, so enjoy switching between various projects. This refreshes my mental state and triggers a new perspective that can influence ideas for other clients. Working 10 hours straight doesn’t necessarily mean you’re accomplishing more, especially in the communication industry where methods are becoming more ideas-focused over technical craft. Taking regular short walks or going to the gym mid-day allows me to enter a fresh state of mind that sparks new ideas. If I know there’s x-amount of hours of administrative tasks I take my laptop to a nearby cafe and work from there. This has become something I do at least once a week and actually look forward to it.


Working and Living in Melbourne.
Design Assembly — 2015

Why did you make the move to Australia?
Before moving to Melbourne I had recently completed a 3 month internship with Sagmeister & Walsh in New York. After, I returned to Auckland for a short time, working as a freelancer in studios and directly with my own clients, but quickly realised where I was based wasn’t a factor. Melbourne was the obvious choice, my friends and two sisters lived here, and I had made many visits before. It’s a relatively cheap place to live and the design scene is vibrant.

How did you find the move to Melbourne?
We’re lucky that the Australian and New Zealand culture are similar, so it didn’t feel like moving to another country. Living in shared houses is the same process in New Zealand, but finding your own apartment can be stressful. Generally you’re required to pay 6 months rent up-front if you have no financial record in the country; this was the case for me. But luckily there is a huge amount of residential development in fringe suburbs, so renting is nowhere near as competitive as what I have experienced in Auckland. I really love this city and can’t see myself moving anytime soon.

ow did you connect with the community over there?
I would highly recommend taking some short courses or workshops. You can find almost any craft short-course at one of the universities or colleges in the city. AGDA, Workshop Melbourne, Old School New School or The Design Kidshost regular events. There are a few active Facebook groups like Melbourne Lettering Club and The Melbourne Creative Network. If you’re freelancing I would recommend attending exhibitions, lectures and finding a space in a shared studio. I have a studio in XO Spaces, Brunswick East.

How did you find work?
When I was initially looking for full-time work I was directly approaching studios that I admired. I never found my dream job and didn’t feel like settling for somewhere else, so just continued freelancing. My freelance work really took off as I started to upload new projects online, so I quickly found a studio space using The Loop. Once I moved into a proper work environment I noticed my work and productivity increased immensely.

What’s the same and different about OZ graphic design and NZ graphic design?
Both of our industries feel incredibly small and personable. Clients are more like friends and there’s not much formality to meetings. But I find the New Zealand design scene far more varied, where each studio has an outcome unique to their approach. I can usually identify which studio created the work before seeing their name attached. While in Australia there is a definite sense of similar style in the industry, perhaps this is just a reflection of what’s featured online?

Can you name a kiwi designer or studio you like and tell us why? Also an Australian designer or studio you like and why?
I’m fond of DDMMYY. I’ve seen a couple of Kelvin’s talks in Auckland where he gave a lot of insight into the strategy behind his branding work. In Australia, I really like the work by A Friend of Mine. They have a playful typographic approach which I’m attracted to.

Can you name an Australian website or magazine or event that inspires and or informs your practice?
I really like The Design Kids. They cover all the relevant industry topics, but are more focused on spotlighting new undiscovered talent. I prefer seeing what’s new in the industry as there’s already a lot of accessible information about what’s happened.

Do you have any advice for other kiwis seeking to make the move across the ditch?
Aim to have work lined up before making the move, or at least a couple of job interviews. Population wise, Melbourne and Sydney are both near the size of New Zealand which makes competition high. It could take a few months before you find something full time. Hospitality and retail work is paid very well over here, so definitely consider taking part-time work before landing your dream creative job. My biggest piece of advice would be to take on as much freelance and personal work as possible. Applying for jobs repetitively without developing your portfolio isn’t smart. Remember that you’re competing with hundreds of other talented designers who are all in a similar position to yourself. Don’t take an unpaid internship unless there’s a guarantee for portfolio development. Otherwise, just devote that time to working on freelance or personal projects instead.

Interning for Sagmeister & Walsh
Design Assembly — 2013


My Role
As an intern I worked on a collection of projects, including advertising campaigns, identities, books, installations as well as administrative tasks and small jobs like ordering lunch and keeping the studio tidy. As an assistant to the partners and designers I was involved in the conceptual phase of projects while also helping with design and production.

Studio Projects
I started late last year, which was an extremely busy time for the firm, we worked round the clock to have the new website online in early January. Photographing work, editing project descriptions and uploading articles via the back end occupied 90% of my time. The live webcam streamed an aerial of the studio, welcoming visitors on the home page. The day the website relaunched it was attracting 700 new visitors per second, so there was a huge amount of pressure to make sure things were running smoothly, while also organising press and other queries through email. Exhibitions on Stefan’s work have been mounted in New York, Philadelphia, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Paris, Lausanne, Zurich, Vienna, Prague, Cologne & Berlin – so organising these shows occupy a large amount of the studios time This side of the business is run by Stefan. I worked closely with Stefan to organise the next studios exhibition ‘The Happy Show’ at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angelas and after at La Gaîté Lyrique, Paris. Building scale models of the galleries while plotting the artwork around the room indicates to the installers where artworks were located and what needed to be re scaled in order to fit available space.

Among my time at S&W I assisted one of the two designers Santiago, in setting up artwork for the studios first exhibition since the partnership, entitled 6 Things. The exhibition involves 5 compelling short videos and a sound activated sculpture. The pieces are centered around 6 typographic maxims taken from Stefan’s diary. The statements are: If I don’t ask I wont get, Keeping a diary supports Personal Development, Be more flexible, It’s pretty much impossible to please everyone, Now is better and Feel others feel. This show is currently being exhibited at the Jewish Museum, NY. Stefan’s ‘The Happy Film’ is a feature length documentary which follows a series of self-experiments to test his overall happiness. The film has been in production for the last 3 years and has just come to an end. I was part of a team of 30 who travelled upstate to film the final scene of the movie. You can watch the film by donating $10 on The Happy Film website for a digital copy once the film is released.

How did I apply?
New York has a huge amount of talented designers in such a concentrated area, so getting an internship at a good studio is extremely difficult. Sagmeister & Walsh have two interns at one time for a period of 3 months. Successful applicants are then on a three year wait list before starting, so often interns are post graduate students or designers that want a break from the fast pace of commercial work. I was lucky to be fast tracked and started almost immediately because an intern had dropped out right before Christmas.

Working in New Zealand Vs. New York.
Having worked in both centres has given me a greater appreciation of certain values both cities offer. I’m pretty happy to be returning to Auckland yet see New York as a place I could revisit. After spending three months in the city I had filtered a selection of things that I found enjoyable and would spend my time returning to these places. Among a few were:

• Sleep No More at the Mckerit hotel: The most unique an entertaining theatre expereince in NYC
• IFC center on 6th Avenue plays a selection of independent films.
• The Newmuseum & Bowery: an architecually fascinating museum in a culturally rich district.
• Top of the Rock (best experienced at night): Last elevator goes up 11pm and has panoramic views of Empire State and Central Park
• The Book of Morman: a politically incorrect comedic Brodway show by the makers of South Park.
• Chelsea markets has a diversity of restaurants, galleries and other boutique stores.
• Creative Mornings: a monthly design conference with inspiring speakers
• Art Directors Club regularly holds talks and other design conferences
• Meatpackers district: a concentration of boutique stores and restaurants.
• Strand Books: a rare collection of pre-owned and new art books.
• Magnolia bakery: unfortunately a pigeon shat on my banana cream pie before I could eat it, but it looked great.



Mieux Derma Rebrand
Sample Magazine — 2015

How do you think Mieux Derma found you? Why do you think they chose you to give them a new identity? 
Mieux Derma found my work online using Behance. The founder had been looking for a freelance designer with a focus on branding and packaging. I had the ability to work exclusively with Mieux Derma for 3 months, which was something that the client found appealing. It felt more like a personal than business relationship where we could speak openly at least once every one to two days. We worked with my friend and frequent collaborator, Morgahna Godwin, who did the initial audit and brand strategy. Having her on board was the drawcard because the required services extended far beyond design.

Did you meet up with the client often before or during the designing process?
Morgahna did the initial consultation in person. We have worked ongoing for over a year with this client, so there was a small amount of proposal work prior to commencement. After the initial consultation we spoke mostly online, as we all frequently travel.

Were there many constraints in their brief? Did they already have a pretty clear vision? 
There was a personal back story to the brand strategy that the client wanted to express subtly. The products have quite a herbal scent so we wanted to portray the organic nature of the formulas.

What kind of a budget were you given? How did you go about working with/around it? 
There was a decent budget, but a lot of work that came with it. The costs were split between design and strategy.

Did you do much research into other skincare companies? 
Yes, we definitely did a lot of research into competiting skincare brands. Because the market is extremely over saturated it was important to see what successful competitors were up to. In Melbourne there are a lot of innovative brands so it’s an enjoyable experience to see how other skincare brands portray themselves. 

Where did you draw inspiration from for you imagery?
The imagery was inspired by the organic formulas. We looked at the ingredients list and deconstructed it in a literal approach so the audience could get a good sense of whats inside.

What made you choose a simplistic and minimalistic style for these packages? What does this say about the product inside?
Because the products are sold exclusively online we took a more expressive approach to how they’re presented (opposed to being placed in store where they’re competing with other products). The packaging is designed to consider other elements it may be stylised with, so it looks nice in the website banners, Instagram imagery and it’s real life environment i.e. your bathroom. Through the research phase we discovered that most of the genuinely good skincare products were branded in a minimal way, I think this understated approach is typical in the expression that if the products are great, so theres no need to shout about it. 

When developing your concepts, did you keep the target audience in mind? How did this effect your designs? 
Our target audience was defined by key influencers that we aimed to endorse the brand, many of which were people in the creative and beauty industry. In a sense, we were designing specifically for these people, we looked at their purchasing profile and sculpted a brand that they would find appealing

How did you go about choosing your two colours? Why did you choose the two you did? 
Because we were innovative in other areas we felt compelled to select colours that are typical of the skincare industry. The client expressed interest in introducing a mens line in the future, so the grey and beige were colour options that could be inverted depending on the audience. i.e. grey base for mens with beige type or beige base for women with grey type.

Why did you decide to have a rough natural looking type for ‘morning frost’ when the rest of the type was clean and crisp? What were you trying to convey?  
We wanted to signify a difference because Morning Frost and Misty Flora are the only two body products. This style of lettering was very trendy at the time. The action of applying body products is also a lot more unrestrained than using face formula. We wanted to express this in the typography so approached Sydney based designer Erin Donati of Harley Quinn & Co to create the organic lettering. We loved Erin’s personal style so she also acted as one of the influencers. 

What kind of brainstorming did you do to reach your final concepts? 
The combination of focus groups and Q&A’s supplied us with some initial data to spark conversation with the client. From here we made some key discoveries and decided on some fundamental changes before brainstorming. The main direction was strategised by Morgahna and it was my task to visualise her story, so there was a lot of online communication between us. 

What font did you use and why? What did it add to the designs?  
Perpetua and Brown were our final choice, but we went through hundreds of options before settling for them. We wanted a Serif for the main typeface because the name ‘Mieux Derma’ is french and has a sophisticated feeling that we wanted to express. We selected the Brown typeface because of it’s wide option of fonts, it was a modern contrast to the serif and looked nice set in the product names. Ultimately both typefaces just felt and looked nice in the logo.

The ‘morning frost’ type seems to be hand drawn. How long did you remake the type before you found what you wanted? How did you refine it? Did it go from hand drawn to computer or was it all done on the computer? 
The lettering was done by Harley Quinn and Co. We gave a pretty clear direction for what we wanted, there were a couple of minor changes concerning legibility. But both pieces were done within a week. 

What choices did you make to ensure the packaging would be engaging and make the produce more appealing? 
The packaging was a big focus because the products are sold online, so there are several layers involved. We designed an exterior shipping box, protective wax paper, reusable drawstring bags and the product packaging. All of the different elements consider each other by using complimenting colours, and minimal placement of the logo so there was no overwhelming repetition of branding.

Despite the differently shaped packages all have a similar use of balance. How did you find this? What made you decide to put most of the weight in the middle of the package? 
There is a restrictive underlying grid on all of bottle shapes that makes the entire range feel cohesive. The product name is larger and centred in the middle to make an engaging experience with the audience. The product naming is very poetic and we wanted to highlight them, we achieved this by enlarging the type and setting them in a modern sans serif font. 

Did you spend much time brainstorming different shapes and colour combinations? What choices made this design so engaging? 
Yes, this was maybe the hardest and most time consuming part. Because there are thousand of options when it comes to bottle shapes, all of which are embedded with restrictions that influences the design. Making a cohesive collection is also difficult, because although each product shape is radically different, there is an underlying form that connects them all. We opted for a modernist shape that we felt was honest and purely functional. A lot of the bottle shapes out there are frivolous and over-designed. We wanted a shape that wasn’t overcompensating because we know the products are great. 

How long did you spend on creating the different packages? How many prototypes? What was the process? 
We spent a long time exploring various shapes. Being able to digitally render the shape streamlined the prototyping phase. We made an initial order of about 50 different shapes that had subtle variations in base shape and dispenser. After this point we made a final decision on the shape, and order colour several colour samples that went one either side of our intended pantone colour. The final colour selection was slightly lighter than we initially expected because it looks slightly different in the matt finish application.

How were the packages produced? Where did you get them done?
We produced all of the packaging in China, the client managed the production because he knew mandarin. We were very happy with the finish quality and their colour matching. I’m usually reluctant in getting things outsourced to China, but our client introduced me to this particular company which has a good reputation for ethical practise

What materials did you use? Are the different shapes made from different materials? If so how did you ensure the colours still looked the same? 
We used a combination of materials that ranged from corrugated cardboard for the shipping box, wax wrapping paper, cotton draw string bags and the formula bottles which are made from plastic. The producer was great in supplying high resolution photos of the samples to ensure colour matching. There was a very minor mismatch in the bottle base and dispenser because we wanted to stick with matt base. Asides from this everything was perfect. 

How well did your designs translate onto the shape of the packages?  
The label were all perfectly matched to the package shapes because we measured the sizes prior to design. It was an ongoing process of printing out rough labels and applying them to the bottle samples to ensure the typography scale was correct.

Did you packaging have the intended impact on the target audience? Why do you think so? 
Yes, we have had very positive reviews of the packaging. In this digital age there is no disguising a design failure, customers are very expressive online when it comes to things they don't like. So it’s nice to see only positive comments.

How was your feedback from the client? Were the designs successful? 
Our client was very happy with the results, we have formed an ongoing relationship and I have continued to do campaign imagery and more recently design a stall for the design markets. Mieux Derma has received a lot of positive features from beauty bloggers that all comment on how the packaging has heightened the experience. 

How can you measure this success? 
The success has been measured by positive reviews, sales, willingness in brand-collaborations, and the large amount of design media that has ultimately exposed Mieux Derma to a larger audience. As a graphic designer it is not always my role to directly advertise and market the product, so it is nice to see the brand get organic exposure through the branding. 

How do you think it attracts attention? 
In the beauty industry, innovative design is a huge consideration that will help to gain exposure. Because of the vast amount of competitors, it’s extremely difficult to captivate an audience. You have to portray an honesty to the brand that people will truly connect with. Mieux Derma has achieved this firstly by producing astounding formulas, and secondly by committing to innovative design that has platformed them above competitors.  

Working in Dubai
ING — 2016

New Zealand born designer and art director, Ryan Romanes, has been a recurring and essential member of the –ING team, continuing to work with us on many of our creativeprojects. Ryan, who runs an independent practice in Melbourne, has been an invaluable contributor via his countless talents, providing Talks, art direction, design and video editing throughout previous projects such as Beginning, Talks, and both the 2015 and 2016 conference art directions Dust and Fabric. Now, -ING profiles Ryan so that our creative community can pick the mind of one of the pivotal creatives behind our successful campaigns. 

What’s your background?
I’m originally from a small Sulphury town infamous for it’s bad smell, called Rotorua in the central north island of New Zealand. Upon graduating I interned with Sagmeister & Walsh in New York for three months, although this was a relatively short experience it has really established the kind of work I am doing today. In 2014 I worked with ING for 3 months in Dubai to work on the branding and art direction for the annual conference. After working in various cities around the world I am now based in Melbourne, Australia.

How would you describe yourself as a creative?
I’m a designer who gets bored incredibly quickly, this has caused an unnatural evolution to develop a diverse portfolio covering branding, editorial, art direction, interactive design, paper crafts, set design, and of late, I have become a self-taught photographer.  Although a lot of my work starts on the computer, I have a hands on approach and like to alternate between crafts, photography and digital manipulation to create surreal compositions. My professional practice is a constant balance between personal projects and commercial work that sustains my business. 

As a multidisciplinary designer, which area of work do you enjoy the most?
The collaborative nature of Art Direction is by far the most stimulating and enjoyable area for me. Having the opportunity to work with other creatives strengthens the outcome through the sharing of ideas, while ability for me to focus on one area.

Where do you find inspiration during your creative process? And how has that process changed with experience?
Initially I searched for inspiration within the graphic design industry, looking on blogs or studio websites to find inspiring projects. But overtime I became more aware of repetition in others work and eventually saw it in my own. Although I still keep up to date with current design trends, I aim to search further for inspiration to feed the conception of my ideas. Nowadays, the contemporary art world would be my ultimate form of inspiration. It’s an industry dedicated to ideas and pushing boundaries, which is by nature, a lot more innovative than the commercial realities of the fast-paced design industry.

You’ve lived and worked as a designer internationally, how would you describe the differences between the creative industries within New York, Dubai, Auckland and Melbourne?
Because design style can vary dramatically between studio and individual, it is difficult to pin-point differences between cities. New York, Auckland and Melbourne are noticeably different to Dubai. Because, regardless of your cultural background, the population ultimately conforms to western-norms through the common thread of English language. This results in typographic trends and communication methods that are radically different to the arabic culture. The difference becomes more apparent through business etiquette. Auckland and Melbourne have a very ‘Australasian casualness’ that you don’t typically experience in other areas of the world. Dubai is incredibly fast-paced, which is great! But people want everything yesterday, which has an undeniable effect on the designer’s capabilities. It’s a relatively new and commercially centred industry, I don't think clients really understand where design fits-in, and the appreciation isn’t quite there yet. Saying that, there is excellent work coming from the region! I’m excited to see how the industry unfolds over the next few years.

When observing emerging artists, designers and photographers, what grabs your attention?
We live in a highly visual age where an overwhelming amount of imagery is absorbed on a daily basis. What gets my attention is incredibly well crafted work. In my own personal experience I have felt that; to communicate in the language of design you must first know how to speak it. By saying this, I mean that poorly crafted work often goes unnoticed regardless of the quality of concept. Universities often disregard the importance of craft and beauty to trivial level. But there’s a lot more to it than ‘just aesthetics’— if you can't produce something that looks professional, then it will be a struggle to get your work noticed.

Finally, which –ING project did you find the most fun to work on and why?
I really enjoy collaborating with ING on the conference art directions, because there’s a pool of talented people to work with. For the past two years we have created surreal compositions in iconic UAE locations with our friend Jiani Lu. She is doing really impressive work and I completely trust her ability to visualize the concept. Because of our creative audience we can be expressive and abstract with the visuals.

Career and path
Design Assembly — 2016


How many years have you worked as a designer and in what capacity?
2015 has marked the third year I have been working in the design industry. For the most of this time I have worked independently as a freelance graphic designer, directly with my own clients and with studios. Although I typically label myself as a graphic designer, my day-to-day tasks are a lot more varied than computer-based work. The projects I work on alternate between branding, packaging, editorial, digital, photography and image making work. 

Can you describe your current role/s?
I typically spend 1 day a week on personal work, this could include portfolio photography, blogging or responding to press enquiries, and side projects. All of which feedback to my professional practice. The work I promote myself with is a small selection of the best work I’ve done. It’s a constant balance between working on commercial projects that pay a living while working on lesser-paid creative work that continues to inspire myself and drive my practice forward.

How did you find the transition from tertiary study into work?
Because I never took a full-time job straight after studying, there has been a fair amount of self-teaching involved. The biggest challenge is the speed you’re required to work. To sustain a freelance business you typically need to work with many clients at once, this was the ultimate test in productivity and time management skills. For the month of January I will be travelling between Australia and NZ while working on several projects for people based in various cities around the world. Working with so many clients from various cities means you’re constantly in contact with people in other timezones. I think my clients would be surprised about how many other people I am working with at one time, so I try to make an extra effort to make them feel attended to. By keeping in regular contact and forming a more personable relationship this will ensure the project runs smoothly and I will be recommended for future work.

When I’m working on image-based projects I need to be in my studio with access to resources, but for the rest of my work I’m completely independent of location. Being organised in this respect has allowed me to streamline my practice and be more proficient to client requests. In the past, being mobile has been something I’ve had to adapt to, but now I rely on for productivity. In Melbourne I try to mix up my location as much as possible by working from various shared spaces or spending some of the day in a cafe. 

What was your first job in the industry?
The first job I took was a freelance job at a studio in Auckland, I intended on staying several months but only lasted a couple of weeks. I learnt pretty quickly that I either love or hate working in this industry. The thing I like most about working for myself is having the ability to work on the kind of projects I find stimulating. The work environment at the studio was a large open space that I  personally couldn't concentrate in, there was a lot of repetition in the designated tasks and I always dreaded the 5pm finish time because I wasn't able to complete everything in that time frame. I have no criticism of the studio, but now  I understand that not everyone is not suited to conventional working environments and there are other paths that can be taken. Although technically I can work what ever hours I want, I try to set work hours to provide some structure in my life. I find my productivity increase when I do short bursts of work. Typically I wont spend longer than 3 hours at a desk before having a break and then switching to another project. 

Can you describe your ‘professional’ journey? 
With 10 days notice, and the day after I handed in my final student project, I took a three month internship with Sagmeister & Walsh in New York. Jessica Walsh had posted a status asking for applications as one of their interns had dropped out, so I instantly applied and heard back over night that I had been accepted. From there everything was a natural evolution. Once the three months ended I went back to Auckland and worked for a few months on various freelance projects, then moved to Melbourne to pursue a masters full-time. After the first semester I took a leave-of-absence for a freelance opportunity to work with a local creative community in Dubai for three months, after this (late 2014) I returned to Melbourne and started freelancing full-time while doing a couple of subjects for my masters part-time. Although I think everything I have done in the past has contributed to my accomplishments today, a setback could have been committing to the semester of full-time studying when I first came to Melbourne. Although I was learning valuable skills, I felt very removed from the realities of the industry. I find part-time study far more valuable as I’m constantly relating it to client work. Through hard-work and clever self promotion, clients are able to discover my work online. I think this is one of the best approaches to attracting work that you find stimulating. I understand that overtime I have established a specialised approach/style to my work, and this has narrowed the sector of client who finds my work appealing. Most likely, this is an outcome of taking a freelance career vs conventional studio work. 

What advice would you give to your 'graduate' self?
The initial job-hunt can be traumatising for everyone. I think the studios everyone really want to work with are typically on the smaller side (5-10 people), so employment opportunities are rare. While I’m good at presenting myself online, I’m probably too relaxed and casual when I should be more professional at times. I think focusing on my personal presentation and communication skills would have helped applications that ended at the interview.  Try to reach out to people you admire for feedback on your portfolio, and don't take criticism personally. Remember that you’re competing with hundreds of other graduates in the same position to you, figure out a way that will elevate yourself amongst the crowd. Always push yourself to produce work thats at the same quality as the people you want to work for.

What would you recommend that students do with their time outside of uni?
Asides from working on Personal Projects, have other creative interests that inspire your graphic design practice. I think my interests in Music, Theatre, Art and other design related subjects like fashion, photography and architecture, have fed into the work I create today. Especially in the branding industry where you need to understand the visual language of their business sector. Interestingly enough, the things I am interested in outside of design have become the clients I work with now, and has ultimately merged a holistic professional and personal lifestyle. 

What do you think are important skills for visual communication graduates in today's world? 
Obviously self-promotion skills are essential, because a lot of graphic design happens off the computer, you somehow need to capture a physical creation through photography. Hiring a photographer or asking your mates to shoot your portfolio isn't a sustainable approach so I would highly recommend getting a camera and taking photography lessons early. Honing your craft with basic photography skills are a total asset when everything is becoming incredibly digital.

Any other ‘gold nuggets’ of advice?
Think quality not quantity and be wise in how you use your time. I think a lot graduates work incredibly hard for the first bite, but looking back on your portfolio there will probably be one or two projects that get you in the door.