Wrap-up: AGDA VIC Question Time #1

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Published:  March 28, 2012
Anita Ryley
Wrap-up: AGDA VIC Question Time #1

In this bi-monthly series, Anita Ryley from Seesaw will provide a useful wrap-up of each AGDA VIC Question Time.

Last month Seesaw hosted the first AGDA Question Time for 2012. A monthly event where three creatives are invited to sit beneath the spotlight, Question Time provides the platform for the audience to ask questions related to professional practice, design process and the creative industry. The aim to promote open, stimulating dialogue between students, young designers and established professionals.

The panel for February consisted of three creative directors – Scott Larritt (Swear Words), Che Douglas (Beyond The Pixels) and Scott Bonanno (Liquorice Studio). The audience asked a mixed bag of questions and there was substantial discussion around obtaining a job, managing clients and running a studio. Below are a few highlights.

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You each started your own business, how did that happen?
Scott Bonanno: I worked for someone else for around 18 months, as an art director for a very small agency. It just didn’t suit me so I left. My plan was to move to another agency and I didn’t go out with the intention of starting my own business however I managed to get one steady client and was able to build the business from there. That client grew to another and I then able to bring on a mate to work with me. I was lucky and it all happened very organically.

Scott Larritt: I was freelancing before I got my actually degree so I was already designing while I was still at University. I met my business partner who was already working at Spin Communications so he had studio management experience and could design as well. One of the guys left spin and worked for a marketing company who gave us a chance, it all sort of started from there.

Che Douglas: Once out of University I worked for a publishing company. I got the job through a friend and from there I worked my way up the food chain. They did predominately publishing work. I always had a knack for branding so I started to pitch for work within their clientele and then got to a point, after three years, that I couldn’t go any further within the company. I decided it wasn’t for me and that I needed a challenge so I left. I had existing freelance clients but started to build it up and went from there. I just went out there and tried it – it was a great learning curve.

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How do you find balance between running a business and design?
SB: These days I do very little hands-on design design work. In the beginning running a business feels like a full time job on top of being a designer. It’s hard work and there is no easy way around it. Over time you just get better and faster at it and if you’re lucky enough you can eventually bring people on to help you.

CD: Focus on what you are good at and get great at selling what you are good at.

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With the design process, is there a lot of strategy involved or is it more aesthetic?
CD: It is all about problem solving for me. Everyone comes to us with a different problem and a different business, service or product etc. We start with this and ask a lot of hard questions, we focus on the client and their business and the long term goals. We aim to translate their business objectives into a design solution. The first part is closing that gap and understanding what they want to achieve as a business.

SL: Right from the beginning there is education and we ask a lot of questions. The solution and strategy is different for every client.

SB: It’s easy enough to make something look nice but it has to be appropriate and it has to answer the brief. If it doesn’t you’re not solving the problem.

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What is your dream job?
SB: We are working on an arts festival rebrand which has been great. The client wants new ideas and for us to push boundaries. The trade off is the budget which is small but we’re in a very fortunate position to be able to take on a client like this.

SL: Hospitality interiors has always been my goal.

CD: A current project we are working on which is launching soon. Stay tuned.

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Have you ever knocked a client back because you didn’t like them?
SB: Sometimes you can tell from the first email you can’t work with them. We try to not knock back too many clients but if they seem completely disorganised and they don’t know what they want and then they don’t want to accept your advice, it sets off alarm bells.

CD: There is always an education process with any new client. You go through that at the beginning and try to weed out the people who don’t value or understand the approach.

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What do you look for when hiring?
SL: Personality is a massive thing for me and culture fit is a big thing for us – how they work with everyone else in the studio. Show your personality.

CD: In medium-sized studio you work so closely together, so personality, and a different skill set is important. They need to bring a different aspect to the studio.

You can view a recap of the event here:

*The answers above are not verbatim and have been edited to comply with space restrictions.

AGDA would like to thank Scott, Scott and Che for being part of the panel. Do you have your own questions to ask? Question Time runs monthly (and is free for members and $25 for non members).

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