Career Q&A: Laura Cornhill

Published:  September 24, 2012
Career Q&A: Laura Cornhill

We asked Anita Ryley (creative director, Seesaw), Laura Cornhill (creative director, Studio Binocular), Andrew Hoyne (principal, Hoyne) and Vince Frost (creative director, CEO, Frost Design) for design career advice and tips, as well as their perspective on the current state of design education on Australia.

Read Anita Ryley‘s Q&A, and Andrew Hoyne’s Q&A, and next up is Laura Cornhill…


Laura Cornhill as a student

Laura Cornhill
Creative director, Studio Binocular
Studied: Bachelor of Arts (Graphic Design), Monash University

Graduation year: 1999

What was the greatest piece of advice that you were given during your design education?
That it’s never too late to ditch a bad idea! It taught me not to be too precious about my work, and to be willing to make a big change if something isn’t working.

Should design graduates concentrate on one area and be really good at it or be an all-rounder?
I think it ultimately depends on the individual and how important it is to you to work in a specific area of design. As a graduate, I think it’s important to be both open-minded and willing to try new things and in the end you’ll decide what you like best.

We find with our work that projects are increasingly interdisciplinary – more often than not, projects will incorporate branding, print and online, as well as any number of other components. I like this way of working and find that it helps to keep your day really interesting and diverse.

What is your opinion of the current state of design education and, if anything, what can be improved?
Ultimately, I think the most important skill that comes through design education is the ability to conceptualise issues and problem solve in an innovative way.

One area that seems to be lacking a little is the knowledge of art and design history, in the context of broader cultural understanding, which I think is vital in our role as communicators.

What qualities impress you most about current graduates, and which skill-sets are lacking?
An ability to convey their ideas in a clear, interesting and knowledgeable way. I always look for ideas over style, and I’m interested in people who have tried to do things differently. Another key quality we look for is an eye for the wider world and people who can talk about their favourite film or favourite news story of the past year.

How important are a designer’s educational qualifications? Does it matter if they hold a degree or a masters? Does it matter what institution they went through, or what kind of education they received?
I believe education is empowering and can really transform your life. It’s not so much the qualification, but the educational experience itself. We would usually hire either degree or honours graduates (so three to four years in a creative environment) and we look for people with good results in written communication subjects, as well as good general knowledge. I always think that more education is better than less education and that any additional time spent learning will pay off tenfold.

When hiring, do you prefer to see a physical portfolio or does an online presentation of work suffice these days?
I think it’s good to show the work in the format it was designed for. If it was intended as a printed piece, then it is nice to see the scale and the finish, whereas a digital piece will be best viewed online. Like everything though, the most important thing is that the idea behind the work comes through and if you’re loads more comfortable with one medium over another, then you’re probably best to stick with that.

What is the biggest challenge about being a designer that you did not think/know about when you were a student?
Probably the components of my job that aren’t very design related, such as running a business, managing staff and writing proposals. That said, I’m not sure I would have been interested in taking an elective with those subjects when I was studying!

If you could start your design education again, would you do anything differently?
I don’t think there is much I would do differently, aside from appreciating education more. The stress, overdue library books, fear of having your work picked through when it was pinned up on the wall and the fear that the bookbinders would leave greasy fingerprints on your painstakingly made mock-ups. I enjoyed it then and I enjoy laughing about it even more now. The younger guys at the studio have advised me that I don’t use Facebook enough to fit in on campus these days.

What are some changing considerations for the designer of tomorrow?
I think things will always change, but perhaps the most important consideration, no matter what the medium, is to stick to the basics – good ideas always work best.

What would be the biggest piece of advice you would give to a student who is currently studying design today?
Find a way to do what you really enjoy for your work and you’ll be better at it. And, with any luck, it won’t feel like work at all.

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