Career Q&A series: Anita Ryley

Published:  September 10, 2012
Career Q&A series: Anita Ryley

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.

First up is Anita Ryley, creative director of Seesaw…


Anita Ryley as a student

Anita Ryley
Creative director of Seesaw
Studied: Bachelor of Communication Design, RMIT
Graduation year: 2002

What was the greatest piece of advice that you were given during your design education?
We were repeatedly told to embrace the university environment, to work with other students, collaborate, take time to experience other forms of art and design, and to live and figure out who we were as individuals. University is really one of the only times you can collaborate with so many creatives at once. Enjoy it.

Should design graduates concentrate on one area and be really good at it or be an all-rounder?

At Seesaw, we prefer to see folios that show an appreciation for all forms of design, where all aspects of the problem have been considered. That being said, it is great to see designers harnessing their strengths and developing their skills. There is that saying ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ – a confident and focused point of view is often not a bad thing.

What is your opinion of the current state of design education and, if anything, what can
be improved?
To be fair, my current knowledge of design education is limited. Based on what I hear from students and recent graduates, it appears the current state of education is a little [disconnected] from the industry. Time-frames on projects are often too long and, while this can promote creativity, it just isn’t realistic in terms of industry lead times.

I believe that tertiary institutions should really aim to integrate all faculties of arts and design, and promote industry placement. They were things missing from my own design education that I believe would have been extremely beneficial.

What qualities impress you most about current graduates, and which skill-sets are lacking?
I am always impressed by the craft and care put into the execution of a folio.

I am most unimpressed by large egos and style-driven folios. Many graduating folios aren’t about solving a communication problem and are often just a showcase of various design trends. I don’t want to see a regurgitation of design blogs; I would rather hear about an idea and the thought process involved, a unique way of thinking.

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?
We have hired people with university degrees and others with TAFE qualifications. It wouldn’t bother me if they didn’t have any formal design qualifications, as long as they were great designers and clever communicators who fit into our studio culture.

When hiring, do you prefer to see a physical portfolio or does an online presentation of work suffice these days?
I really don’t mind as long as the work is considered and well-presented. I do think that in a one-on-one meeting, it is nice to discuss the work while looking at it as a reference. Either physical work or a portfolio presented on a handheld device would suffice.

What is the biggest challenge about being a designer that you did not think/know about when you were a student?
I think I was most unprepared in regards to realistic deadlines and time management. I also never considered running a studio, managing staff, business development, quoting, invoicing and dealing with clients. When I was a student, it was all about the craft and taking the time to be creative. I loved that freedom. If I had more industry experience, the learning curve wouldn’t have been as steep.

If you could start your design education again, would you do anything differently?
No, I don’t think so. I loved my time at RMIT and it was where I met my business partner,
Matthew McKenzie.

What are some changing considerations for the designer of tomorrow?
It has been said a million times, but a design or identity no longer appears in static form. We need to think about how brands can evolve across various platforms and how design can be represented effectively in various mediums such as photography, handheld devices, social media, copywriting, online and motion graphics.

What would be the biggest piece of advice you would give to a student who is currently studying design today?
To be interesting, push boundaries and experiment. Have a point of view and get
involved in the industry.

Thumbnail: Seth Taylor, 2012.

2 Responses

  1. Pingback: Career Q&A series: Andrew Hoyne | desktop

  2. Pingback: Career Q&A: Laura Cornhill | desktop

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