The labour of love

Published:  October 19, 2011
Brita Frost
The labour of love

Over the past few weeks, desktop has profiled eight labours of love. Read each profile here: Australian INfront, Conversations with Designers, Junior, Open Manifesto, Process journal, Re:collection, Stacey app and The Narrows.

The labour of love defines the graphic designer – allowing a practice to develop in often unexpected ways, it also contributes a certain dynamism to Australia’s design culture.

While people may pursue projects for love alone in other industries, it is the graphic designer who consistently undertakes projects because they love them, because they’re doing someone a favour or because they feel like it. Almost every designer you speak to has one of these projects and it is worth thinking about just how many projects are undertaken each year in Australia with no financial incentive.

So what is it about designers that leads them to pursue labours of love with such gusto? Could it be that driven by a desire to create above and beyond the limitations of the brief, to escape the grinding deadline, the designer goes in search of a project? No doubt this is the reason for any number of projects carefully slipped into a folio, but the projects on the pages that follow indicate that it’s more complex than this.

Certainly, these projects all bring their creators pleasure, but they are also pursued because of perceived gaps in what is available to them and their peers, or because of an abiding concern for the industry they are a part of. As Kevin Finn says, “All of a sudden, design seemed a little one-dimensional, so I decided to question myself and my profession though the pages of Open Manifesto.”

A spread from Open Manifesto

What is most interesting about almost all of these projects is their altruistic intent. These are not projects motivated by a desire to simply be more creative or more free. Projects such as Dominic Hofstede’s Re:collection, Open Manifesto or Australian INfront are driven by a desire to see Australian design taken more seriously. These projects contribute directly to a deepening understanding of the value of graphic design in Australia. Perhaps more subtly, they also articulate the way that design generates culture and culture generates design. In this sense, they contribute to our cultural fabric in very important ways.

While the motivations for undertaking a labour of love may be complex, there is nothing to say that the project itself need be overly complex or difficult to execute. And while the projects themselves are altruistic in intent, devoting energy to a project with no financial incentive nevertheless has its own benefits. As Anthony Kolder, creator of Stacey, points out: “In my experience, these things tend to pay themselves off many times over, although not necessarily financially.” Whether it’s the young designer who raises his profile or the more mature designer who brings more meaning and substance to his practice, the labour of love gives back.


Les Mason's work for Epicurean magazine, in an exhibition at The Narrows gallery.

The value of these projects is immense. From the young designer at one of Junior’s talks, who learns invaluable tips about how to eke out a space as a designer, to the person who visits the Re:collection online archive and uncovers the work of Robert Rosetzky or Barbara Beckett, these projects inform our design culture in positive and dynamic ways. Each year, more and more projects are pursued by designers with little or no financial incentive, labours of love that indicate just how vibrant Australia’s design culture really is.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring and profiling eight Australian ‘labours of love’, so keep an eye on the features section of this website.

One Response

  1. Terry Chisholm

    Nice article.

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