An interview with AGDA member Paul Lynch
1st April, 2010
In the latest issue of AGDA's Agenda newsletter we focused on the theme ‘design currency'. To coincide with this, a number of AGDA members were interviewed to see how they stay current, focussed and inspired in their design journeys.
Members were randomly selected and will be profiled in the ensuing weeks, so stay tuned!
This week features Paul Lynch who is based in Queensland. Paul is the Creative Director for Ambition Creative and has worked within agencies based in Melbourne and Brisbane.
Why did you become a graphic designer?
I was always interested in drawing illustrations and creating 3d type as a young child - as a teenager, creating concepts for shop fronts, signs, posters and magazine covers. At that point, I knew I wanted to further understand the concept of graphic design and create a career from doing something that intrigued me so much.
Who or what were your influences earlier in your career?
I graduated studying graphic design at the University of Ballarat in 1996. My biggest influences as a younger child ranged from breakfast serial boxes, magazines, logos and symbols especially.
As I studied throughout University I found that graphic design as a medium was fluid, influenced by change as it happened. I wasn't lead by any specific designer as such, although I found the work of David Carson and the typographical catalog's and magazines from Émigré challenged the perception of graphic design of the time.
Where did you initially work?
After I graduated, I freelanced for 12 months on a number of projects for the University of Ballarat. I then accepted my first job with APO Online, a multimedia company based in Melbourne. They quickly morphed into a new company call Multi-E-Media and listed on the ASX at the height of the Dot Com explosion.
My role as graphic designer involved designing and creating multimedia projects and online solutions, but quickly evolved into a senior design position managing a team of designers.
What have been some of your favourite projects to work on?
There have been many challenging projects - some more fun than others, which have allowed me to travel as part of the project;
> 1. Hamilton Island Website
When we developed this website, I worked with a team of programmers to create the most technologically cutting edge website of it's time. As part of this project, I travelled to Hamilton Island and shot all of the photography - a highlight was being on the side of the airstrip as a Qantas plane landed taking shots. We also utilized a new ‘VR' technology call IPIX which showcased throughout the website.
> 2. Yamaha Motor Australia & NZ
For a few years I worked with a team of designers to manage and create all of the design and advertising for Yamaha Motor within it's Australasian market. It was exciting and challenging to create such a broad spectrum of work across many different mediums.
> 3. The Milk Bar - A children's Emporium
This was a project for a Brisbane based client, it involved creating an identity, and following that throughout all communication brand collateral. It was a fun project and it's the type of project I get the most satisfaction from.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
For myself, it is about looking back at the project to review if the creative solution has met the expectations of the client. Understanding if they are happy with the result, and seeing the results of that work make a difference for the client.
What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
Seeing my design work in the middle of the MCG to a crowd of 40,000 plus, watching Valentino Rossi sign posters I designed, walking over adverting I designed stuck to the floor of a national supermarket chain, listening to people talk about their interactions when using a website I designed on a tram in the city, buying products I designed off the shelf, seeing embroidered logos on shirts I designed... and so on.
How do you feel graphic design has changed in Australia since you began work?
When I entered the workforce, computers were in their infancy, in-fact, as I studied, we were one of the last few years to be taught how to use a bromide camera, and how to create transfer decals from colour-ease for mockups.
Today, I use a computer all day, everyday, the only time I pick up a pen is to sketch ideas and brainstorm. Even then at times it's a digital pen for use with a wacom tablet.
Everything has sped-up, design projects that may have spanned a week or more are now expected by clients within days. I think the value of design has been severely impacted due to a number of reasons that help the industry, but also hinder it at the same time such as; stock imagery libraries, the technological advancement of application software and the power of social mediums such as the internet.
If you have a bag - you better make sure it's full of tricks - Graphic Design has morphed to encompass many mediums, it is no longer restricted to logotype and print based solutions, as you're local butcher will be asking you to produce their website along with their stationery in the same sentence.
I my opinion, every year, since I started studying has been a ‘radical year' in graphic design.
What has changed for you in terms of how you work and think about graphic design and your work/business?
It's great to work within a profession doing the type of work that allows me to express myself freely, to randomly generate and create new ideas. But the reality of that power can be very different from the expectations of our clients.
Setting aside your ‘personal' design views as opposed to your ‘work' design views can at times, be very frustrating.
Running my own business and generating income isn't always about creating design for yourself, it's about your clients, their briefs and the solutions you provide. Accepting that a client wants to change your work is part of that everyday struggle. Finding alterative solutions, compromising ideas and just doing what the client asks for is an aspect of running a business.
What are some of your professional goals for the future?
> Find two new clients per month
> Attend one networking event per fortnight
Who/what are your mentors and sources of inspiration?
I have never really looked to a mentor, I don't want to be influenced by other designers, that said - I derive inspiration from everything around me; books, signage, magazines, television, research is important - to know what's happening within social mediums, helps me to understand the multiple directions graphic design as an industry is heading in.
What has been your personal key to success?
Really pushing your ideas. When you think you have a great solution to your design project - go make a coffee, come back and take a second look. Be open enough to share your design and take criticism if it comes your way. Go back to the drawing board and start again if you need to.
Understand the brief. Ask your client lots of questions, if you forgot the answers, ask again.
Be punctual and meet your deadlines. Presentation is key (relative to the type of client you are working with), be assertive, drive the meetings and most importantly - remember to listen.
How do you see the direction of graphic design in Australia going?
As much as graphic design expands as an industry - so too will it contract in many areas, graphic design does not have clearly definable defense lines to protect. Advertising, marketing and online website firms are all encroaching within the industry.
I see one of the biggest issues the industry faces on the education front. Many professionals are being undermined by the lack of a real accreditation system. It is simply no longer valuable to hold a University degree (or similar), and or value experience/time working within the industry as a measurement of skills - many individuals are promoting themselves as ‘Graphic Designers' with no more than three months education.
As an industry, we need to hold accountable those newly established institutions, which offer such courses. Should we not address these problems, we can expect more bonafide courses to disappear in the coming years.
As a result, it's only going to become a more competitive industry, the value of design will be impacted in a negative manner from a remuneration and creative perspective for independent design firms, with more untrained designers entering the marketplace.
I believe more and more businesses will employ graphic designers internally within their business structures. It's my opinion these designers will become more alienated from the industry, and as a result their creativity is stifled by non creative CEO's, managers and alike.
Conglomerate advertising agencies will soak up more of the design industry, with art-worker's replacing the specialized skill-sets of many designers.
What single word would you say is going to be important for graphic design in 2010?
What do you feel are the most important skills to have as a graphic designer?
> An education
> Affiliation (AGDA Membership) or other
> People skills
> Ability to meet deadlines
> Ability to handle pressure
> Ability to multi-task
What advice can you offer a graphic designer embarking on their career?
Firstly, ensure you completed your educational course in full. Secondly, learn everything you can from those around you once you enter the workforce. If you're working within an environment where you are not learning, ask. If that doesn't work, find a job where you will learn more.
You can never have enough skills, remember - you'll be learning throughout your career.
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