Out West: Interviews with WA Designers : Stephen Castledine
9th December, 2009
Sean McKay bring us a series of interviews with some of Western Australia's most renowned graphic designers.
Stephen Castledine has been working in the design industry in WA for over 27 years. He established Castledine & Castledine Designers in 1994 with his wife, Mikaela. They have a diverse range of clients and their projects include corporate and brand identity, packaging, publications and signage. They also try to fit in pro bono community-based projects when they can.
How and why did you become a graphic designer?
I can't remember a time when I wasn't drawing. My best subject by a country mile at school was art, so I knew I'd have to pursue something in an art-related area. I think I first learned the commercial value of what I could do when other kids would ask me to produce illustrations and cartoons for their school projects - I'd get paid in sausage rolls or choc milks. When I left school I figured I could continue to do art and hopefully graphic design could pay the bills.
Who were you influences earlier in your career?
As a teenager I was influenced by the great record cover designers like Hipgnosis and Roger Dean, as well as comic artists like Neal Adams and Frank Frazetta. I also loved the work of the early poster artists like Ludwig Hohlwein and Will Bradley. As I became more familiar with ‘graphic design', I was inspired by the work of artist/designers like Milton Glaser and lettering virtuosos like Herb Lubalin. I was strongly influenced by my main university lecturer, Rosie Barter who always used work in Graphis annuals as benchmarks for her students to aspire to. Other significant lecturers at the time included Toya Barlowe, Neil Turner and Rick Lambert.
Where did you work?
After graduating from WAIT (now Curtin University) I did a short stint in a small advertising agency before having the good fortune to be hired by Neil Turner at what was then Turner Graphics. As it was just Neil and I, there was plenty of opportunity to work on a diversity of really good projects ranging from corporate identity to beer packaging.
What were some of your favorite projects that you worked on?
As a young designer in Perth in the mid-1980's it was pretty hard to find a better client to work for than Brewtech who ultimately became the Matilda Bay Brewing Co. We were working in uncharted territory (by Perth's standards) and produced designs for numerous beer brands as well as promotional material, signage. It was a particular buzz to have some of these projects selected for publication in The View from Australia, a book coordinated by Ken Cato.
What is the most fulfilling aspect to your job?
The best part of what we do is when a client rings you out of the blue and just says "Thanks". This happened recently, one Sunday morning when a client suddenly felt the need to express his gratitude for a particular beer brand we had developed. It had become his company's biggest seller with NO advertising campaign! If that doesn't show the power of design in the marketplace, I don't know what does.
What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
I'm proud to have been a member of AGDA since its inception because its been the best way to meet and interact with other members of the wider design community. Through AGDA I've spent time with legendary designers like George Hardy, Stefan Sagmeister and Chip Kidd (to name a few), which would never have happened in Perth without the backing of a strong professional national association.
How do you feel graphic design has changed in Australia since you began work?
In spite of the digital revolution, I'm not sure it's really changed at all. Good design still stands out. The medium may have changed (from bromides and typesetting pasted on boards) but the same basic principles apply - designers should always strive for strong concepts and craft in execution.
The real revolution is in the way we work. The amazing technology we use now allows us to work from any location and enables us to connect with different experts in different fields in any part of the world.
What are some of your professional goals for the future?
I'm happy to continue working with the wider design community in any capacity I can, but would also like to concentrate more on the art side of things.
How do you see the direction of graphic design in Australia going?
I'd like to see Australian design have a more distinctive voice and be more engaged with the wider community.
What do you feel Western Australia will contribute to graphic design?
WA can contribute exactly the same (or more) as anywhere else - we used to use isolation as an excuse, but I don't think that holds up anymore.
What has been your personal key to success?
Being able to navigate my way through the client's ideas, wishes, preconceptions, etc. Rick Lambert once said to me something along the lines of: "Always try to design beyond the client's expectations". It's a pretty good mantra.
What do you feel are the most important skills to have as a graphic designer?
Capacity to understand where the client is coming from - ultimately they are the ones who have to live with what you create.
What wisdom can you offer a graphic designer embarking on their career?
Aim high! There are too many people doing graphic design who don't have a real passion for it. The industry is way too crowded to accommodate half-hearted designers. However, if you love it, try to expose yourself to as many influences as you can - hopefully through this process you can develop your own distinct ‘voice' and create some really memorable work. Good luck!
Tell us about it!
We are constantly seeking design information to capture the interests of a wider audience. Blog about anything that provokes discussion, catches your eye, will give other designers a kick.
Since this is a community site, please note that when submitting articles for publication on this site we accept submissions that are not deemed to be advertorial, self-promotional, commercially or sponsorship driven.