Snapshot of the Recent Graduate

I was clearing out some cupboards and drawers at home today when I came across an old copy of the Australian Graphic Design newsletter that contained an interview with me from around the time I had just completed university. I hadn’t read it for a while, it’s interesting to see where my head was at way back when (to me at least, you’ll have to judge for yourself if you choose to read on!)

Chris Bowden: a new designer making the most of new technology

In the leafy setting of the Botanic gardens, Chris Bowden describes his life as a freelance designer.

Chris left Underdale (University of South Australia) at the end of 19911. Since then he has been mainly bringing in his own commissions.

One of the first things Chris did on leaving university was to invest in a mac and some programmes. he is realistic about the unfortunate employment situation: “I knew that I would have to go out and find freelance work of my own and I would need a Mac to do this. Plus the fact to get jobs you need to be very Mac orientated. Buying the Mac depleted my funds, so I had to make do without a printer!”

His first commissions came through his contacts with the local music industry.

Chris regularly listened to friend Greg Williams play at Limbo’s nightclub on a Wednesday night. “There was me, the DJ, Greg and a few other odd sorts up and around at 1am. Greg would play, have a few drinks and then get up and play again.” This led to the offer to design the record cover for “‘Louder Than Words’ while still at Uni.

Louder Than Words was probably one of the last vinyl albums produced in Australia at the time. Chris’s design got glowing comments even in reviews for the actual album.

Chris anticipated much difficulty with the project as his clients were interstate. He had to deal with Greg and Festival Records over the fax and phone.

The design chosen was an abstract line drawing of Greg holding his guitar. Chris enlarged the drawing and used a section of it for the front of the record. The whole figure appears in it’s entirety on the reverse side. The design was then applied to CD and tape covers as well.

The title of the album comes from the expression ‘actions speak louder than words.’ Chris says “I wanted some broad deinite strokes to emphsize this action. The text was handwritten because Greg often says that when someone listens to his songs, it’s like someone reading his diary, so I wanted that look, done with quill pens on rough paper.”

Chris now has ten CD designs in his folio.

Through a local marketing firm, Chris worked on SA Brewing’s Band Compilation CD. This was part of their promotion for their export chill filtered beer.

Designing the CD for one particular band was an experience that Chris won’t forget. There were 7 members in the band, their girlfriends, their manager all giving their opinions. Once the film work was ready, the band decided to change their name!

“It was one of the more frustrating pieces of work I’d done, but this sort of thing is common among the loose organisation that governs local bands.

The CD work has led to corporate identity work for Bartel Street Studios, the SA Music Industry Association, Circular Sound and Round Records. CD work which hasn’t paid much has led to work which fortunately has.

Chris tries to get clients to think about how many colours and how much paper they are actually going to use rather than just deciding on using recycled paper. He recommended using coloured recycled stock and only one colour for a set of brochures done for Adelaide Sports Physiotherapy. They worked very well for their intended audience and really stood out.

Chris’s approach to design is pragmatic. “I think that we should take a look at what we are designing, does the job really need full colour? – rather than just opting for recycled stock, we should think about the design itself. How can we help the client, promote the product and perhaps save them some money at the same time.” Chris tries to concentrate on using simple, basic elements in design. “I am not into computer trickery. I use the computer only as a design tool. It’s so handy that I would be hard pressed without it now.”

Of the current job market, Chris says “I’ve found that it’s not enough to be just a good designer at the moment. What people are looking for is a value added designer, someone who can be confident at bringing in the work. Someone who can make a profit for them in their studio.”

This is a tall order for someone just out of University where you are taught design, not how to make money or how to deal with clients. At the other end of the scale there are employers who feel a degree in design is too much experience!

So there you go, you can almost feel the underlying panic and frustration upon reading that! I was really flying by the seat of my pants at that time, trying to pick up the required computer skills, to afford my own system, to get some work so I could pay the bills (and avoid the dole office!) as well as trying to push myself as a designer.I graduated into one of the worst employment slumps this country has seen. Luckily things picked up pretty soon and I was getting some regular freelance work and eventually a full-time job, and hey, I’m still doing album covers for Greg Williams!