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Designers Who Are Better Than Me

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I just wanted to give a heads up for the latest issue of Fête Magazine that has just come out in the last few days. Fête is consistently one of the best design/lifestyle magazines released not just in Australia, but in the world, and the design and photography is beautifully considered with each issue. No. 25 is a particular standout, even amongst it’s usual level of quality with some great articles on minimalism, simplifying your lifestyle, and how to achieve that important work/life balance. There’s also lots of cool stuff to look it if that’s your thing as well! Fete have also been advertising for a mid-weight freelance designer, I don’t know if they’ve found that perfect candidate yet, but it would be an awesome opportunity to be part of such a great product. If you think you have the design chops (and you’re not too late to apply of course), drop them your details. Also, go and pick up a copy of the magazine of course, available around Australia where all such good magazines are sold – or you can check out all their list of stockists here.

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I don’t spend nearly enough time on here discussing local illustrators (actually, I probably don’t spend enough time on here period). It’s not a deliberate omission, just a slackness on my part to go in search of them (so hey, if you’re an illustrator and want a possible shout-out drop me a line!) I’m envious of the particular skills and fortitude of the individual who devotes their life to the illustrative arts. That’s a particularly long-winded way of introduction to the awesome talents of the awesome Owen Lindsay. If you’re familiar with the Adelaide CityMag or it’s late lamented predecessor Collect Magazine then you would have seen Owen’s work – it’s always a bonus when his pieces are featured there-in (though you should be reading it regardless). Owen describes his style as fun + engaging – that’s a good start – I’m particularly fond of his info-graphics, there’s always a ‘Where’s Wally’ quality to searching through the illustrated tidbits and letting out a gentle guffaw when you ‘see what he did there’. It’s a fine line between cool and kitsch when you work in a cartoony style, but I’ve yet to see him cross over – don’t be fooled by the medium, this is eminently clever stuff designed with thought and care into subject, layout and colour. I like the fact that he’s also not a one trick pony, his illustration goes from loose and easy to tight and technical when need be. what I’m trying to say is it’s good stuff and you should definitely check out more of his work (and also pick up a copy of CityMag if you’re out and about in Adelaide).

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Motiv are one of  the great Adelaide design firms that seem to have been around forever. They continue to produce great work. Longtime company director Keith McEwan has recently retired and the reins have been taken over by his daughter Hannah and longtime employees Peter and Leo. Their website has had a major upgrade as well, and features many stunning pieces that run the gamut of graphic design mediums. If you are looking for examples of good, solid, honest design work, the Motiv site is the perfect place to start.

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I don’t make any secret of the fact that Paul Sahre is one of my biggest design inspirations, needless to say, I was keenly really been looking forward to the release of  his book, Two-Dimensional Man.

Paul Sahre is renowned for his book design for a number of well-known authors, so it is probably inevitable that he has finally gotten around to releasing a book of his own, and it doesn’t disappoint.

The designer monograph has become a sort of right-of-passage for ‘famous’ designers that have reached a certain level of acclaim, where once it was reserved as an end of career compilation, anyone who is anyone in the design field these days needs to have their name on the spine of their own book to broadcast that they have ‘made it’.

I don’t mean that as a criticism, what designer wouldn’t want their own book about themselves. Humility generally isn’t a large part of a designers character! There’s certainly plenty of those sorts of monographs out there. We’re all familiar with the glossy, beautifully photographed pictures of envy inducing work, the advice on how you too can reach such levels of brilliance, and of course, the endorsements of equally acclaimed design contemporaries. Trust Paul to turn all of that on its head.

Two Dimensional Man stretches the design monograph into something all together more personal. It can perhaps be described as a warts and all examination of how he has pushed the craft of design to where he wants it to be. Everyday we look at great design work, we admire the finished product, without realising the frustration and effort that goes into getting that result. There’s plenty of Paul’s great design pieces included in the pages, but this book is just as much about the journey it takes to get there as it is about the destination.

Case in point. I had the pleasure of visiting and talking to Paul a few years ago in his studio. The biggest revelation for me was when he was discussing some work he was doing for a small theatre company (it was pro-bono or for not much money) and he was agonising over the troubles he was having producing something that the client was happy with. Two things immediately struck me. First, this is Paul Sahre, one of the world’s most recognised and celebrated graphic designers, and he’ was worried about what some small theatre company thinks about his work, work that he was doing fore none or very little money. Second, with all the big name clients he has worked for, he is still as passionate about a little job as any other project he may have worked on.

This example is at the heart of what you will get out of this book – the passion and frustrations of working as a graphic designer. Sometimes you will immediately come up with something amazing that you love and the client loves, but often times, its a struggle to get to the solution. Your mileage may vary depending on persistence.

Take for example the chapter on dealing with the band Steely Dan for an album cover project is title ‘Getting Fucked by Steely Dan’. Pretty much every designer designer will be familiar with the scenario as he relates it. Sometimes what seems the greatest opportunities can lead to the greatest disappointments. As much as we like to think of the importance of graphic design – to some – the greatest graphic designer in the world only means as much as the greatest plumber in the world.

It’s not all dealing with clueless clients though. The book goes a long way in helping to explain why graphic designers do what they do, why we continue at it even though 99% of the population has very little grasp of what in fact it is that we do. I don’t think many of us ever pictured ourselves, say at the age of six, imagining a future in the productive, financially rewarding world of graphic design. It’s something we mostly fell into because we liked to draw, and continued doing it because of the praise we received, or we were obsessive enough that we kept on doing it when our peers had given it up for other pre-adolescent pursuits. We leave school and have to become adults, so we look for some way to channel that six year old kid drawing x-wing fighters while lying on their bedroom floor, and suddenly, you’re an adult, dressed in black, drinking lattes and calling yourself a graphic designer.

Part user’s guide, part compilation, part vivid memoir, Two-Dimensional Man is a testament to being your life. If you’re starting out in design, just cruising along, or really in need of a inspirational kick up the backside, I highly recommend you grab a copy.

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I’m really loving the collaboration between Cul-de-sac Creative and illustrator Chris Edser for the Australian String Quartet’s Season brochure. I used Chris’ illustrations in a similar way for a fashion spread in The Adelaide Magazine I did a few years back (I think he’s stepped it up a notch or two here though :). His style seems to interact really well with such beautiful photography. Well done to both parties for producing something fun and engaging for what could typically be a pretty staid solution in lesser hands. Cul-de-sac are really on a roll with this and the beautiful work they’ve also produced for the Adelaide Fashion Festival. You can check out more of the work on the ASQ’s website, or of course, just pick up a copy of the brochure!

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I haven’t written much about the numerous digital agencies that inhabit the great metropolis of Adelaide, slackness on my part, because as you would imagine, there is a lot of well designed content being produced by these aforementioned creatives. I’ve had my eye on local firm Lightbulb Digital ever since designer extraordinaire Dan Vaughan mentioned  his work with them to me. They’ve recently uploaded a dedicated website displaying some of their work,  the aesthetic is a pared down design style that is instantly pleasing and pleasingly functional. It’s easy to get carried away with the bells- and-whistles possibilities of the modern digital medium, but these guys seem to have their heads around it, it’s a refreshing  experience to view these locally produced websites, built and designed to be functional, easy to navigate and also beautiful to look at. They work with an interesting and diverse range of clients, take a look for yourself at their link above.

Word—Form is a new project by Motherbird Director Jack Mussett, which aims to explore the workings of the creative mind through words. Creatives are too often asked the same questions about their processes, practices and background. From these questions, we rarely gauge a true or honest understanding of what it means to be creative from a personal and professional point of view. Word—Form opens a dialogue by challenging creatives to reflect on their processes in an indirect way. Every month, 3 creatives write on a new topic, sharing their thoughts, experiences and opinions based around a single word.

The first Word—Form is “Pleasure” and has pieces written by wordsmith and Creative Director Christopher Doyle, Art Director and designer Leta Sobierajskia and local design guru and Director of MashJames Brown at his ‘James Browniest’ – worth checking out alone for this piece.