I always liked making stuff and coming up with new ways of doing things. I initially thought I wanted to be an engineer, but once I worked out that my maths skills were non-existent and my people skills were much stronger, I realised that I should probably be an Industrial Designer.Where did you study?I studied at the University of Canberra and was taught by some very skilled designers. The course focused on the technical skills like sketching and 3D modelling as well as the design process of bringing a product from concept through to manufacture.
What’s it like to work at Best Group?Well in my first year at Best we were taken to Hamilton Island for the company Christmas party – that was fun! It’s a great team environment and there is never a moment when you feel like you are on your own on something; which is good.and Jake…
He is a great mentor and has the ability to just make stuff happen – when he sits still that is – this is off the record right…
Great – shall we move on?
How did you start working at Best Group?
The opportunity came up when Best Group were engaged to implement the signage strategy at the Victorian Archives Centre in North Melbourne. I was recruited on a contract basis to complete the construction detailing of main entrance sign. It was quite a challenge… Firstly understanding how to turn the flat image into something 3-dimensional and then working out how it was going to be constructed. Being thrown in the deep in was daunting, but rewarding when I saw the final, implemented signage.
My break with the company came when we were engaged to design and construct a giant piece of mistletoe as part of the Christmas decorations for the City of Melbourne. The mistletoe needed to be installed on the Yarra foot bridge – and would be re installed every Christmas for the next 7 years. This was definitely a steep learning curve when it came firstly resolving the design, to something that would work in such a ‘tight’ environment. We had the components manufactured by different manufacturers across the state. These components all needed to come together and be installed on the bridge. This instillation was again another challenge as the bridge could only take a small load. Seeing the finished object on the bridge was probably one of my most exciting moments with Best Group; and indeed for my professional career to date.
Most exciting project at Best Group…
Apart from Mistletoe Bridge; in 2012 we were engaged by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to complete a full wayfinding signage and visitor experience strategy for North Head Sanctuary, Manly. This was an exciting opportunity to be part of the project team from the first client briefing, through to the all-nighters that were needed to get the final construction documentation completed. Its just about to commence manufacture and implementation phase… so watch this space about the final project result!
What are the differences between studying Industrial Design and working at Best Group?
With my involvement in signage design at Best Group, there is definitely more collaboration between the disciplines of graphic and industrial design. A multi-disciplinary design approach. Especially when we are working on branded spaces – I really enjoy collaborating with graphic designers because they generally think in flat objects so it’s great when we can combine 2 and 3 dimensional elements into creating a holistic brand experience that pops.
Your role at Best Group sounds like it is not really product design – which is what you studied?
Whilst at university I began to realise that in the real world, the designer’s role was often just to style things and that there weren’t many opportunities given to designers to make a positive impact on the way we interact with our environment. From this I was always looking for opportunities where design could make this positive impact.
I think the core thing that inspired me to look at signage and wayfinding as a career was an article I read in Curve magazine about this night club district somewhere in Europe. The area was a series of dark allies linking maybe 4 or 5 different venues where people were being robbed on their way between venues. To solve this problem, the city employed an Industrial Designer who realised that by making people more aware of their surroundings, they could be more aware of their possessions – also called victim hardening. To do this he developed these LED wayfinding beacons. As soon as the beacons were installed the city noticed an immediate reduction in theft in that area. Just the idea that a small thing could make such a positive difference really excited me. It was like Batman with but with design.
That sounds amazing – Is it like this in the real world?
I think ‘the dream’ is close to the reality – maybe not so much to the extent of the Curve article, but we definitely make a positive impact and effect change. This could be something simple like helping someone find the bathroom or helping a husband find the ward their wife is in so that they can be with them at that special moment.
Signage design is also about bolstering holistic environments too. These types of projects are a great opportunity to create an emotional response to a particular brand in the built environment, or indeed, a space itself.
Finally… where do you think the industry is heading?
Rapid prototyping is definitely something that will change the way we design signage elements. I think it will have a greater impact than digital printing did on graphic design. Especially in signage which is an industry where nearly everything we make is low volume and custom made. The ability to realise more complex forms cost effectively will definitely allow us to make integrated and highly effective signage design solutions for clients into the future.