I grew up in a little country town called Emerald... it was the 80's, households had a microwave, computers and Ataris were JUST starting to be used. My neighbour was a school teacher and set up a Mac training room under his house... I used to wander into the room in awe of the green screens and little rainbow apple logos on each box.
I knew from the age of 13 that I wanted to be a graphic designer...
I was a motivated kid, I wanted to make my teachers and parents happy, I wanted to stand up for what I thought was right or wrong especially with environmental issues... I wrote letters to government and had discussions with the local council at the age of 11! I could always see ways to change things and make them better.
I often chuckle that years before I knew what a graphic designer was my favourite barbie was Day to Night Barbie... she was an ad agency executive by day and went to rad parties at night. When I go through my diaries from the 80's and 90's I see page after page of graphic reproductions, constantly doodling brands and being crafty.
From preschool onwards I wanted to be an art teacher and never waivered from that plan... until I hit high school. I had a drawing board graphics class project where we had to draw a logo that represented ourselves using a compass, my teacher came up to me at the start of the next lesson and handed me a brochure on what a graphic designer did as an occupation. I was sold. And have never. Looked. Back.
Emerald High was frustrating we only had one graphics computer for the whole school to share in year 10, we were only allowed to watch it print amazing CAD plans, I never touched it let alone got to test drive the software. It was at that moment I knew I had to create better opportunities for myself if I wanted to become a designer!
I researched the boarding schools in Queensland that carried the best Mac technology and put my case forward to my parents to fund me to follow my dream.
The big smoke...
My boarding school environment at St Peters Lutheran College in Brisbane gave me a huge 'leg up' opportunity. I'm one of the first generation of Mac users, lucky enough to have learnt programs like Photoshop and Freehand / Illustrator from the age of 15. (At the same time as the 40 year olds in ad agencies had to embrace technology and bezier curves for the first time).
My school owes a lot of success stories to graphics teacher Larry Vint... We had Pantone swatch books and postscript printers well before their time. Our school won design awards and once a crew of us were lucky enough to be part of a Mac conference and participate in a 'fly on the wall' project. Software developers watched us use their computer games and drive them without manuals for two days! Two days off school to play computer games was definitely a win!
I specifically recall the excitement of Mr Vint asking us what each of us wanted to be. Architects, designers and animators were all given the relevant industry software in the classroom environment, now the globe is full of extremely talented creatives that have worked on some profound works that you all know and love!
My teachers told me to get in the industry as young as possible... So I opted for a 1 year diploma at Commercial Art Training Centre, it was the same price as uni with an accelerated style of 9-5 learning from industry professionals. Gary Clark, the creator of the Swamp comic strip, taught us cartooning. Real people in real jobs teaching us how to commercialise our skills. At the end of the year only one ad agency approached the college with a junior position and I got the gig.
The real world...
I was the only student at art college to walk out the door straight into a job... It was in the artroom of a hard core retail ad agency. Within 3 months I was managing my own accounts and hooked on the adrenaline of fast paced deadlines.
The designers worked shifts... Back then it was the interim year where two worlds collided. The agency would buy distressed full page media, ISDN wasn't stable in '96 to deliver ads electronically so 'camera ready art' needed to be supplied via an aeroplane from Brisbane to Sydney.
The client would save $7000 on a last minute space, and night shift would kick into gear to make the midnight print deadline in Sydney. The studio still had a darkroom camera for bromides, it wasn't used anymore but sat poised for action. We 'cheated' and printed fake bromides on a laser printer on 120gsm gloss, they were just good enough to pass. It was normal practice for a plane to be parked at the airport, with a courier massaging the designers shoulders waiting for the fake bromide to spit out of the laser printer to be driven to the airport and put on the plane!
What a year that was. I took someone's job. I watched industries die. Ordering type from a hot metal type house was no longer required. It was a sad yet exciting time to be part of the industry.
I have the utmost respect for designers and art directors older than me, when they were in charge of advertising everything was a mystery. No-one understood how words were made and images printed. Technology has changed this forever.
The new generation of designer does the job of over 5 craftsmen... It's such an exciting career path, I never do the same thing twice, everything is bright, always new and exciting! And that is how I became a workaholic.