A chat with Liam
When he’s not conjuring up the perfect emoji to react with, you’ll find our designer Liam tying threads together from our Christchurch studio. This month, we chatted to him about all things design, with a side serving of idea-wrangling.
What got you into design?
Even when I was a kid, I wanted to be a graphic designer. I thought I wanted to be an accountant, but I realised I would despise life doing that because the need for fun and creativity is pretty key to me. So I studied design, did an in-house gig for a while, worked at another studio, then landed my role at Strategy.
What has kept you in design?
It ticks a lot of my boxes. There’s variety, plenty of problem solving, and a lot of making things. You can see your progress from the start to the end of the working day, which I love.
What do you find most challenging about your job as a designer? And how do you manage that?
I think the big unknown - when a project can be anything. It’s an exciting thing, but also makes me think “how do I wrangle this into an actual idea?” Then, once you do start to get somewhere, managing just how wide you can go, and what new spaces you can push an idea to is also a challenge!
I move past the ‘daunting’ by chatting to people. Whether it’s a creative director, another designer, project manager… it gets new ideas in the mix and new details into the limelight.
What are you trying to get better at?
Having the confidence to edit my own thoughts, rather than getting that decision-making from others. It’s always nice being able to guide and shape a project by making those informed decisions along the way.
What philosophy underpins your approach to design?
It’s really important to have a solid idea that guides the whole project - moving away from designing stuff for the sake of it and actually having process and strategy behind it is key for me. Whether it’s a small insight, full-on story, fleshed-out brand strategy or even a half idea, it helps me align the work and make sense of the problems I’m trying to solve. I find joy in going down the rabbit hole and committing to a beautifully rich story, which is a lot easier when it's there from the start.
You use your quick wit for a strong emoji game. What makes a good emoji reaction?
It's much like my design philosophy; to surprise and delight! Make it funny, make it weird.
What’s your go-to design hack?
Just line stuff up. It sounds silly, but it immediately pulls things together (and shows the areas that don’t make sense). Bonus hack: picking a great typeface to anchor the whole thing.
Do you have a recent obsession, and how has that translated into your process?
I’ve been really into films and TV, especially obsessing over the little storytelling moments. I love diving into the tiny details that make up so much of the world-building. The details that show, not tell. So I try to fold that into my presentation process - how can we tell this story, hint at details, and build up the world we’ve designed?
What is one piece of advice that you would give to a designer starting out?
Show up, be curious, meet people and put yourself out there. It took me a while to get into a studio, but what got me there in the end was having the coffees, going to the events and being involved in the community.
What methods or tools do you use to achieve work life balance, or foster better mental health?
I’m quite good at setting boundaries when work needs to come home. I'll think about work if there's something that I need to solve - but everyone's gonna die with emails in their inbox. Design is important but it's not the end all be all. It’s important for me to balance other aspects of life to be able to get the most out of being creative.
Also here at Strategy, there’s heaps of support and lots of conversations about balancing all the things. It’s super refreshing, and helps keep on top of it.
How do you see the design industry changing in the next five to 10 years? What change do you want to see in the industry?
I think the gap between students and industry is still quite large. When I started out, I barely knew anyone and felt there were all these designers in their ivory towers. I was definitely thinking “how do I ever get there?”. I think it’s improved and generally everyone is more than happy to have a chat, grab a coffee and give their time. So I want the industry to continue creating those pathways, relationships and peeks behind the curtain for students.
What do you think is the biggest benefit of design to a business?
Having a clear voice, a solid brand, well-designed comms and products all speak to the level of care. If a business invests in craft, design and their product, it shows they care. It shows they respect their audience enough and back themselves. So I think design has the ability to help a business back themselves, and put their best foot forward to the world.
Reading Children of Dune by Frank Herbert.
Listening to the Throwing Fits podcast.
Watching anything A24.
Wishing I was at Smash Palace with a pint of Bodgie Beer.
Obsessing over the details from The Bear – the Seven Fishes episode in particular. It just shows so much without overtly saying it. So good.