Hey! In this edition of the Experts Connect, we talk to Catherine Lucas. She is a Senior Designer with more than half a decade of experience in the Design Industry. We talked to her about a lot of things regarding design and her journey is something which would inspire you quite a lot.
Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
1) Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
“Born and raised an Aussie (Australian), and have worked for companies such as Studioplus, Clemenger BBDO, Ronin Marketing and currently Klyp. I have also Freelanced on and off over the years. I’m old school, in that I prefer to read books, although I am pretty picky when it comes to my reading style, and prefer to read from selected authors because of this. One author being, Nir Eyal, who writes a lot about behaviour design. I have a pretty busy lifestyle, so in my downtime, I usually prefer anything quiet or relaxing, such as reading, or watching movies, I even sometimes do yoga.”
2) How did you know that your life calling was in design? Is being creative something that comes naturally to you?
“Too many people see Design and being a Creative as an “easy” and “not very challenging” career path. When in reality, Design and being part of the Creative Team is very hard work, as well as being rewarding, can even be very stressful at times. I’ve also come to the realisation that people, especially those who do not know me too well, think that I have had things handed to me, and that “things just come easily to me”.
Very few people actually know the real hard truth about me, and how I’ve had to work harder than most, and the struggles I have had to go through, to get to where I am today.
If you had asked my Mum, when I was about 5 years old, if she thought I would end up where I am today in my career, she would honestly have told you, no. This is because Doctors told her I wouldn’t. For some unknown reason, when I was around 5 years old, and we had just moved to the city from the farm, I completely lost my hearing. I did not know I couldn’t hear, and as I was still talking at people, no one noticed I wasn’t actually answering their questions, they just thought I was being a naughty child.
When I lost my hearing for a part, as it did eventually return, all my other senses became stronger. Senses such as feelings, sight, taste etc. When my hearing did return, it returned almost like a superpower, as I can hear more than the average person – I have tested this on numerous occasions! This led me to have a lot of extra work to do on top of my normal schooling, such as speech lessons, because of this I got bullied a lot during my primary schooling by older children.
People don’t know this about me now, because I have worked so hard for years to “fix it”, that it is unnoticeable.”
3) That’s actually quite inspiring. Thanks for sharing this with us. How did your journey in design start? Did you go through any formal education?
“My journey into Design started probably when I was around 2yrs old! I have been drawing, and had my first old school camera with a crystal flash, since I was 2yrs old.
I knew I wanted to be a Graphic Designer (back then there was only one name for us), when I was around 9yrs old. So from there, I was in Primary School, and researched everything there was on Design. I downloaded free versions of Design software and used to design everything in Microsoft Word and Powerpoint for my school assessments.
From there, I was still in Senior years of High School, I enrolled in a TAFE Photography course. After completing this and High School, I enrolled in an Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design at CATC. CATC was the grounding of my career I would say, as they didn’t just teach you the “digital tools”, they also taught you the history of Design and Advertising, Print and you learnt the fundamentals of Design, like hand sketching etc.
After completing my Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design at CATC, I didn’t feel ready to go out into the big bad world of Design yet. Which led me to apply to their sister school Billy Blue College of Design, for a Bachelor Degree in Communication Design. Because I had done my previous course with their sister school, not only did they accept my application, but I skipped a grade up to the second year.
Billy Blue College of Design, was also what I think has made me the designer I am today. At both colleges, you were taught by lecturers that were still in the industry, with years of experience and advice. They pushed me to “play”, to ask questions, and not to be happy/just settle for just “good enough”. In my Bachelor of Communication Design, we also had a subject dedicated to “Human-Centred Design”. Which I think is what sets me apart from other designers. As I research, I explore design at all angles.”
4) Is Design Education, which is most often quite expensive in most countries, mandatory for a person to get into the industry?
“I totally understand not being able to afford Design School, but I would still urge people to find ways to be able too. I myself did ‘Fee Help’ to pay for my courses, and I’m still paying it off now. There are also Design Scholarships people can apply for.
To those who aren’t interested in going to Design School, I would be asking them if they are serious about their decision to be a Designer, as doing a course online is not the same as going into College, it was almost like a taste of what working in the industry would be like, the atmosphere reeks of creativeness and you meet fellow Designers, who become your friends, or even your later colleagues.
I have worked with a few self-taught Designers, and to be honest, I spend a lot of my time, correcting or mentoring even Senior level Designers, who don’t have the same respect for Design or have the same knowledge.
In saying this, there is nothing wrong with free online resources, as I use them all the time. But I only recommend them after you have/during a course at a Design College. As there is so much out there it can get overwhelming, and you don’t know what to search. I use them as bonus content of the information you can use to upskill, but not as a be-all-and-end-all.”
5) What would your advice to designers who are just starting out?
“My biggest advice to Designers starting out is to educate yourself about EVERYTHING there is about Design. Learn Design and Art foundations. And not to single yourself out, by specialising in only one area of Design. This is a big one! I see it all too often with fellow designers, they only want to know/be good at one area of design, and limit their career in the process. I know Print, Digital, Photography, Animation/Video, UX/UI design.
This has opened many doors for me, to the point, I can feel overwhelmed with work haha. I also believe, even though print is somewhat dying out, that it is a must for designers to learn print first. As it’s easier to learn print first, it’s harder to go from digital to print, as the print you can’t get away with as much as you can with digital – esp on a large scale OOH Billboard!
Also, to keep learning! No one “knows everything”, and the world and everything in it are always changing. Last year, even though I have been out of college for years and been working in the industry, I enrolled in an online web design course. I knew most of the content, but it was a nice refresher, and there is always something you don’t know, or someone does differently that might work better.”
6) Could you tell us more about the work you do currently?
“At the moment, I am working for a company called Klyp. I’m a Senior Designer, and do pretty much everything from Branding, Logos, Print, Websites, Apps, Animations, Videos, and sometimes if social graphics for clients need creative direction – it comes to me instead of our marketing team. I also mentor fellow designers and the marketing team.
My ultimate goal has always been to become a Creative Director! Not a Creative Director that owns a company, but one that is still hands-on on the tools, and looks after all the creative. This is something I am currently working on, and seems achievable in the near future!”
7) What role has mentorship played in your career? Is there someone whom you look up to and possibly have been mentored by?
“Definitely! I think mentorship in any way possible is important for anyone and has definitely helped shape my career in my opinion. I don’t just have one mentor, even though I don’t work for Clemenger anymore I still look to all my previous Art Directors from there as my mentors especially my previous Creative Director from Clemenger who actually was my mentor. I still to this day have them in my head, reminding me about kerning etc.
As well, I have always admired Steve Jobs, where he amazed us with not just Apple, but the way he pitched to behaviour design. I also see my current director as my mentor, especially in regards to clients and management. The value of experience!”
8) What’s next in line for you? What is your next goal and what are you travelling towards?
“Hahaha, when it comes to my career, I feel like I virtually just have gone with the flow! Working hard and long hours, to work my way up the experience ladder. All I’m really focused on at the moment is becoming a hands on Creative Director.
I feel I have reached a point in my career, I enjoy having so many ideas in my head, and am wanting to mentor fellow designers. I like designing for the next big thing, or changing people’s behaviour for the better through design, or even changing the design to make something easier for people to use. Anything innovative!”
You can get in touch with Catherine Lucas through her LinkedIn Handle