Happy Monday Magpies! We have decided to mix it up here and introduce you to some of the creative people who write for this blog. So first up is Melbourne-based graphic designer, Alison Owen. Alison has lived all over the world and worked on some brilliant branding projects along the way. I did a little interview with her to find out more about her work, her experience of living in Dubai and what it’s really like to finally take the plunge and go freelance…
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
After graduating with a design degree in New Zealand I set off to the sunny shores of Dubai for a bit of an adventure. I worked in a fantastic design agency there called North 55 and learnt everything I know. After 5 years of amazing experiences I ventured back down under to start a new life in Melbourne, Australia. Right now I’ve just taken the plunge into full time freelancing and I’m loving every minute of it!
You have lived all over the world – NZ, Dubai and now Australia (anywhere else?) How has this affected and informed your design work?
I think travelling has been a huge influence on my design work. It’s opened my eyes to the world and has allowed me to meet different people and understand their cultures. I find traditions and beliefs truly fascinating and by experiencing them I think that it definitely defines you as a person. I feel like these experiences have given my design work much more of a rounded perspective. On a side note, I’ve actually also lived in Brazil and speak fluent portuguese!
The interview continues after the break…
Dubai is a crazy city. It is very gaudy and often harshly criticised as being a bit glitzy and ‘bling.’ How do you feel about Dubai – from a design perspective?
I find Dubai very difficult to explain to people who haven’t been there. It’s a city of extremes, a collision of cultures, people and beliefs. The thing I love about Dubai is that everyone is on the same page. All of the expats living there have taken a step out of their comfort zone and moved to an unknown place to experience a new life in the Middle East. There is a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit to the city which I love. I think the design community is going from strength to strength there with places like MAKE Business Hub and Tashkeel who nurture the growing number of creatives in the city.
I am a bit jealous of your new home city of Melbourne – such a creative melting pot. Who or what inspires you there?
Wow, Melbourne. Where do I start? Such a cool city! I absolutely love checking out all the design markets and exhibitions. There is always something to see. I’m forever trawling The Design Files and the Melbourne Design Guide book to know what’s going on in the Melbourne design world. I also love just wandering the streets in the city and discovering lots of quirky shops, galleries and cafes tucked away. There’s so many hidden gems here.
What do you miss about your native New Zealand?
Tough question! Firstly would be family and friends. I have 3 beautiful nephews in NZ who I don’t see nearly enough. I also miss the general kiwi chilled-out-ness and way of life. There’s definitely no place like home.
You recently took the plunge and went freelance – Congratulations! What’s the best thing about your job?
There are so many things to love about freelancing. Working for yourself and towards your goals is so satisfying. I’ve learnt so much about myself and how I work already. Understanding tax, invoices and quoting is still quite new but they’re great skills to learn. I’ve also learnt to be very very organised!
And the downsides?
Definitely the uncertainty about where your next job is coming from is the hardest. But I think you’ve got to learn to roll with the punches and have faith that if you’re passionate about what you’re doing and work hard that everything will fall into place.
(We will be giving away one of these gorgeous prints – above – later on.
So keep your eyes peeled for a chance to win!)
Do you have any words of wisdom for those aspiring to go freelance?
Work hard and be nice to people would have to be my favourite piece of advice. I think when you’re just starting out, word of mouth is a huge part of getting your name out there. Be true to who you are and what you do and the jobs will come your way.
How do you stay sane when inspiration won’t come?
To be honest it sounds really simple but I like to go for a walk. Or pop out to a cafe and have a coffee. I find it’s good to step away from what I’m working on and just clear the head with a bit of fresh air. I also love to crack open one of my maaaaany design books that I own.
Who / what is your dream client / job?
Ooooh branding and identity work is definitely my passion. I would love to one day have the opportunity to brand a boutique food store. To work on the identity and packaging for their products would be amazing. And to have a client who is on the same page and has the same vision is a definite bonus.
Lastly – what do you get up to in your downtime?
I love discovering new cafes for good food and coffee, going for a run, doing a food shop at the Victoria Markets, reading magazines, having a glass of red, baking, shopping, going out for dinner and movies!
Top portrait photo by Sarah & Felix at icandy, other pictures by Alison Owen.