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de.Frosting

There’s an increasingly noticeable social change in Sydney towards a more open and interactive creative community, with more inclusive, accessible events dedicated to sharing knowledge and ideas. As someone who runs events, I’m fascinated by the reasons behind this cultural shift so I sat down with Vince Frost to talk about their monthly free event de.Frost*.

What is the purpose of de.Frost*
VF The purpose of de.Frost* is really to inspire people. It’s not a new thing really, for the twenty years I’ve been in business we’ve always had friends and other people coming through to have unofficial chats in London and here in Sydney. For example if a friend visits from London to work on something I might ask them to have a chat to our guys and make a bit of a drinks thing out of it. It’s always been really well received to bring people into the studio to talk about their lives, their careers or a specific subject matter.

Our overarching positioning at Frost* is ‘Inspiring ideas to life’ and really it’s about taking ideas and opportunities and collaborating with each other, creating new ideas and bringing them into the world. So it’s always great to have other people talking about their process or their passion, I’ve always encouraged that and I wanted to make it more official. I wanted to make it a monthly thing here in the studio that’s smaller scale and intimate, where 100 people can come to mingle, chat and ask questions.

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When did it all start?
VF de.Frost* was started about two years ago. I meet a lot of really amazing people, clients and other creatives here and around the world and I want to utilise that network and bring it into the business so my team can get exposed to it. I’m passionate about ideas and I just think the stimulus of seeing other people talking about their ideas has a positive affect on my team and certainly my clients too.

It’s a great networking opportunity, you meet some really interesting people who then become part of our network of friends, which then has a positive knock on effect for future collaborations.

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Why ‘de.Frost*’?
VF
We called it de.Frost* as it’s the idea of thawing your mind and changing your preconceived ideas. The idea of re-thinking things, or not taking things for granted, or being stimulated in a way you didn’t know…or learning.

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How many events have you held so far?
VF We’ve run the events fifteen times now and we’re getting much better at organising them. Previously it was very hard work to organise each event. Angela is now running it and she’s doing really well. It’s great how technology has enabled us to use something like eventbrite to make events like this more professional.

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Who would you like to come along to de.Frost*? Can students come along?
VF
It’s open to anyone who wants to be inspired and there’s no reason why students shouldn’t come along. Each event has a different subject matter and I think it finds people who have an interest in that subject. It’s mostly clients and mostly people related to the industry that the speaker is talking about.

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How valuable do you think it is for students to come to events like de.Frost*?
VF
It’s amazing how few make the effort. You can’t make somebody hungry for knowledge.

How many people usually attend?
VF We raised it from being 50 to a limit for 100.

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Where do you see de.Frost* in the future?
VF
I’m in two minds whether to grow it in size or keep it as it is. I think we’ll just see how it goes.

There’s a lot of stuff going on now in Sydney on the creative calendar which is exciting too, maybe more so during certain times in the year like Design Week and VIVID… there’s a lot of creative conversations happening. What I find exciting is that Sydney is becoming a much more of a creative capital than it has been in the past and there’s a real push from the government like Clover Moore and the Committee for Sydney, there’s a bunch of organisations pushing for Sydney to become a real creative hub and a real centre of innovation as well. I know a lot of cities are doing that but I believe Sydney is one place that can actually do it really well and attract the right people and the right minds because it’s a beautiful environment as well.

Do you think we’re getting better in Australia at talking about creativity and design and seeing the value?
VF
I think so and I think clients are certainly wiser for it now. I think the way designers have sold themselves in the past has been really arrogant or really focused on being a crafts person vs being a business advisor. I think that a lot of creatives have created that way of ‘I am an individual, this is how you’re going to do it or we’re not going to do it.’ and I think that’s the first thing I noticed when I first moved to Australia ten years ago. Some people were saying that clients don’t understand design here which I think was a generalisation, it wasn’t true. The ones that were having difficulty getting or selling work or growing their business was because of their approach, not because the clients weren’t open to it. The way they were selling themselves wasn’t in a collaborative or compelling way.

I think what’s shifted in the past ten years, not just here but around the world is the emphasis on collaboration and the proven case studies of collaboration of how that makes a significant difference on the outcome of a project. I think people have shifted in that way from less focus on the individual to much more focus on the team approach.

IDEO’s approach to design thinking has been a real catalyst for that as well, it’s almost like it’s the trade mark approach for how corporations now understand the value of design. Big corporations – their marketing guys are now going off to places like IDEO and Stanford University to do courses, where they begin to understand the power of designing new ideas as opposed to regurgitating old ideas. In Sydney UTS Business School has made a huge transformation, not only commissioning Frank Gehry to design their new building but also changing their curriculum to focus on design thinking and business. It’s an absolutely powerful combination.

I see design as not just being a craft, it is much more as a business. We’re business consultants. We utilise design strategies and design to realise successful outcomes. We design better businesses.

de.Frost* is a lecture series featuring speakers drawn from our broad network of leading local and international industry thinkers and achievers. The events offer the opportunity to hear inspiring insights and participate in stimulating debate.

Go to http://frostdesign.com.au for more information and to sign up to the mailing list or follow @_defrost on twitter

By Flyn Tracy

 

 

CreativeMornings has a new fancy website

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Seth’s awesome

Over a year ago on Tina, Kevin, Carly, Sally and the rest of the team at CreativeMornings HQ received the news that the CreativeMornings Kickstarter project was a success and that they had the exciting but incredibly daunting task of redesigning the website from scratch, trying to keep all 57 chapter organisers happy and launch CreativeMornings  into a new era. An impossible task, that is, for anyone other than the team at HQ.

I’m so excited to be part of the CreativeMornings family. I have goosebumps when I look over the new website. We try so hard in Sydney to put on great events but sometimes I feel like I’m getting a free ride which strengthens my resolve to continue to improve CreativeMornings/Sydney.

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Hey mum look I’m on the internet!

We’ve got a great team here in Sydney and we’ll probably need some more hands to measure up to the new tasks the website brings like blogging and managing the newsletter. But all in good time. For now we’re all just so happy to be a part of something so much bigger than any of us.

By Flyn Tracy

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Infront of me

Today I contributed my first post to Australian Infront, an important site about Australian design culture, news and events and one I’ve been visiting daily for several years. The people behind the site, Damien Aistrope, Justin Fox and Zann St Pierre are all highly respected members of the industry. I have a particular fondness for these guys through the work they’ve done under the banner of Australian InFront since everything they do is selfless contribution to the industry.

What they’ve achieved and contributed to the landscape of Australian design is nothing short of phenomenal.

I’m humbled to be in the company of people with such talent and drive – whilst simultaneously being scared out of my mind to press the ‘publish’ button.

I better keep the duck posts to a minimum.

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PowerHousourcing

Sydney Design and the Power House Museum have hit a nerve with the graphic design industry by using a crowdsourcing platform for a poster ‘competition’. Other people with far better literary skills than I have tackled the subject you can read their thoughts here.

It’s sad that a wonderful cultural event with a rich history has had serious budget cuts and is in a situation where it probably can’t afford the top level design campaign attention it has had in the past. But it’s also unfortunate that a brand (sorry Milton) that can be used to represent the best practices and applications of our industry has been tarnished by this oversight.

And it’s sad because it’s our fault.

If we can’t get people in the wider design community aware of our issues then what hope does the average Australian business owner have in making an informed decision?

When the issue of crowdsourcing comes up most of us get quite heated and passionate about the ramifications it can have to our industry and to businesses. It’s more complicated than ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and something that I won’t discuss here. But it’s safe to say that from an industry point of view crowdsourcing is almost unanimously frowned upon. It’s a bit like inviting a vegan to diner at a slaughterhouse.

Why then didn’t the Powerhouse Museum got the memo? Surely they are part of the design community and are on top of these things. Don’t they follow us all on twitter? Unfortunately, probably not. I think that they would have been pretty surprised to see the backlash from some cells of the design community.

If we as a community want to try to combat crowdsourcing then we better figure out a better strategy other than talking to each other in our own channels. It requires leadership.

by Flyn Tracy

The new Loop is live

Milestone for The Loop

The Loop last week relaunched their site which is great for the design industry here in Australia. It should be clear to most us us in the ‘creative’ industries that we have different challenges in recruiting than mainstream career seeking websites. Thankfully some good people have been working on the problem for some years and last week they reached a milestone.

In early April The Loop launched a redesign transforming the beta version it’s been running for years into a flat design purpose built Smörgåsbord (fuckyeahumlaut) of visuals.

Inspiration

More than a career search website and more like an online community The Loop has positioned itself as an online destination for people to upload work, find talent, browse portfolios.

I first saw a The Loop sticker smacked on some hopeful design graduates poster and used my super fast 3g iphone to do a quick internet search. A few short minutes later I first visited the site.

Working at CATC Design School at the time and with a partner working at Raffles College of Design I told a few folks about it and remember explaining why it was a good idea from my limited, disconnected marketing/sales wanna be graphic designer point of view. I got excited about it, then forgot about it.

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Later when I got involved with Tractor Design School and begun my journey back into the design industry I had a reason to get in contact with Pip. Largely because Tractor and The Loop have some common goals and in a lot of ways we’re trying to solve the same problem. Connecting passionate talented designers with the industry they aspire to join.

Although when I first spoke with Pip on the phone she thought I was someone asking for career advice or something – we eventually got together and (long story short) we’ve been business buddies ever since. They’ve hired our grads, Pip has come to talk at Tractor a few times and we help each other out when we can.

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I’m genuinely excited to see them go from stride to stride and continue to succeed. I know they have been working diligently for almost a year on this redesign and I wish nothing but the best for them in their journey.

By Flyn Tracy

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End of an era

The final issue of Empty Mag has arrived. I feel slightly torn that I bought the final copy because I probably should have been buying them monthly to support the publication. It’s a shame to see the end of another great magazine like this but I’m very glad to add it to my small collection of Empty mags that I’ve collected over the years.

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By Flyn Tracy

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Why I’m on twitter and you should be too

 

I love twitter. I’m on it all the time.

So much that to be really productive I need to turn it off for a while and check back later. Funnily enough though I’m actually a late adopter of twitter. I’ve only been active for 1.5 years or so. Around about the same time I started at Tractor.

A few months in I begun to notice the benefits and I’m finally putting finger to keyboard to share my experiences.

Here are a few reasons why I use twitter, how it helps me become more knowledgeable of the [graphic design] industry, and some reasons why you probably should too.

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1. Learn about industry relevant news and events

Following key brands and organisations on twitter gives you access to news about the industry. Quick, really quick. As someone who posts industry news, I know that if I have something to say that people want to hear that twitter will pick it up and run with it. If you hear about an exciting event or important news you can bet the people on twitter have known about it for a while.

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2. Connect with industry organisations

Here is one of the most important parts of using twitter – to connect with the industry. The design industry was an early adopter of twitter and as the lines between graphic design, web design and digital design continue to gaussian blur (sorry), popularity is increasing.

In the world of design most companies are tech savvy and if they’re not – they are getting that way. By following active organisations you’ll hear about industry news faster, see when new articles are posted and hear about events quickly.

Lets use an example. @desktopmagazine today has over 9,000 followers. So they need to keep these followers interested, and keep feeding them useful bits of information that resinates with their audience. They do this by posting content that people want to read, tweeting links to events and other industry related news. Think of them as an example of an organisation who’s social media goals are to get the news to you first. They’re not always going to be first but chances are if it’s important news or a great local event, their twitter feed will cover it.

They are worth a follow.

Here’s a list of more Australian twitter accounts I follow that you should follow too.

@ausinfront
@desktopmagazine
@theloopoz
@melbourne_CM
@semiglobal
@sydney_CM
@tractorschool

Full disclaimer, I manage both the Tractor and the CreativeMornings/Sydney twitter accounts. 

Follow these feeds and you’ll notice quality content being posted that’s pertinent to the industry. There are more out there but this should get you started.

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3. Connecting with other professionals

Not every studio and designer is on twitter, but so many are. Most people that use twitter do it to connect with other likeminded people who have similar interests. Or as Seth Godin might say, people in their tribe. This is super useful because you don’t have to follow your friends like how facebook is set up. You follow people you’re interested in connecting with and no one else. I like to think of it as curating your own news.

If you’re just starting out you might want to start by following anyone you study or work with in the industry, if you’re close friends you can ask them to tweet to their followers that you just joined and suggest that they should follow you to. Other people are much more likely to follow you if:

a. they know you exist

b. are refered to follow you by someone they already follow.

Think of it as ‘word of mouth’ marketing for your online self. It also helps if you have a profile image (of your face, a description that is descriptive and a link if they want to find out more info about you).

This works both ways, you can click on your friends profiles and see who they are following. If they interest you, follow them but don’t go nuts. You don’t want to be following 100 people and only have a few followers. Why? Because this discourages other twitter followers to follow you back. It’s not that you’re not a nice person (you’re probably awesome) but there is no online evidence of that. You should try to have a good ratio of who you follow and who follows you.

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4. Interact

Get involved in your industry!

I rarely design anymore. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just spend all my time on other projects and over time I’ve drifted away from firing up photoshop every morning to sketching out ideas and strategies, talking through problems and sending a bucketload of emails and EDM’s. If you’re a designer and if you have a half decent folio you should get onto twitter and share your work with people who care. You’ll find a benchmark incredibly useful by comparing your own range of work with others at a similar level.

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5. Insights

By following some of the more active people who also happen to be good designers like @chris_j_doyle, @mrjamesnoble or @tbuesing over time you’ll be gaining insights into how their minds work, what websites they look at, and what design captures their attention.

In the past you’d need to be cleaning the bathrooms at an agency just to get close enough to eavesdrop on meetings and conversations and figure it all out. Now it’s all there at your fingertips. Well, some of it.

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6. Online Presence

Here’s something I think more people should pay closer attention to, and not just people in the design industry. Your online presence is really very important if you want a career in any form of design, media, advertising, marketing and so on obviously and indefinitely.

It’s more important than ever to have a positive online presence because depending on your industry, there is a chance that your prospective employer will ‘google’ you.

It’s not just as dirty as it sounds.

We need to assume that they will go through everything that comes up on that first page of google. This could make or break their impression of you. During this process employers are looking for reasons not to hire you. Don’t give them any.

This is where twitter comes in handy, it’s an easy way for people to scroll down your timeline and read your tweets. Getting a sense of what you’re into and who you are as a person. Helping them decide if you’ll fit in with their studio culture. If you’ve been discussing the finer points of typography with other designers on twitter you’re going to score some points. If they discover facebook images of you doing a beer bong you might not get a call back. There is a time and a place.

I guarantee that if you’re genuinely passionate about design, interacting with the design industry on twitter will help your career.

If you’d like, you can follow me too @flyntracy

By Flyn Tracy

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Productivity

I was listening to a podcast this morning on the way to work called The East Wing as part of my adventure to learn more about the digital world. The host was speaking with a guy called Carl Smith who mentioned a Basecamp thread in his company where one of the team members put an open question out there asking ‘What do you do in a day?’. The responses were interesting with days looking vastly different from person to person but the main thing I extracted from it is that most of the workers appeared to be working 80 – 90 hours a week, something I can relate to (I’m not quite that bad I probably work 60, thankfully). However when breaking their week down to separate tasks the approximate time designing or building, or to use a more global descriptor – practicing their craft was only about 5 hours a day. The rest of the day was filled with things like emails, meetings, and presumably logging time and other necessary business tasks.

I’m lucky in that I have few meetings and mostly work autonomously. This is good for productivity sure but there is a disadvantage in there as well. You can quickly burn out when going it alone and although having meetings and emailing back and fourth about projects can often seem like a waste of time or something that’s getting in the way of your productivity, it’s a good time to have a bit of a rest and break from the screen.

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Get ‘er done

I posted a blog at about midday ranting on about how we all need to embrace digital design. As much a calling for myself as it was for any potential reader I took my own advice and pulled the pin on my own adventure into learning and embracing digital design.

It’s now 5:30pm. Using the awesome power of the internet I set out to turn that single blog post into the first content of my own, semi-professional looking website.

I fished through my bookmarks remembering someone on twitter mentioned about a month ago a good web hosting service they use for clients and I bookmarked it. (referrals are the best way to make a decision when there are so many options to choose from). The company is called Hostgator

I went through the motions and found their cheapest hosting service which included buying a domain name from them. One of the few things I did know before begining is that you need hosting and a domain name to have a website. Therefore getting everything in one location seemed like a good idea. Years ago when I built a site for a family friend they already had a domain, and I had huge issues (back then) dealing with the hosting company and the domain company. So for a long time I thought domain names and hosting were always done by separate companies.

I took the plunge and payed for a 1 year hosting and bought the domain flyntracy.com it was about $85 AUD all up.

…now what

Well it took me to a confusing looking control panel and the adverture really starts there. I might write some more on it or might let it go. In short I made a few mistakes, I tried using FTP, web disk, manual upload HTML and even started looking into CSS before I decided to go the WordPress route. Maybe it’s temporary or maybe I’ll advance along and teach myself CSS. I’m not sure yet and that’s a little exciting.

The point is that I installed a wordpress theme into the site and begun to customise. I feel like I’ve learned a lot and I’m a little proud of myself too. :)

Hey I didn’t split the atom, but I set out to achieve a small goal and did it, and that’s worth celebrating.

Cheers,
Flyn

@flyntracy

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What’s all this about Digital Design

Digital design is coding right? No. It’s not.

Being a ‘Digital Designer’ means you’ll be staring at a computer for the rest of your life right? No. It doesn’t.

I don’t have any experience designing for websites or phones or tablets and wouldn’t know where to begin. Me either, but that’s ok I’m going to go figure it all out.

There’s a lot of stigma around digital design, interface design, web design or pretty much any design that involves a screen. There are probably a million reasons for this but I suspect the major culprits include how quickly technology is moving, the fact that traditional education systems can’t keep up (how can they?) and all over the world education systems are teaching way too much code. (Most designers aren’t coders, they’re designers).

On a domestic level – how cluey do you think the board of education are to the new ipad retina display? Even if they were at the forefront of new technologies there is years of red tape to go through to update a curriculum on a certificate or diploma level and I suspect it’s an even longer process at the degree level. It’s no one person’s fault in particular, this is just what the world looks like right now.

So we (that’s you, me and everyone else in the industry) find ourselves in an environment where technology moves faster than education. By the time education gets a chance to catch up, the technology will have advanced again. In two years who knows what the landscape of technology will look like?

Last year the use of tablet devices doubled to 18% and it’s expected to double again by the end of this year.

Scary stuff right? Not at all. It’s an incredible time to be a designer. You just need the knowledge and experience to capitalise on these technologies and be on the front lines of the new wave of design solutions to make yourself an invaluable member of any team and advance your career.

I’m a ‘traditional’ designer but this year have set goals that I need to achieve before 2013 – and number one on the list is to gain a greater understanding tablet, smartphone and web design to the point where I could be a valuable person to have on a project. I have the advantage of access to some very talented people already working successfully in the field and whilst I wont be able to learn directly from them, I have kept my ear out and have learnt something. Which has strengthened my resolve.

If you want to be successful in the years to come:

Learn digital.

Cheers,
Flyn

NB | This is my first blog post in a while, I’d be surprised if anyone actually reads it. I’m making a concious effort to write here more often as a way to dump my thoughts at first, but then see where it goes. If you want to say hi, I’m on twitter here – @flyntracy