Australia’s freelancing community is estimated at more than 3 million and is increasingly debated as the ‘future of work”. Could it be a direction for you? This week we pick the mind of freelance Graphic Designer/Art Director/Globe-trotter Ryan Romanes who, in 2015 was named one of 15 under 30 “New Visual Artists” by Print Magazine.
1. We noticed from your Loop profile, after graduating you spent some time interning for two big design firms. Can you tell us a little about your experiences?
The internship at Saatchi & Saatchi was my first experience in the industry; I was assigned to a small in-house design team that operated separately from the advertising agency. We were working across a range of corporate and cultural projects at the time, but it was the advertising campaign for Auckland Theatre Company that interested me the most. I was fascinated to see the process from conceptualisation of the construction of sets to the photography, and design of the advertisements. The Art Director was very approachable, and would often take me aside to explain the finer processes of large-scale projects.
Shortly after, I had been following both of the partners from Sagmeister & Walsh through social media, Jessica Walsh posted a tweet about an intern dropping out and needing someone to start immediately. As a fresh graduate with nothing lined up, I thought there was no harm in applying. The next morning I woke up to an email from Jessica asking, “when I could start?”, and a week later I was in the office. I had the opportunity to work across commercial branding as well as assisting on their personal projects, such as their studio exhibit “6 Things” at the Jewish Museum, and Stefan Sagmeister’s Happy film. New York was an incredible experience, although three months was a relatively short time, it really sculptured the kind of work I wanted to pursue in the future.
2. How did this experience influence you to start up & go freelance full-time?
The lifestyle and satisfaction Jessica and Stefan got from their work was a massive encouragement to discover what I found fulfilling, and then pursue it as a career. This experience also taught me that doing the work I love doesn’t cost a lot of money. Once I had a solid base of clients, I took the plunge and started freelancing full-time. You hear this all the time, but working on client work will never be as fulfilling as personal projects. This has definitely been the case for me, so I’ve always tried to have a balance between working for commercial and cultural clients while also committing to at least one personal project.
3. We read on Design Assembly that a lot of clients have come to you from being so active online, how important is social media and your digital identity, to your work?
I don’t find personal satisfaction through self-promotion, but it has enabled me to reach a larger range of clients, and it has allowed me to collaborate with like-minded people who want to produce innovative work. For instance, in 2014, a creative community in the UAE approached me to design their brand identity and direct their campaigns. It gave me the opportunity to spend three months Dubai and living there was a fascinating experience. I saw another side of the city that was completely different to what I was expecting. Working in such a fast-paced and culturally diverse city has inevitably made an impact on me both personally, and professionally. I would have never had the opportunity if I never put my work out there.
4. Describe your current working environment. Can you take us a quick snap of your desk?
After sharing a studio space for the past year, I’ve gone back to working from home. The amount of travelling I do doesn’t justify the extra cost, and it can be inconvenient not having everything in one place when my work is so diverse. I’m often hopping from the computer to crafts to photography, so I prefer to have all of my materials in one space. When you’re an individual business there are a lot of hats to wear, and administrative tasks tend to consume a huge chunk of my time. Generally, I’ll spend a couple of mornings a week working from a cafe where I can respond to emails, work on accounts or run errands, and drown myself in iced lattes.
5. What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on so far, and what was involved?
A couple of years ago I rebranded a local Skincare company, Mieux Derma. I worked with my good friend, and regular collaborator, Morgahna Godwin. Basically, everything changed aside from the brand name. Morgahna consulted on the creation of new formulas, named every product, wrote the copy, brand story and formulated an entirely new strategy while I designed a new identity, packaging, website and directed the campaign imagery. We’ve worked on an ongoing basis with Mieux Derma, it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience to see the brand grow over time.
6. What are you looking forward to this year?
I’m thrilled to be doing a series of talks and workshops in New Zealand, exhibiting work at a design conference in Dubai, and working with my Mum to open a new restaurant on the lakefront of my hometown, Rotorua.
7. Who’s someone we should we follow on Instagram?
There’s a lot of people I’ve talked about above who’re worth checking out, but I haven’t mentioned one of my good friends Jiani Lu. We met in Dubai through a mutual friend and have collaborated on several projects since. Jiani is an amazing freelance designer/photographer who is constantly traveling to exciting places. She is seriously someone to watch.