An insight into Production Management

3 10 2011

Whether it’s for a wine label, an annual report, a way-finding signage system or a packaging item – the more a designer knows about the production process, the more the boundaries can be pushed and surprises and disappointment eliminated.

– On press check. Quality control for a new wine label.

Production management is an extremely important part of the design process, though an area that is often overlooked.

Regardless if the outcome is to be a printed piece (such as simple brochure or complex custom publication) or a three-dimensional physically constructed item (such as a trail of interpretive signage or single point of sale display) the difference between good production management or not can make or break a project.

The more a designer knows about the production process their project is about to go through the better. Having a basic knowledge of the various printing and construction processes available allows the designer to shape their concept to suit the medium, ensuring they are not being set up for disappointment when the final design is presented to the production company to be produced. Too often it is only at the final production stage that it is discovered that the design is not possible to be reproduced or it needs to be changed in such a way that significantly compromises the original design concept. This unfortunate realisation can cause time, financial and emotional issues for both the designer and their client.

Far from creating barriers to creativity, knowing the capabilities and restrictions of the various printing and construction processes provides realistic parameters for the designer to work within and allows them to select a process and design solution that best fits the clients budget and requirements.

It is important to work closely with production houses from very early in the design process in order to discuss the general intended direction of the project and ensure this meets expectations for budget, time-frames and deliverables. Establishing this dialogue with the printer/manufacturer allows them to get on board with the vision for the project, enabling them to workshop an approach that can be incorporated into the design development phase. Tapping into the decades of specialised production experience operators of production houses possess is a valuable resource for creating trouble-free and outstanding end results for any design project.

Of course, designers by nature will push the boundaries of what can be done by any given production process. Having a good relationship with production suppliers is vital in these situations, as often they will be open to working with the designer to try something new and experiment with the process, discovering new results and new possibilities.

– A hidden rainbow found in the mixing room of a flexo printers.

Some things to consider for printed pieces:

  • Paper stock – Does the stock support the desired visual aesthetic and reinforce the printed design elements? Will it be rigid enough? Has paper grain direction been taken advantage of for structural strength? Will the paper perform well for the intended end use? Will it last as intended? Is it a single use item or will it be required to be reused repeatedly?
  • Colour process – Would spot colour (Pantone) or process (CMYK) best suit visual outcome and budget constraints?
  • Printing process – What press? Would digital, lithographic, flexographic, letterpress or screen-printing best suit the outcome, quantities and budget?
  • Size – Will the physical size restrict the printing processes available?
  • Embellishments – Would embellishments assist functionality or aesthetics? Consider embossing, custom die-cuts, folds and varnishes.
  • Sustainability – Has environmental impact been considered? Is the paper stock recycled/recyclable? Can the item be printed with less colours and vegetable based inks? Can the item be made using less material (eg. by removing a packaging layer or reducing page size etc)? Does the item need to be printed or would it better suit electronic distribution?
  • Quality control – Have blank dummies been ordered? Have proofs been sighted? Have press checks been factored in?

By considering all these questions early on when developing a design concept, and discussing these with the printer, many production issues can be avoided or identified early enough in the process to work out a solution that doesn’t impact on the outcome in a negative way. Sometimes new options will even be uncovered that hadn’t yet been explored.

Similarly, for constructed items such as signage consider the following:

  • Location – Where will the finished item be installed? How does this impact size, position, colour, viewing position? Does the finished item complement and blend in with the surrounding location or does the item need to jump out from the surrounds?
  • Longevity – Is the item to be long lasting? Will the item be out in the weather or positioned indoors? Will the item be subjected to harsh environmental factors such as wind, salt water, full-sun?
  • Materials – Is it a premium product or can cheaper materials be used? Does the material selection match the end use requirements?
  • Sustainability – Can salvaged materials be used? Can materials be recycled after the item is no longer required? Can less material be used?
  • Legibility – Will the item be legible in its intended end state? Consider height, text size, colour contrast and distance from viewer.
  • Safety – Consider non-slip surfaces, removing protruding elements, eliminating sharp corners and ensuring solid foundations.
  • Updating – Can individual elements be updated if they are damaged or require information to be updated? Can the item be easily cleaned if subject to graffiti?
  • Compliance – Does the final installed item comply with council or other building regulations?
  • Transportation – How is the item to be transported from the production house to the site? What impact will this have on budgets? Will the item need to be disassembled and reassembled for transport? Who will take care of this?
  • Quality control – Have test prints been produced? Have material samples and fixtures been sighted and approved? Have technical plan drawings been produced or supplied? Have production checks been scheduled?

The importance of good production management cannot be overlooked as part of the professional designer’s repertoire. Knowledge is built from experience over many years of trial and error and many discussions with production companies. In my personal experience of over 16 years of production managements, things have gone wrong, successes have been had, boundaries have been pushed and much has been learned. I was fortunate to have had the guidance of some very particular design directors early in my career, which set me up to be enquiring, to pay attention to detail, to insist on high quality outcomes from production houses and to be involved in the process. Working with production companies to find solutions when things aren’t working out as expected, rather than battling against them, makes all the difference. In the final stages, attending press and production checks is vital to making last minute adjustments that can make all the difference to the end result.

A great design concept can only be truly realised if expertly carried through the production process to result in an exceptional end product. Do this, and designer, supplier and client all benefit from the results.



Woodhouse Wetland Trail Launch

26 08 2011

The Woodhouse Wetlands Trail is one of the many signage projects I have been involved with lately at Ecocreative.

The trail was officially launched at a recent on-site event – a great morning out in the drizzle of the Adelaide Hills, with all parties involved coming together to launch the trail and new signage as well as planting a few natives with the help of Greening Australia. Fantastic to see the signs in place blending well with the surrounds and providing trail walkers a little insight into the workings of the wetlands and its fauna and flora.

The project is a collaborative initiative between SA Water, the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, the Environment Protection Authority and the SA Branch of Scouts Australia. Signage by Ecocreative.


Photos by Luke Simon Photography courtesy of Ecocreative

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Walk a mile in my boots

10 08 2011

This month I once again joined in support of the good work of Adelaide’s Hutt Street Centre, taking part in their annual ‘Walk a mile in my boots’ fundraising event. A cold morning didn’t deter the crowd, with hundreds turning out to help Hutt Street Centre help Adelaide’s homeless. Now located on Hutt St myself, it was great to get out on the street and join in with this local community event.

You can check out the Hutt Street Centre online here – I encourage you to show your support.


The Ecocreative team hits the streets – Matt, Clare, Subi, Jeremy

Catching up with Australian Greens Senator for SA, Penny Wright (Photo courtesy of Anna Chang)

Masses of support!

Creative Director, Ecocreative

2 07 2011

Now 2 months into my new position as Creative Director of sustainable design and communications company Eco Creative, I’m finally catching my breath.

Hitting the ground running, I joined the team in their busiest season, the lead up to the end of financial year, and got stuck into the job at hand. I inherited a team of talented and hard working designers to lead, as well as a team of dedicated and skilful management staff to work alongside.

Coincidentally, the entire design team has colour references for names: Senior Designer Nigel Black, Illustrator/Multimedia Designer Robin Green (he wins in a sustainability company!), Graphic Designer Clare Andrews (Clare means ‘clear’) and the name Boyd means ‘yellow’. A colourful bunch indeed!

It is inspiring to be working within a company so deeply committed to environmental sustainability. It is no small feat that Director Matthew Wright-Simon has managed to stick true to his vision of sustainability in such an unwavering fashion. It certainly adds another dimension of time, effort and consideration to the work-flow of any project coming through the studio, though rather than be seen as a distraction or interference, the team at Ecocreative actively pursue clients and projects that fit the sustainability criteria and take on the unique problems as exciting challenges. I’ve never seen others get so excited about a new recycled printable plastic hitting the market or anyone actually bothered to care about what happens to end products after they’ve been used by the client. Reduce, reuse, recycle is certainly core to Ecocreative’s philosophy. The end result is projects that are often more creative, engaging and inspiring, while being produced at a lower cost to the client and without a compromise on quality.

Any stereotype of laid-back tree-hugger designers that may be conjured certainly doesn’t hold true (at least the laid-back part!). While the team compost kitchen waste and drink organic lattes, the feverish work pace, genuine care about project outcomes for clients and the commitment to quality are certainly second to none in my experience. There exists a strong set of personal values in each of the team members and a powerful self-belief that the company is an agent of positive change.

On the experiential side, I am enjoying working in a company where I have already had business meetings walking alongside giraffes and lions, regular organic pizza lunch meetings and Friday Dance-offs. I’m enjoying the neighbouring French patisserie and the city-village style of our Hutt Street location. Above all, I’m enjoying connecting the values of my personal life with my work life at much a deeper level.

Please visit Ecocreative’s website for a look at the kind of work we produce and to learn a little more about the company. You can also become a fan of our Facebook page.

Ecocreative is a leading sustainable communications consultancy dedicated to communicating messages that bring about positive change.
We provide communications, education and management support to many organisations at the national, state and local level.
We are devoted to creating and delivering print, electronic and constructed media of the highest quality, always with a deep commitment to sustainability.

 – Boydsta!

Farewell FULLER

2 05 2011

After three and a half fantastic years as Creative Director of integrated marketing communications company FULLER, I have now moved on to explore new challenges.

Reflecting on my time with FULLER, I feel very fortunate to have been involved with such a respected company and to have had the opportunity to be a part of the team. A good company comprised of good people.

I originally joined FULLER as the sole graphic designer, charged with the task of building a design department in a company previously focused on traditional PR and marketing communications. Over the following three and a half years I helped build a professional creative design team consisting of four designers: myself positioned in middle-management as Creative Director and hands-on graphic designer; Nicholle Christie as Senior Graphic Designer; Ivalyo (Ivo) Stamatov as Digital Designer and Adele Thompson as Graphic Designer, along with Kate Schlichting as Production Manager to support the team and over a dozen in-house freelancers to assist in times of peak work flow. Building the design team from the ground up was an exhaustive process (Ivo was one of 99 applicants!) though the insistence on quality paid off with each member proving to be a highly creative, considered and technical designer. A star team producing great work.

Highlights of my time with FULLER included winning our first AADC Award (and losing my voice, my shoe and the following morning due to the celebrations!), having work featured in multiple international design showcase publications and of course having the opportunity to work with a wide range of interesting clients such as Bathe Wines, d’Arenberg Wines, the Foodologist, Elderton Wines, University of Adelaide, Murray Street Wines, Korvest, Grant Burge Wines, Lidums Dental and Aay’s Fresh Herbs to name a few.

I’m honoured to have had the opportunity to help shape FULLER’s own brand image, redesigning the company’s brand identity logo and revamping FULLER’s website.

Working with FULLER provided me the opportunity to grow professionally as a creative designer, though an unexpected bonus of working in conjunction with FULLER’s highly skilled PR communications team on the other side of the business was the sharpening of my own copy writing, client communications and strategic marketing skills. An invaluable mix.

I take my hat off to owners Peter and Kathryn Fuller, along with Account Directors Will and Olivia Fuller (nee Jones) for building a successful and professional communications company with a solid work ethic and a fun and friendly culture.  Thanks for an amazing design adventure guys. As Kathryn would say, onwards and upwards!


FULLER’s Design team

The finish line!

My Path as a Designer – A Biographical Interview

28 04 2011

I am chuffed to have been recently approached by first year Graphic Design student Sherree Oates, from Latrobe University in Mildura, to be the subject of her case study assignment on ‘a designer who inspires her’.

Sheree commented, “I like how you have such a wide range of work, especially your illustrations. I love the fact that you incorporate illustrations within your designs, that’s what really inspires me. I also like how you create illustrations with different mediums. I’m really interested in what inspires you to create your designs and what you base your illustrations on. When I found your work it really inspired me to try different things, it gave me a further understanding about the industry and how a designer can be so diverse”.

Below is a transcript of the lengthy interview which formed the basis of Sheree’s assignment, which she compiled with visual imagery into a designed publication for submission. A good opportunity for me to delve into my background and to reflect on how I arrived at this point in time as a designer.

I’m happy to report Sherree received 87% and very positive feedback for her assignment. Great work Sherree! All the best for what lies ahead with your career as a designer.

How you got into designing and how you got to where you are now?:

Short answer:
Kid who loved drawing > School > Uni > Graphic Designer > Freelancer > International/Interstate experience – Senior designer & Freelancer > Own design business > Freelancer > Creative Director

Long answer:
I was one of those kids who was always drawing. While my friends were out playing football I was lying on the lounge-room floor with a pencil in hand filling endless sketchbooks with all manner of mythical creatures, superheros, sexy goddesses, portraits, figure studies and anything else that came to mind. A ‘vivid imagination’ I was told. Art was my favourite subject at school and I always knew I wanted to ‘draw pictures’ for a job when I grew up. I quickly realised that becoming an illustrator as I’d always imagined, would most likely mean long hours in solitude working from home (which wasn’t my idea of fun) and that in my home town of Perth there wasn’t too many jobs around for pure illustrators at the time. I studied art history, technical drawing, photography and visual art to guide me in the right direction for a university course in Graphic Design. I had an interest in branding and felt I would be able to bring illustration into my design along the way. A degree at John Curtin University of Technology followed, majoring in Illustration and supported with Advertising, Branding and Photography units. At that time, 1993, Macintosh computers were still fairly new to the design industry and we only had one hour’s tuition behind a computer a week. A handful of fellow students and I could see what was coming and realised if we didn’t know this Mac thing that we’d have little chance of making it out in the real design world. For the next few years we worked together though the night in the Mac lab, teaching each other what we could and ploughing through the manuals to work it out for ourselves. That was when a whole design project could fit on a 1.4MB floppy disk!

The commitment seemed to pay off as I was one of the fortunate students in my course who graduated and found a job opening a few weeks later. I started with Calder Design as a Junior Graphic Designer and learned more in the first year out than my entire three years at uni. There, under the tutelage of Rick Calder, I learned about real-world deadlines, fussy clients, the importance of attention to detail and of being particular on press checks. Exciting times with a fast learning curve and plenty of hard slog.

I had a loose 5-year plan to see inside as many design studios as I could to glean the best practices of each with the idea of starting my own business, fusing what I’d learned with my own lofty ideas. Three years into Calder’s I realised my 5 years was quickly running out on a single studio so bid them farewell and ventured out as a professional in-house freelancer. Freelancing worked out great for me in Perth. I was booked solid for months in advance at multiple agencies around town. I was networking like crazy, running from one side of town to the other – servicing ad agencies, design studios and marketing firms. There was little competition at the time. No specialist creative services recruitment agencies existed and few designers were working as full-time freelancers. A sweet spot.

New Year’s 2000 was fast approaching and there was no way I was going to be stuck in Perth for the millennium’s biggest party night, so with a one-way ticket I headed to London calling out “I’ll be back in a year”. That was 11 years ago. London was a little more daunting in the freelance scene. Confronted with mega recruitment companies like Aquent who had hundreds of ‘me’s on their books fighting for a gig. Luckily there was also hundreds of creative studios looking for freelancers so it wasn’t long before I was doing the rounds again, working hard designing by day and playing hard by night, gaining experience on international projects and clients. London was sensory overload and the best single source of inspiration and creative stimulation I’ve ever had. Just mad.

I worked for a few years in London as an in-house freelance which let me explore the vast city on my way to and from work at various creative studios ranging from the basement of Saatchi & Saatchi’s TFG to high-rise advertising agencies, funky little design studios and everything in between. I worked full-time as a visualiser with innovation company Wowco for a time before heading for Sydney – another big crazy city, just less cold and smog. In Sydney I picked up freelancing again, working for a few of the reputable names such as LKS Landor and WDM before finally starting my own two man graphic design business, Lure Creative. After a year or so we uprooted Lure Creative and moved to Adelaide where we continued to grow our client base, specialising in strategic branding and design.  6 years of solid creative passed before I drew Lure Creative to a close and returned to my previous profession of freelancer.

Not long into the Adelaide freelancing scene I was invited to join my client, integrated marketing communications company FULLER, as Creative Director. I initially worked as their sole designer with the directive to build a design team from the bottom up as. I grew the design team over three and a half years to comprise of four Graphic Designers and a Production Manager, the team working in conjunction with FULLER’s communications team specialising in PR, copy writing and marketing strategy.

So that’s how I got here, in a rather large nutshell.


Lürzer’s Archive – 200 Best Packaging Design Worldwide 2010
LogoLounge – Volume 6
Finalist – Packaging Design – AADC Awards 2009
Award – Packaging Design – AADC Awards 2008

Professional Development:

AGDA SA council member – 5 years
Design Student Mentor – AGDA Mentor program, 2009 and 2010

Your approach to problem solving / creative process?:

I always start the design process by asking a lot of questions to deeply get to know the client, their business, the problem at hand and the desired project outcomes. This creates a mutual understanding of the project and helps build a solid brief to check back on throughout the course of the project.

After the briefing I tend to think in words initially, creating mind maps of different streams of thought – anything that comes to mind that may result in a creative concept. It might be themes, colours, styles, historic eras, specific ideas etc. At this point no idea is a bad idea and I try to just let it flow.

From here I narrow my focus on the areas that seem to have the most merit and start to sketch up initial design concepts. I like to do this in pencil still as I find it keeps the idea flowing quickly and I don’t get caught up in trying to make things perfect yet, which helps with self-filtering of what’s working or not. If the concept can’t be expressed in a quick pencil sketch then it’s usually not a strong concept worth pursuing.

Only once I’ve got the concept clear then do I move to the computer screen to start production.

Your main inspiration?:

My inspiration comes from everywhere. All of life’s experiences tend to contribute in one way or another, though these days much of it comes from online. I research designs in the same category as well as completely unrelated areas. This is not to find something to mimic or replicate, rather it is to discover what is out there and to immerse myself in what I consider to be high level and enviable work in order to set my sights high for the outcome of my own designs.

I still love illustration and drink in visual imagery every chance I get. I don’t always get the opportunity to use illustration in my design but the projects that I do are the ones I enjoy the most.

Parting notes:

If you love design, keep focused and enjoy the journey. It can be a very creatively rewarding career. Try to follow the areas of design that you enjoy the most to stay true to yourself rather than just going for what jobs are available at the time. The best designers are always the ones who bring their own unique vision to life.

Remain inspired and aim to inspire.


The magic of the AADC Awards 2011

10 03 2011

Another Adelaide Advertising and Design Club Awards night, this year with a ‘magical’ theme. A fun night of magicians, exhibitions, awards and purple cocktails.

The gala dinner presented a 3 course meal which I quickly made disappear while Matt Hollywood, comedian magician, wowed the audience and conjured up intended embarrassment amongst the punters.

Congratulations to all who picked up an award on the night. Alacazam!

– Boydsta!

Flanked by fellow Fuller graphic designer Adele Thompson and the enchanting magician’s assistants.

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