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Owner and designer at Perth studio Neat Creative, Bec Gauci’s adventure began not in graphic design, but in the corporate world of business consulting. With an educational background in advertising, this is not where she thought she'd find herself, but it was a great platform for her to link design to corporate practice.
“The value of design is in the idea and the strategic approach that gets us there. Advertising and design are all about having a great idea and then nailing it in the visual,” says Bec.
“After university, I travelled for 18 months, based predominately in London and Ireland. I didn’t work in design as I was too transient. That was not the purpose of my travels. When I returned to Perth I did some marketing for a music venue. It was the owners of the business consultancy firm, who acted on behalf of the venue’s silent owner, who approached me to join their firm. I specialised in Liquor Licensing applications, Feasibility Studies, Business Plans and all things that couldn’t get any further from design. It was a high-level corporate position.”
“As my core belief is that the art of design is as corporate as it is creative and structured, and that a strategic and considered approach allows the mind to shape the simplest and most effective creative solutions, this position served me well. I understand how to legally set up a brand and then provide the design they need to get started, no matter how big or small the company.”
“Consistency is key when I’m building a brand. It’s important that the client is left with something sustainable that they, their employees, and other designers can work with, without negatively affecting the integrity of the brand, its values, personality, and visual application.”
Designers need to rate themselves more highly as teachers. That’s what designers do: you get to a client meeting, you’re not pontificating to them, it’s a conversation, but you’re the expert. The client is learning what’s available, what you can do for them, discovering what they need through a conversation with you rather than you telling them outright — getting them to answer questions rather than you telling them everything.
“That’s the way I try to approach everything,” begins Bec. “For me, strategy in design is crucial. That just comes down to that foundation of consistency and making sure everyone’s on the same page.”
The desire to be creative drew Bec away from the consultancy firm. She moved to Melbourne to study at Shillington. Bec completed a Certificate IV in Graphic Design — a refresher course so she could get a more current folio together and re-enter the design industry. Soon after graduating she moved into a position at Flirt Creative.
“Flirt Creative were part-owners of a telecommunications company. I knew someone in that company, my name got passed on, they saw my folio, and they said ‘we’d like you to come work for us,’” says Bec.
“Flirt was where I got thrown straight into branding. They got me very much involved in the process, the strategy, the discovery phases, idea exploration. I could go on and on.”
“It was literally ‘how do I get this idea that I’ve got in my head, on paper, onto digital, without compromising the design.’ I think when you go to the computer with an established idea, it becomes an easier process.”
After Flirt, Bec worked for Melbourne-based creative design agency Involve Group and began the groundwork for setting up her own studio, Neat Creative, before returning to Perth.
When Bec arrived in Perth she was taking on jobs under Neat Creative, however, was given the opportunity to freelance for a multi-disciplinary business, Creating Communities.
“Creating Communities (CCA) are an award-winning multi-disciplinary team of researchers, anthropologists, international development workers, community managers, urban designers, strategists, facilitators, engagement professionals, educationalists, graphic designers and writers,” explains Bec.
“Working with such a broad range of people, with different skills, trying to create a better world was so rewarding.”
“Within CCA there was a graphic design team. The jobs were rewarding and ownership-related. I don’t mean that it wasn’t collaborative, but we were often involved right from the start; from workshopping, briefing, and being in high-level corporate meetings to completing the printed job and having it on someone’s desk. Or, generating tens of thousands of newsletters and having them distributed for a certain day. There were no studio managers or art directors overseeing us, we were all of those things.”
That must have been some steep learning curve.
“It was brilliant,” says Bec.
In the time between working at Flirt and Creative Communities, Bec met her mentor, Von Cammareri while working at Melbourne’s Involve Group.
“Von basically got me to where I am today, says Bec. “She is by far one of the best designers I’ve ever worked with.”
At some point in a designer’s career the urge to hit out on your own becomes tough to resist — and so it was for Bec. But why did Bec feel the need to start her own studio?
“To build better brands by investing more time and value in the idea,” says Bec.
“Studios are still very time-billing orientated, which is important for a company that is running with x number of staff, that needs to pay x number of salaries, and that needs x amount of income to survive.”
“I know exactly what I need to make per annum to be happy, which means I know where I can invest my time and where my time is best invested.”
Do you think you have to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses as a designer?
“One hundred per cent,” says Bec.
“I think if you’re not aware of your strengths and weaknesses it can become a barrier to completing a good design and meeting the client brief.”
“If I feel a design would benefit from additional hours that cannot be charged, I will invest my own time. To manage this when scheduling a project I allow a few extra hours, for myself, to complete the job.”
“My strength is both my corporate approach and being highly-organised. If I say I’ll email you at 9, you’ll hear from me at 8.45. I come from a very corporate-structured background and this approach benefits my clients and also me, not only in managing and producing quality design but also managing a business at the same time.”
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