Discussion: Design with Rhys Malcom

I met Rhys Malcom in Adelaide when he was the manager of a converted double decker bus that was enjoying a new lease of life as a bohemian bar. He wore a captain's hat and whipped up the best espresso martinis in South Australia served with lashings of banter. Instantly we hit it off.

After a roller coaster stint living together in Melbourne we split ways, he shifted to grey, dreary London to take on the advertising world and I moved back to New Zealand to focus on Walter Crow. In between tackling the big briefs he manages to squeeze in some creative work for Walter Crow, see some of the hand drawn images below.

We caught up with him about the design process and where he finds inspiration. Read on.

1) What was it that originally made you want to become a designer?

I was always drawn to the visual and trying to create or make things. I remember getting one of those big art sets almost every Christmas from my grand parents, so I guess I was drawn to it from a young age. Later on I loved logos, I had a collection of tags from clothes I had bought and I used to create my own logos and brands during school. From there I started studying marketing at University but dropped out after the first year and didn't really have any direction. After that I think it was from talking to other people that helped me to make the decision to go back and study design, I had never really thought about design as a path but once I got in it was perfect for me.


2) How would you describe your approach to design?


It's taken a long time but my approach has really changed recently. I've always worked alone making all the decisions and trying to sell those to a client. Now I'm working in a large company it is a much more collaborative process taking ideas and direction from others. Totally different experience, but I've learnt to enjoy the collaborative process. My approach is to try to make good work, based on great ideas. In my personal work I try to draw on inspiration which involves lots of research, but research for designers is basically trolling blogs, Instagram, and great agencies, so it's not so horrible. I like to start on paper, as illustration is a big part on my work and what I enjoy, but the work usually develops organically during the process.

3) What currently interests you and how is it feeding into your work?

I think the biggest Influence at the moment is Instagram, in the last few months it has changed the way I work. Where in the past I was constantly working and keeping piles of notebooks that no one ever saw, now I'm starting to share my work a lot more. I found a lot of artists, illustrators, tattooists, brands and agencies that are doing such amazing work that I would never have been introduced to any other way. A big interest for me at the moment is hand drawn type and hand painted sign writing, there are some super talented people out there and it's inspiring. I like that there is a trend back towards seeing the artists hand in the work. People are avoiding the urge to make everything digitally perfect, which is hard sometimes but imperfections are not always mistakes.

4) If you were handed the ideal brief on a platter, what would it look like?

Sometimes when doing work even if it is for a great company that you like they have a brand and there are certain guidelines already created and you have to work within those parameters. That's why I love branding work, creating that brand and developing the visual communication that represents the values and ideas of a company. So if someone came to me and said I have a lot of money, and this idea for something that you are passionate about, now lets work together to make a brand, that seems like the ultimate scenario for me. Because that's more than a logo it involves everything from; what will the photos we put on Instagram look like, to what language will we use when sending someone an email, its like a personality but for a brand. Most of all its about 'trust', I think in this digital time people see design and think I can do that I know a bit about Photoshop, so working with someone who trusts your opinion and skill is always really nice and makes the process enjoyable.

5) Round it out - what's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

I remember at university my head lecturer said more than 50% of you will never actually work in design, that wasn't actually advice but it was motivating. I don't remember any real Disney movie moments where Emilio Estervez yelled something at half time and suddenly my life was great. It's more like the constant and continued support of family and friends that helps you to not be a dick, or at least they try their best.

See more of Rhys's work here!

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