Melbourne-based transport and logistics magnate Lindsay Fox started out in business by buying and driving a truck in 1956. Today the Linfox company is one of the key players in this space throughout Australia, and the founder, now in his late 70s, has been included in all the expected business lists attributing to his personal success. Mr. Fox remains as chairman, but he also loves getting behind the wheel of one of his old trucks every now and again to take a load of goods somewhere – going back to where it all began, and doing the simple things.
While I am not featuring so high on any BRW or Forbes lists just yet, the nature of the design business and the remaining pleasure over technical aspects of my work see me enjoy ‘Lindsay Fox’ moments every now and again. Actually, quite often.
The graphic design business occupies three main spheres of activity: strategy, creative, and technical. I entered the communications field, when it was known as ‘Commercial Art’, in the 1980s via holiday jobs and eventual full-time employment in my father’s studio as a Finished Artist. This position was all technical and involved the preparation of designs and layouts for print – be they packaging, advertising, brochures, promotions and the like. It was all about bromides, rulers, typesetting, Rotring pens, rubber cement, set squares and scalpels. I was trained well in these endeavours – ‘thanks, Pappa’ – and went on to secure significant positions in various studios and agencies in Australia and overseas as I established myself and eventually started my own business.
Design businesses always had a creative dimension, naturally, and in recent decades have secured the need to service numerous strategic dimensions through consultation, planning and development. And the technical side of it all has largely been transferred to the digital realm, so there’s not much use for scalpels these days – although I do keep a trusted Swann-Morton handle with a no. 11 blade on hand to open letters.
Importantly, I provide better execution to projects where I personally undertake the technical execution on top of the strategic and creative development that would have preceded it. In most studio set-ups, the final execution of work is given to junior designers or production specialists – either in-house or outsourced – sometimes with a loss in understanding, time, execution or quality, which can be a pity in terms of pride or simple monetary factors.
But aside from these factors, and like Lindsay Fox, I just like ‘getting back on the tools’ and not losing touch with what got me here in the first place, whether it be in front of a screen or over a drawing board. Ok, I don’t actually have a drawing board any more – but I still use an A1 sized cutting mat as my mouse pad!