My favourite part of Monash is the strong sense of community, both teaching staff and students.James Meadowcroft
A natural curiosity for design at secondary school, saw James enrol in Monash University’s Bachelor of Design, specialising in Communication Design.
Immersing himself in the Monash Art, Design and Architecture community allowed James to explore a broad range of interests, enabling him to build a sophisticated visual language, and the technical capabilities to become an innovative design professional.
During his third year in Communication Design, James and his university colleagues formed Amici Studio, a collaborative design practice based in Naarm/Melbourne.
Graduating with his Bachelor of Design (Honours) First Class, James displayed high level strategic design knowledge and skill, also winning Design Institute of Australian VIC / TAS Visual Communication Design Graduate of the Year for a series of research practices for publication outcomes.
Congratulations on winning the Design Institute of Australia’s, VIC / TAS Visual Communication Design Graduate of the Year. How did it feel to win?
Thank you! It was unexpected — in such an unpredictable year as well. The DIA award is based on a graduate’s practice and folio. For my interview, I presented my research practice that has primarily had publication outcomes as the main focus. Throughout my last two years at Monash, my research has focused on the relationships between public and private.
I first explored this concept in a publication project called Advertising Spaces in Public Places, (pictured below), which explored how public space was bought and sold to private interests. Going into my honours year, my project investigated how design studios, and the collaborative process of designing, could be co-operated by the designers in the studio. The project was called Co-operating, Organising, Designing and used the Amici Design Studio I formed with university colleagues as a case study.
You graduated from Monash University with First-class Honours in Communication Design specialising in research-driven design for web, print, photography and video. That's a broad interdisciplinary field. What intrigues you about these disciplines?
When I first began studying at Monash Art, Design and Architecture I came in with a fairly singular vision to become an app designer or working on the web, because that was the intersection between my passion for both design and technology. While on a second-year study tour at Monash University’s Prato Campus in Italy, I took a series of classes with Communication Design lecturer Warren Taylor. He challenged my thinking, pushing me to experiment with publications as a way to tell stories while considering and producing all the content in a design project.
I see design as the exploration and intersection of specialisations, and I’m always having fun when learning something completely new. Research, photography, web development, videography and graphic design are the tools that I currently have access to as a designer. During my studies, I connected strongly with publication design as a process of problem-solving involving a variety of mediums. For me, producing everything in a given project, rather than designing to existing materials, brought a much greater sense of accomplishment and ownership over the work.
What design projects are you currently working on?
I’m splitting my week between two areas: my design studio Amici and leading a marketing department for a textiles company. I’ve always loved changing environments and working on multiple projects at once.
Amici Studio is a collective of designers working in small groups on a project by project basis. Throughout this year, we’ve been working mostly on web projects which we design and develop in-house. Web is an interesting challenge for us, as we balance the graphic design considerations with the functional aspect. We also spent time figuring out contracts, taxes, rent and insurance — a steep learning curve!
We’ve had a lot of fun working on a new identity for The Evelyn Hotel which will be launching soon, amongst other projects. I am also the marketing manager at a textiles company. I’m very lucky to be working with several Monash graduates in my team — we have a lot of fun crafting a variety of different content.
Tell us about you as a designer - your design process, what inspires you and your strategy for overcoming creative blocks.
Almost all the design work I do now is collaborative, which means the design process is built around conversation. In our studio, we meet with the client to understand the problem, and then work to see how we can solve it together. Design strategy is often multi-layered and requires us to think about communication, marketing, functionality and more.
We always start a brief with research, centring our efforts around a particular theme which can then power the design process. For us, the idea behind the design is almost always more important than the end visual outcome. Our design is naturally an iterative process, which requires us to talk about ideas candidly. When we get stuck (which happens often!), we often pass a project or idea around. Having a fresh perspective makes the whole process so much more enjoyable.
Why did you choose to study Communication Design at Monash University?
I chose design as a career path midway through secondary school as it was always where I naturally gravitated to. I always loved going to the Monash Open Days and ultimately that’s why I think I chose Monash University. I found some aspects of the curriculum a little confronting, such as life drawing and art history. However, the quality of the work on display in art, design and architecture at Monash was inspiring and that helped push me out of my comfort zone. It turned out that the things I was initially uncomfortable with probably resonated with me across my journey at Monash the most.
What is your favourite part of studying Communication Design?
My favourite part of Monash is the strong sense of community, both the teaching staff and the students. The teachers are genuinely inspiring and are there to help you. There is a great culture of students supporting each other. The collaborative experience we all had together at Monash we wanted to continue, which was one of the main reasons we started Amici so we could continue working together and supporting each other. The trip to Monash University Prato Centre Italy was a highlight and incredibly valuable. It allowed me to put design in a new and much more tangible context. Being fully immersed for a whole semester was a unique experience.
Tell us about your experience in studying Honours.
At the end of third year, it felt like I only just began to understand what the role of a designer was, and how my practice fitted into that. I also felt like my first publication, Advertising Spaces in Public Places, was just scratching the surface.
Honours was a great year of collaborating, which was enhanced by having access to a dedicated studio space to use and experiment in. Throughout the year we produced exhibitions and different design outcomes. The process of design research is learning through making, so the more we tested and made, the more we discovered. After the honours year, I feel more confident in my abilities as a researcher and being able to rationalise decisions as a designer.
What advice would you give first-year Communication Design students?
Collaborate with your peers. Sometimes group work can feel a bit difficult at first but the work that I feel the proudest of are the projects I’ve worked on with others. I think group work is easier to externalise it from yourself and look at it more objectively. Working with likeminded people is when design is its most fun.
Say yes to every opportunity you come across. In addition to this, try and make your own opportunities— don’t feel like you have to wait to be asked to do something before you do it. Push yourself out of your comfort zone of what you think your work is and try an elective you don’t think you would usually do.