As part of a series of interviews of APS colleagues, we spent some time with Simon Rhodes, our marketing team Graphic Designer. Simon joined our team in 2021 and we caught up with him this month to chat about his role at APS.
How did you fall in love with your creative job?
I initially trained to be a printmaker but quickly realised I’d be working in a niche industry and decided to focus on the sorcery of graphic design. Producing designs for different outputs really interests me, covering branding, advertising, motion graphics and publication. Graphic design is closely tied to the digital realm, and I love creating and manipulating visual elements to communicate a specific message. We graphic designers work on a variety of different projects across a broad spectrum and the sky really is the limit of what can be achieved in this creative discipline.
What is your favourite piece of technology or software and how does it help your creative process?
It’s definitely After Effects. I feel like I’ve not even scratched the surface of what the software has to offer. I’m always trying to improve and picked up a lot of knowledge watching YouTuber Ben Marriott, an Australian motion graphics designer and a great educator. After Effects is like Illustrator and Photoshop in that you can home in on small elements of your composition, such as subtle object movements and intricate textures and gradients. This meticulous approach adds a level of sophistication and polish making finished designs stand out; I now wish I’d discovered motion graphics a lot earlier!
What sort of briefs or projects do you find more fun to work on personally?
I often expect mid to high-level instructions in a creative brief but when I get a degree of creative freedom it makes my day. Obviously, my handlers (ha-ha-ha) provide guidelines, but having the opportunity to explore and express different ideas in unique, imaginative ways within these boundaries is what I really enjoy.
Who is your creative hero and what is it about their work that inspires you? What example of their work particularly stands out?
No two designers, animators, or illustrators I draw inspiration from are the same and this is probably the most difficult question I ever answer. As a graphic designer I want my work to have a contemporary look and feel – fresh and always pushing the envelope – but deep down, if I’m honest, I love creative chaos… After admitting this blatant disregard for my peers and design principles I’d add that renowned British artist, illustrator and filmmaker Dave McKean is probably my creative Mount Rushmore. I aspire to create something as distinct, visually stunning and emotionally resonant as any of his artworks.
What do you think the misconceptions about your industry are?
I think the biggest misconception about being a graphic designer is that “anyone can do it, using Photoshop”. While it’s true that anyone can learn the basics of graphic design, becoming a skilled, professional graphic designer requires more. It’s a subjective field and an evolution of art, involving a combination of different skills, creativity, technical knowledge and an understanding of design principles. I’ve been doing it since 2004 and I’m still learning. It takes time, practice and dedication to develop expertise in this field.
What are the biggest challenges for the creative industry?
I don’t think there is much change from when I started studying. Obviously, the work can be extremely challenging, and as everyone reading this knows, it’s a field that thrives on innovation and creativity. I’m 100 percent certain that my colleagues at APS each have their own unique strategies for maintaining originality, allowing us to stand out from the competition.
What are your thoughts on AI? How are you using it in your work?
I see AI as a useful tool, not the Babadook sent by some nerd in Silicon Valley to destroy all creative industries. I’d be lying if I didn’t start off feeling apprehensive about it, and I think most creatives have a certain level of scepticism about the benefits of AI and how to apply it as a tool. I’d rather not be a troglodyte and get sucked into the negativity surrounding it but rather discover its benefits and use instead of fear it. Photoshop, for example, now has a great beta that allows you to manipulate images with a few word prompts, which has become invaluable for editing photos.
Any advice for those aspiring to enter your industry?
When you start working on a new project, your vision will never be the same as your client’s. The more questions you ask, the faster you’ll match your client’s goals for the project. Learn to compromise while retaining the conviction and confidence to stand by your work. Remember that you’re employed for your talent and the unique skills you possess. It is a challenging industry, so be a sponge, learn from your peers, and do what you need both at work and outside it to develop yourself.