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Introducing Design Work, a podcast by New Zealand designer Kate Darby that shows global designers embracing new ways of working

Kate Darby

Design Work is a new podcast hosted by New Zealand designer Kate Darby that interviews trailblazing creatives from all over the globe about how they design and how they embrace new modes of working, which will be hosted on Idealog's site over the coming weeks. Here, we have a chat to Darby about what inspired her to start the podcast, the gig economy and what it means for designers, and the key lessons she's learnt along the way while conducting the interviews. 

Darby says the idea for the podcast came from her own involvement in the creative industry, and more recently, as one part of the duo behind Dovetail X. Dovetail X is a SaaS platform for creative agencies and tech teams that allows them to build projects remotely. It has a focus on growing the freelance economy in the creative industry.

A third-generation agency director and designer, the twenty-something first cut her teeth in the design world by freelancing making Bebo skins as a teenager. Since then, she’s racked up a more professional career, working with hot-shot clients at agency Resn, getting a first-class honours degree in design, and has now co-founded Dovetail X with her father and design industry sage Simon Darby, which led to her getting out in the community and talking about the challenges of modern-day designers.

“I was out talking to hundreds of different people across the creative industry and listening to their challenges in this rapidly changing work environment,” Darby says. “The by-product of that was getting to hear about how these really interesting and successful creatives went about not just designing the work they were producing, but also designing their business models and lifestyles.”

“Each person I spoke with had an interesting story to tell, and I realised it was unfair that I had the privilege of having these conversations, but someone on the other side of the world, busy studying or working would miss out. I’d started to get into podcasts when I was travelling and loved how they were an engaging way of telling stories but in a really democratised way.”

With the creation of the podcast, Design Work, Darby says her aim was to find and share the stories of a diverse range of creatives across career stages, disciplines, countries and business models. They were usually people she’d come across with her work through Dovetail X, or others she reached out to on social media.

The interviewees hail from many corners of the world: Auckland, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brooklyn, New York, Los Angeles and Leeds, United Kingdom. The design disciplines they work in range from graphic design to video production, user experience research, front end development, independent publications and illustrations, but many are embracing new business models or ways of working.

“I wanted to highlight the fact that there’s no ‘right way’ to be a creative and give people the confidence to design their own creative careers around what they’re passionate about,” Darby says.

She says a problem she found with pre-existing design content is it can become a bit of a conveyor belt, covering well known designers and agencies over and over again.

“We also get to see a lot of shiny finished projects, but we don’t get to hear so much about what the process was like winning the client’s business, how they create a great team culture, or what it was like on day one starting the business,” Darby says. “These peripheral activities can be just as important as the physical act of designing and I don’t think we’re talking about it enough.”

The other area of design work she think is being underserved in media coverage is the growth of the gig economy, and people and businesses who are diversifying from traditional models due to increased freedom and flexibility in the working world.

“For example, in episode two of Design Work I interviewed Alisa Olinova who is the Design Director of a Los Angeles agency, verynice. They have a model called Give One which means they reinvest profits into doing work for non-profits,” Darby says. “These days to start a company whether that be a creative one or something else, it only takes a laptop (if that) and an internet connection. The lower barrier to entry is great for encouraging the next generation to start their own thing, so let’s educate them on how to do that and create a positive impact simultaneously.”

And the biggest lesson she’s learnt along the way while doing this podcast?

“Everyone is pretty much making it up as they go along. That doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing, it just means they have the confidence to embrace the unknown and keep moving forward,” Darby says.

Check out episode one of the podcast here, featuring Auckland-based CorpStudio founder Nathan Cooper, who counts brands like Uber, Sony and Redbull among his clients.

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