Design is design.
I'm a designer. Some of my career roles have been specialist in nature, say, user experience or service design, while others have needed a much broader skillset, so front-end development, applications design, product design, design and production for accessibility and usability testing programs have been undertaken where needed. In essence, all roles are design conduits between the business, design teams and the developers who build the products.
I now work on growing design awareness wherever I work and have provided mentoring and design advice for several start-ups in Melbourne, Canberra and Singapore.
However, the work effort in a design practice does not sit in a pure design vacuum. I recently mapped out the work I must do to deliver a design brief, whether it be for a visual design project IRL* world or a web or app-based application online.
*(In Real Life)
The longer version...
I’ve had a number of careers since I finished my tertiary design education in Melbourne, Victoria. Not all changes were active choices; some were serendipitous, others were planned, and a few turned out mistakes with valuable lessons learned. In all cases, path changes were due to the advances in technology and Australian manufacturing industries' migration to off-shore locales.
I started in Industrial (product) design and production engineering, travelled around Europe for a bit, then came back to Australia and gravitated into freelance work before the workload built up to the stage where I needed to expand into a full-time Industrial design consultancy.
The business ebbed and grew to three core full-time staff and a few contractors depending on workload. Our work started in the design of the major domestic appliances and high-efficiency combustion heating; then, as manufacturing in Australia slowly contracted, the work tilted towards graphic design as more marketing, branding and printing jobs were around than pure product design.
During that time, my consultancy’s work won several design awards, including an Australian Design Award and a Japanese G-Mark,
At this time, I started session work back at my old college, teaching 3D design and workshop practices (model making) and product design theory. I was also part of the accreditation committee for the conversion of the then Diploma of Design to be updated and up-rated to a full 3-year Degree program.
My design practice had moved from drawing boards to Macintosh computers, and the technical challenges in the early days gave me the skills to go and work as the systems manager for Design Synergy, a large combined Industrial and Graphic design consultancy in St Kilda Road Melbourne.
From there, I was invited to go back to my old college – now part of the Swinburne University of Technology – to manage the Mac labs and teach Computer Graphics and New Media courses in their TAFE College Annexe. This period heralded the early stages of the web as a communication and teaching space, and so as multimedia and web design units were added to these courses, I became both the facilitator and creator of the early coursework.
I started hand-coding websites while teaching at Swinburne and embraced the growing world of User Centred Design practices working as part of many design and development teams over the next ten years.
After five years at Swinburne, I moved to Telstra’s Pacific Access (now Sensis) to work as a Producer/Designer on early text-based WAP directory applications and mobile mapping applications for 20 months before moving to a small internet development company in Melbourne.
The work at Cooee/Utiba was mainly early corporate web design/development and web UI and WAP UI for a mobile UMS (Unified Messaging Services) project with Digital, and SMS message-based micro-payments technologies with Singtel.
From there, I worked on several contract pitches for IT development companies in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, and then when the Canberra pitch was successful, I worked with the vendor and the Department of Finance to design the web UI for the Central Budget Management System (CBMS) for the Australian Government.
From webmaster to designer, information architect, UX designer, service or product designer
Since that entry into the Canberra web development world, I have worked extensively in the digital research, design and production space ever since. The role name has changed over the years; however, I have built up a wealth of design experience across commerce, industry, the NGO space, and government enterprise.
In between longer contracts, I have also worked with several start-up clients to help them envision their products and scope the development resources needed to bring them to fruition. Major projects included web application UI design for a STEM product (Edison), the design of a complex event management system, and the development of a series of applications in the security monitoring space.
I’ve been involved in several Australian Government enterprise web applications and customer-facing projects for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, IP Australia, Department of Health, Department of Defence, Department of Immigration, Clean Energy Regulator, and several States’ government development agencies.
I've had side journeys to work in Brisbane, Adelaide, up to Singapore and The Philipines, and even an occasional trip back down to Melbourne.
And where I go next is anyone's guess. Any suggestions?
Stephen Holmes, 2023
The occasional blog
I sometimes write about UX and design culture, and at one stage, I actually had some spare time to be a bit philosophical about my profession, so here are some of my favourites from that time -
Build a Bridge, not a Pier (2015) Internal link.
From little things, big things can grow - or adding UX competency to your team's technical skills (2016) - (external link)