In Conversation with Dominic Hofstede
Dominic is a graphic designer with nearly two decades in the industry. For the past 18 years he has run his own design studio called Hofstede Design + Development, a small practice with 3 full-time staff (including himself). “I appreciate honest, well-crafted design and have a particular interest in typography. In recent times I have pursued an ongoing research project into the history of Australian graphic design, which has manifested in an exhibition, book and online archive (recollection.com.au)“
What inspired you to become a Graphic Designer and run your own business?
Not sure if inspired is the correct word, but I think I always knew I would do my own thing.
I worked for two employers over a seven-year period following my studies, and reached the point where I was confident enough in my abilities to run my own show. I would have jumped earlier, but I was really unsure about the accounting and bookkeeping side of things, not so much the creative side. The trigger was probably wanting to control my own destiny, being accountable only for my mistakes and not those of others.
How did you get your first break?
I’ll interpret ‘first break’ as getting my first job. I started working for one of my lecturers while still studying at Uni, a lovely woman called Rosemary Harris-Grubb. I did a couple of freelance jobs for her, and she offered me a full-time job. It was the end of the eighties and the economy was about to go into freefall, so I was pretty happy to be working. My second job was also for one of my ex-lecturers, so perhaps the lesson is to be nice to your teachers, as you never know where it will get you.
What paths have you taken to get to where you are today?
I guess my pathway has been pretty conventional. Experience at a couple of different studios, working my way up to a position of management which taught me about running a business, and then the leap to my own thing. I come from a Dutch background, and they tend to be rational and pragmatic people, so a lot of my decisions along the way have been considered rather than instinctive. If anything, perhaps that’s held me back over the years, but, I’m still here.
What advice about the do's and don'ts would you give to an aspiring Graphic Designer?
Do’s: Ask lots of questions – The only way you will build knowledge is by asking people who have it. Find something that sets you apart – There are too many generic designers out there. Identify something that you can own, and will create a point of difference, and will be memorable. Push harder than the next – Make the follow up phone call, and then do it again. Too many younger designers are lazy. Be better than them.
Don’ts: Rely on technology – Computers can make anything look acceptable, but that’s not enough. A solid idea, well executed will stand the test of time. Use the word ‘passion’ to describe your philosophy – Everyone loves what they do, this should be obvious from the way one talks about their work, and the work itself. ‘Passion’ crops up in almost every email we receive from aspiring designers. Find another word.
Tell us about what you're currently working on and what sets Hofstede Design + Development apart from other design studios?
In recent years we have started to apply our print layout skills (e.g. grids, typography) to digital outcomes. We feel there is a real opportunity in this area for us to position the studio as leaders. We are working on a number of projects based on this approach including a promotion campaign for a paper company called Definitions (define quality.com.au). Designers are asked to define quality in a word, a colour and a font, and they will then be sent a printed publication based around defining quality.
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