In Conversation with Maree Coote

Where do you work and what do you do?

Based in Melbourne, I run MCA, an advertising creative consultancy. I’m also founder/CEO of Melbournestyle, an art gallery and concept store, and Melbournestyle Books, a publishing imprint. I enjoy the way each of these disciplines cross-fertilise and inform each other.

Tell us about yourself.

Experienced in advertising, marketing, publishing and promotions, Maree has held senior creative positions within Australiaʼs best advertising agencies culminating in the role of Exec CD and member of the Board of John Singleton Advertising. She has built her own creative marketing and design consultancy, Maree Coote Advertising (MCA), and a publishing imprint, Melbournestyle Books.

Although formally trained at RMIT as art director and designer, Maree is industry-trained as a creative strategic thinker and as a copy writer, with many award-winning and successful campaigns to her credit. Her experience includes all manner of creative work, from brand campaign development, strategic planning, online development, product development, writing, publishing, film and TV, to packaging design, styling and even costume design. In all of these fields she is hands-on with the planning, creation and realisation of projects.

Maree brings this expertise and more to her publishing endeavours. To date she has published 19 books and been awarded publishing prizes in Italy, New York, Australia and Korea.

What inspires you?

Women, risk takers, eccentrics. People with the courage of their convictions: Noma Bar’s illustrations, Bert Tucker’s paintings, Saul Leiter’s photographs, Germaine Greer’s life’s work, The Pigram brothers’ vocals, Julia Zemiro’s grin, Joni Mitchell, Barry Humphries, and Pussy Riot.

What changes have you seen in the Advertising and Publishing industries since starting out? The good, the bad and the ugly.

Historically, Advertising has been a powerhouse of creative origination, where many new streams of art film, animation and so on, benefitted from valuable early exposure (Dali, Warhol, Rockwell, Leibovitz et al). Advertising too creative risks and thereby helped to push creativity forward. Over recent years, Advertising has lost that creative courage. It has certainly lost that lovely insanity it had in the 1980s, and become quite conformist. Despite the enabling capacity of technology, the great ideas are lacking. The technological tail is wagging the dog at the moment, and I see stock images, stock footage and stock thinking everywhere.

As for Publishing, it’s a very different world to Adland of course. The publishing establishment can be quite anti-entrepreneur and set in its ways. But there are loads of small independent publishers doing fantastic stuff, and producing their own unique and very polished works.

At the base of both disciplines, the power remains with great stories and original visual expressions.

How do you stay relevant in todays Advertising and Publishing industry?

For me, staying relevant is achieved by being open to the world, remaining interested and open to following wherever my ideas lead me. That brings a natural by-product of diversification, which is a great aid to relevance. Ultimately, it’s important to balance two streams of focus: developing what you do well, and being connected to, and aware of, the zeitgeist.

Tell us what you are currently working on?

On the advertising front, I’m mid-project with a Chinese client on a brand ID and packaging design for dairy products for the Australian and Chinese markets, which has been loads of fun. I am mid-exhibition of a new show of my typographic work in Korea (Alphabet City Letter Art), which will move from Daegu up to Seoul in April. I have an exhibition on currently (‘The Buildings Men: Erections’), a series of multi-media works on paper about architecture and development in Melbourne. I will launch my next children’s book in April (‘Letters from Australia’ ) which is the latest in a series of typographic illustration books for kids. I am also just now completing the next book in that same series for October launch (publishing has loooong lead times), and I’m mid-project on a new Australian history for adults.

What would your advice be to a young Art Director looking to break into the industry in 2019?

Be empathetic to your audience. Be original. Take any work you can get, and meanwhile, build your own portfolio relentlessly. Just do your own thing and don’t wait for the machine to give you permission. Do not listen to negative people. Find your inner creative compass and follow that. Feed your work, feed your brain. And publish your work. Every published project teaches you something new, and leads to something else. Get on with it.

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