Frankie Ratford is founder of The Design Kids, an organization that connects students with the design industry. Frankie is currently traveling across the United States and is connecting with many incredible creative professionals in the country. The best part is that she’s traveling in an RV with an awesome mural designed by Will Bryant, which I got to hang out in.
I met with Frankie at her stop in Los Angeles where we recorded an interview to talk about The Design Kids, when she decided to work for herself, what actions she took before taking the jump and what she has planned for the future.
Pencil or pixel?
I’m pretty analog because I’m a print designer, traditionally. What I do now is a lot more digital-focused so can I go both?
So Frankie, this is the first time I’m doing a podcast interview in an RV. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
My name’s Frankie and I’m originally from England. I’ve been living in Australia for 14 years. My whole career is based in Australia as a designer. I used to be a graphic designer and I did that for eight or nine years. I felt really frustrated sitting at a desk. I’ve travelled a lot in the last while – probably seven years I’ve spent on the road. I managed to kind of cram the travel in between my career so my LinkedIn profile is immaculate. My couch surfing profile is immaculate. [Laughs] Those things are really important to me.
A couple of years ago I decided to do a big road trip around Australia and the idea was to connect students with industry. I had been a lecturer and I’d been a student and I’d been a graduate and I felt like there was a really big hole in between them, so The Design Kids started as a shop where students could design a poster or a tote bag and I would sell it for them and basically get their name out there and kind of introduce them to the industry. Bigger than being in school. I was also teaching alongside it. I spent a lot of time with the students, finding out what they needed and I felt like there was a huge disconnect between them and the industry. For the last six years, The Design Kids has evolved into this online resource for students and graduates so we don’t have the shop anymore. We do about ten different initiatives and the idea is to bring those two groups of people together.
You worked at a desk job, you were tired of that and then decided, “I want to do something much bigger,” which is how you started The Design Kids. Is this a service that is provided for college students?
I’d say 18-25 is our age range. The words “kids” is confusing. In Australia…even when I was teaching, the word kids is the students and yet you come here and you say kids – and you say students and people think you mean children. I’ve learned to say college students. Tiny little cultural things like that, but yeah I stick with the name. When I started The Design Kids, all the companies I was interested in – if there was the world typography or design or something that got me excited, I’d look up the names so I was like ok, The Design Kids is a collective of people…the “kids” shows what side of the spectrum they’re on. I think you could name your company anything to be honest. It’s how you position it and what that communication is.
That’s very true. I think The Design Kids is a really cool name. The first thing that comes to my mind is “the design club,” but I understand what you’re saying. I can be referred to as “design children,” people could see it as that. The name? Whatever. It’s the meaning behind what you’re doing. It’s a public service and you’re connecting students with work…with companies that are looking for this.
You travelled all throughout Australia. How did you get started and what kinds of resources did you gather before taking on a project like that?
It’s been going for six years. I guess the road trip was three or four years in. It’d kind of been a project of love and I was working alongside it and it was growing and evolving. I was living in Byron Bay at the time which is a really cool surf town in Australia and I was getting sick about people talking about what the surf is doing. I was like I don’t really care, I just need to get amongst it. I’d lived in three of the major cities and I thought, “Which one should I go back to?” I thought actually I want to know what’s happening in all the cities. I was on Instagram and going, “What are you guys doing here,” and, “what’s happening there?” It was really frustrating to have that disconnect for me. I think a lot of my passion for the project comes from people. So I thought I’m gonna get a van and I’m gonna cruise around and live in every city and hang out with everyone there and really understand the design industry and the landscape and how it works in each city.
I got a load of sponsors. I think I got five sponsors that gave me hardly anything. As it progressed, I think it was a few weeks before I left, It was like, “Oh, we don’t have the budget right now,” and “This fell through and this wasn’t happening anymore,” and, ” This company went bust.” It was like these big names, all doing different things. I won’t name names because I’m still friends with them. [Laughs]
It was cool. It was kind of throwing it out there and seeing what the response would be. I was surprised when they said maybe in the first place. Three days before I was due to leave, I had a van. I had sixty-four dollars to my name. I was like oh no! I’m such a talker, I tell everyone what I’m doing and what the plan is. I was like I can’t not do this. I’ve told everyone I’m doing this epic road trip. At the time I was teaching in Brisbane 12 hours a week. I’d do a day and a half from Brisbane. That’s a six hour drive to get to work. Three there, three back.
Oh my goodness.
I know, it’s pretty crazy. My thing about living in Byron is there’s no design work. I could either do this epic trip to Brisbane, get paid a lot of money in a short period of time and then have five days off or I can work in Byron and make coffee and work a hundred hours a week, and not do anything. It doesn’t make sense but it kind of does.
I was already driving six hours to work so I thought I can keep my job and I’ll just fly to work and I’ll fund the whole thing myself. Yeah, that was what happened.
That’s so rad. You flew to work once a week.
Yeah, Wednesdays/Thursdays were my teaching days so Wednesday night I would stay in Brisbane. And Thursday I would teach and Thursday night I would fly back, get in the van, keep going. It was pretty epic. I did that for five months. It was pretty gnarly because my working week was Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Saturday and Sunday was setting things up – obviously no one else is at work. My two days off were twenty hours of travels and teaching. It was pretty exhausting. I think I got to Melbourne so I managed 3 months and I just crashed. It was like oh my god this is so much. I think when you’re doing it for the right reasons and you love what you do you can get through that. It would’ve been pretty easy to quit at that point. I was exhausted but it was fun.
What were the right reasons for you?
I’m really interested in lifestyle design. I’m a big fan of Tim Ferris, Four Hour Work Week. I believe in playing in your strengths and I guess The Design Kids is about playing in your strengths. The problem is, there’s all these design students that have completely different skill sets and yet they’re encouraged to go through the same job. Then they fail and they get disheartened and then they just go and do something else. It’s really sad so my idea is to reeducate them about what their options are, what their strengths are, and what they’re actually good at…and then show them the possibilities so they can all succeed, rather than 5% of them. I guess I’ve done that on a bigger level. I sat down after I left my studio job and I was like, “I love design but I’m not happy here.” I was working at Frost in Sydney and Vince Frost was my idol at the time and I worked so hard to get this job. After 18 months I was like I don’t like sitting here and I don’t like eating the same sandwiches. I was just so unhappy and it was silly because the people were awesome, the clients were awesome. You couldn’t ask for a better job and yet there was something not sitting right.
I went overseas for six months just to kind of brainstorm what I was doing and I really looked at my skillset and what I’m good at. I love people and I love talking. I love travelling on a budget. I remember people’s birthdays. I’ve got all these really weird skills. If you could put a brochure from 2006 for the Adelaide Festival, I could tell you who designed it. I’m really on top of the studios and who works where. I’m really interested in the industry and the people behind it. I started looking at what that meant. I guess The Design Kids is design around my strengths.
Going back to the Brisbane thing when things got really hard, it’s like no, this is what I’m bringing to the world and I have to stick with it. It’s exciting for me. Everything I’m doing is so exciting and fun that it’s quite easy even when it is hard to stay focused. Yeah, you get to road trip around the world. Doesn’t suck.
You started doing this, you said, three or four years after you started The Design Kids. After you started helping students make things and connect with larger companies.
Were there any challenges or setbacks. You just talked about a huge one which is, like, the sponsors. We come across challenges and things that just don’t pan out for us and it’s always nice to hear from someone that is doing something that I consider very successful to talk about the different things that you’ve gone through.
Oh, one hundred percent. I could list fifty right now. Probably the major two…so during that road trip, I caught up with a massive design organization in Australia and they were like, “Hey, why don’t we join forces? We’ll pay you but you can keep doing what you’re doing.” I was like, “Yes, this is what I’ve been working for this whole time and finally someone recognizes what I’m trying to do,” so I quit my teaching job. I was like, yep this is great.
For three months it was like, hey what’s happening? Where’s the contract? What’s going on? After three months they pulled out. At this point I hadn’t worked for three months. I was kind of relying on the fact that I had this job. That was really heartbreaking because then you go, “Why am I bothering? I’m putting everything into this.” I just funded the whole thing myself. I thought I got what I wanted and then it was taken away. It was like wow, this is hard.
That year was pretty hardcore. I think a year later, I had a meeting with Tractor Design School. I think I worked with 75 schools and universities in Australia and 12 in New Zealand so I’d meet the lecturers and the head of school and the graduates and everyone all the time. It was a routine thing. I was telling Simon, who’s head of school, about the project. He was like, “This is amazing. What do you need? We’ll sponsor this, we’ll sponsor that.” Just really like, “Keep doing what you’re doing, we believe in it too.” Their school’s pretty cool because it’s run by industry so they have the industry leaders teaching industry-related stuff instead of these people that are a little bit out of the loop and don’t really know what’s going on so it perfectly aligns with what I’m doing as well so I’ve been working with them for the last 18 months. That really changed everything for me. I was like, “Finally it came through!” That was July 2014.
I got offered my dream job for this magazine in Australia. I’ve always wanted to work for this magazine and I was in the line to be creative director and it was huge. I was like I can’t believe this is even an option right now.
So this was just offered to you…just kind of came through?
Yeah, I was kind of chatting…putting the feelers out there and see what was going on. They were looking for a new creative director at the time. For three weeks I couldn’t sleep. I was like OK, I’m going to work for the magazine, then I was like no! Design Kids. I fought so hard for this. I need to keep it. I’d really swing one way or the other. After three weeks, I just went no. It’s like adopting a ten-year-old child and kicking out your baby. The ten-year-old child belongs to someone else and it has its own values, it’s own thing. I’ve created my own thing and to throw that out at that point, I think is crazy.
At that point I hadn’t had the sponsorship, so it was do I keep doing what I’m doing? I don’t have any money. Keep pushing because I feel like it’s about to come through, or do I just go OK and then I have this awesome job and everyone goes, “Oh cool, you have a great job.” It’s really hard to say no, but I pulled out and said no. That was the best thing I could’ve done.
How did it feel at the time though?
It felt so good! As soon as I made the decision, I was like yep, this is a hundred percent the right thing to do.
We can all definitely learn from that, you know?
Because, there are so many opportunities that come across for a lot of us.
…and I think my thing now is that I work with everyone in the industry so there are a lot of opportunities and staying true to your path is hard when the going gets tough and you’ve got no money and you think this isn’t going anywhere and someone offers you this big shiny job, it’s so easy just to say yes. I was pretty proud of myself. I said no. I felt really good straight away and then the Tractor stuff came through. I was like there it is. Bam. [Laughs]
What is it that goes through your mind? What is it that you think about when the going gets tough? How do you keep yourself on the same path?
I think it comes back to the lifestyle design. I imagine myself a year in advance and what I would be doing. I’d have this awesome flat in Melbourne, in Richmond. I was like, OK, I get up and make breakfast. It’s June/July. It’s cold. It’s going to be rainy, cycle to work. I’m gonna be wearing this coat and I fully imagine the whole thing and I get to work and I’m sitting at this desk and there’s all this cool stuff happening but I’m sitting at a desk and then it’s like warning bells. I don’t like desks. Like, “What is this?” I need to learn from these experiences. I kind of went through my whole day – what that would look like and then I flipped it. I was like what does my day look like if I keep doing what I’m doing? I was like it’s just an easy decision.
So you use a lot of visualization…
I think with the Four Hour Work Week, it comes back how you want to live your life, like what you want to be doing every day. Yesterday, I woke up in Venice and I ran along the beach. I had the most beautiful swim. Then I met a friend from Byron for breakfast at Cafe Gratitude. We had the most amazing food, then I did a couple of studio visits. I met Steven Harrington and the guys at National Forrest.
Then I wandered around and took some pictures of typography, then I did some work and got on top of the emailing and it was just this epic day. I’m trying to create that and that’s what I’m defending, I think.
What’s the kind of work that you do on a daily basis?
With the road trip, it flips between whether I’m in a city or on the road. The idea was to spend 50% on the road and 50% in a city. I don’t necessarily like cities but I love design and it’s hard to separate those things.
A lot of it’s there.
Yeah, I love the freedom of being on the road. As long as I have both it seems like a really good compromise. If I’m in a city, basically checking in with the guys in Australia. So I have Kate doing all my social media, Jen is my new studio manager who kind of looks after everything in Australia and New Zealand. So, check in with them, check in with emails. Get all that stuff done. Then my priority’s here. Studio visits, talking at schools and just getting amongst it design-wise and seeing what’s happening and what events are on and where they’re happening. Conferences…I’m going to this secret pop-up party on Saturday. It’s sick! I like that you can be present and these opportunities just come to you. If I was just going to do The Design Kids from Melbourne and just be emailing people, I don’t have that connection with people. It’s just so wonderful to be here in person. I’m super lucky.
How many people are involved in The Design Kids?
I’m the only full-time person. There’s four part-time people. So I have a developer, I have a really amazing business coach who’s in London – the developer’s in Melbourne. Kate is an awesome typographer, Kate Pullen and she does all my social media. I was doing all of that myself up until May last year, when I came over here. The time difference alone is killer. It’s too hard. My thing was I didn’t want to mentally be in Australia and be physically in America. My computer’s set to Australian time because a lot of the stuff I’m doing is still Australian time but my phone is set to American time because I’m trying to separate them, which is really hard.
How do you do that because when you’re talking about Australia, we’re talking one day ahead.
Yeah. The day ahead thing sucks. My computer just before you arrived said 5:30 in the morning and I was like, yeah, I don’t think that’s right.
How do you manage it?
It’s funny because we did a New Zealand road trip last year and that was awesome because it was the only place we’re actually ahead of time. They’re two hours ahead of Australia. You can start work at 11:00 am and it’s only 9:00 am in Australia. You’re like ahead of the game the whole time. Being in America is really hard because you’re constantly a day behind. I have to work Sundays. Monday’s our biggest day so that’s Sunday here, which kind of sucks because my Sundays are religiously a day of relaxing but that’s okay. That’s the compromise you have to make.
What are the things you do on Monday? Why is it the biggest day?
We send out a massive newsletter. We plan a lot of social media posts for the week, work out what the goals are, kind of aligning everything. It’s important to have that in the beginning of the week and then the rest of the week plays out but Monday is religiously focused.
Very nice. You constantly post things online, you visit a lot of places, you meet a lot of people through The Design Kids. What is the next big thing that you plan on doing with The Design Kids, besides this road trip that you’re doing right now?
The thing with the road trip is that I’m working on the road. I can easily just sit pretty; have the Australian, New Zealand business. My friend lives in Hawaii. She messaged me the other day, she’s like, “Why don’t come here?” I was like I could go to Hawaii. I don’t have to do any of this. I could literally just sit in Hawaii and just do a few hours work and life would be good but that’s not my personality. I’m hunting adventure and excitement and fun. I feel like I’m using all those resources to fund the next adventure. I’ve got eighteen months on the road in America and Canada. The idea is to meet studios, talk at universities, gather all of that information, put it online and move to the next place. I’m building this global site of connections physically.
I’ve got this six-year road trip around the world.
I finish in Portland in October and then I’ve got six months off to go to South America. Then I’m going to Europe for 18 months.
Where in South America are you thinking of going?
Well, South America is a bit of a blur at the moment. I’m not sure if I’m gonna just go there and work from there and keep building the American site or what’s probably gonna happen is I’ll start it there because I can’t help myself. [Laughs]
You’re going physically to these places and you’re meeting people in person, as opposed to sending an email and social media and all that good stuff. There’s only so far you get with social media but when you’re in person face to face, it’s completely different.
The benefits are actually…I didn’t even think about it when I started. Obviously I love my project. I’m really excited about the whole business and when I meet people, they get that energy from me so they’re like, “Yeah! It’s cool. Anything you want.” So it’s like yeah, we’d love to interview you so the students could find out more about how you started out. Can you run a workshop? Can you be in our exhibition? and they’re like, “Yeah, a hundred percent.” I don’t think I ever get no’s. It’s pretty high. I’d say it’s 95%, it’s always yeses. I think people can see your vision and believe in your dream and jump on board that where as if it’s just a cold email. It’s so hard to connect with people.
Very true. You just brought something up that reminded me of this next question. I want to know, how can someone do something similar to this and sustain themselves and be able to survive. You survived. You’ve gone through some struggles. Luckily now you’re in a better position but how to you survive?
It comes down to how you live your life, I think. I have this thing with money where I just remove the money factor. I talk to students and they’re like, “Should I work here or here? I’d earn more money doing this?” I’m like, it’s not about money, especially in design…
How can you really explain that to someone that is thinking about money? When someone says, “It’s not about the money,” for a lot of us it’s so hard to even understand the concept of, what do you mean it’s not the money. I have to pay rent. I have to live, I have to eat, I have to do things. What do you mean it’s not about the money?
I think if you follow your heart and what you are individually are good at then the money will follow. I think if everyone chased the money, they’re not being true to themselves and what their skills are. When I make decisions, I just remove all money aspects. It’s like what do I actually want? What do I want to do every day? Where do I see myself? What do I want people to see me as? I did a kid thing a few years ago where I wrote a future bio, like in ten years. Like Frankie Ratford is blah blah blah. [Laughs]
It was actually really cool. You feel like a bit of a dick doing it. [Laughs]
Why do you feel so bad about it?
Maybe you sound big headed or…I don’t know.
You did this because you wanted to visualize yourself?
Yeah. Expand my goals in life. That was really good just to break out where you are currently to where you’re going.
It’s like getting in a taxi and not knowing where to go. It’s like how will you ever get there. I like this idea of coming up with these ridiculous ideas and just rolling them out.
Can you share some of them?
Yeah, I mean this is an exact one. I think I was on a train somewhere and I was like OK, America. How am I going to do America? I want to do it in sync with what happens in that country. In Australia like —– . So many people have vans and they road trip around Australia and I got to New Zealand. I was trying to get a van and it just wasn’t really working. I was like, “I don’t need a van for this.” I’d just hired my friend Eve and Eve is brilliant. I said to her, “OK, the first option is we’re gonna get this super sexy pale blue VW and cruise around. We’ll make this beautiful film and it will look really cool. Plan B was get an ugly van like budget or something [Laughs] and we just wouldn’t film it. Plan C was borrow someone’s car and that would be our back up. We’ll just have the car. At lease we’ve got transport and we’ll just figure the rest out, and I said, “Or D. We can hitchhike and just camp and sleep wherever.” I’m a huge fan of hitchhiking. She’s like, “I like plan D.” I was like, “I like you!” [Laughs]
We called all the van companies and we were like we don’t want the vans. We flew into Auckland and we spent 3 months around both islands. We were sleeping in people’s gardens in the whole of New Zealand. We slept in pool houses, friends, new people, people that picked us up on the road, industry people. We met an amazing group of people called Curative in Auckland on our second day. Eddy said to us, “Where are you staying?” We were like not sure. She goes, “Move into my house.” We’d just met her and she’s the most beautiful human. Those connections that you make with people. It’s not only work, it’s play as well. I’m all about the people. It’s such a nice way to travel
So yeah, the RV thing, I was on a train.
You were on a train here?
No…I don’t know where I was. I do all of my thinking on transport. I love moving. It could be the shittiest train ever and I’m stoked. If it’s like hey, you got 10 hours on this train I am the happiest human ever. I sit there and daydream and think of all these crazy ideas. I was like, “Oh my god, I’m gonna get an RV in America and it’s gonna be sick. [Laughs]
Then you just have to roll that out so you buy a ticket to America and you buy an RV and you get your friend Will (Bryant) to design it. It just kind of escalates.
Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that because, yeah, Will designed the exterior artwork that’s on the RV which is really awesome. It really stands out. I know that if I were to spot this somewhere, not knowing what it is, I would be like, “Whose is that? I’ve gotta talk to that person. What’s happening?”
It’s pretty funny because in Australia Design Kids has got a place in the industry. I can say, “Hey, I’m from The Design Kids,” and people would go, “Alright! Let’s do this.” In America it’s like who the hell are you. No concept of me or what I’m doing or anything. So it’s like OK, how do I get their attention and leverage something they do know. Having someone as high profile as Will design the van means that people hear about it. When I got to San Fran, I was at lunch with like 10 people – I only knew one of them – and I think it was Erik from Friends of Type who reaches across the table…
Yeah. And he goes, “Are you driving that RV?” [Laughs]
I was like, “Yes!” And then like instant buddies. “Oh, I’m friends with Will and blah blah blah,” and it’s like all these connections had come literally just out of the pattern on the side of the van. For that it’s really worked and it’s pretty crazy. If you’re going to have a crazy RV, might as well make it awesome.
It’s a classic.
It is. 1974.
There you go. Cool little RV!
With fake wood interior
That’s seventies, right?
Yeah so seventies. We even have an 8-track behind you.
No way! Diamonds and Rust here. Does it work?
We may have got drunk and broken it slightly, but you know it’s temperamental now. Sometimes it works. That’s not going down too well. It chewed the Beach Boys. We were so sad. It fully ate it.
You’re a big fan of Tim Ferris and the Four Hour Work Week and that way of doing things. He’s a cool guy, really interesting. He does a lot of interesting things, but for some reason, maybe it’s because of the folks I’ve come across who are all about Tim Ferris but they’re like marketing…you know what I’m saying?
It’s refreshing to see that you take his approach and you’re making it your own in a way. Do you have any recommendations on books or resources or other things that you look up to that continue to inspire you to keep going with your project.
A hundred percent. Going back to the Tim Ferris thing quickly, I remember recommending him to a friend about a year ago and he read it and he goes, “Awe, I hated it.” I was like, “Why did you hate it?” He goes, “I don’t wanna do tango dancing.” I was like that’s not the point! The point is you can do what you want. That’s kind of the baseline but it was so literal in the way he’d take it on. I think the book is quite unemotional. It’s very, “Do A B and C and you’ll get D.”
Yeah. But I think with anything, you just take on the bits you need and for me it was really eye opening that you can design your life and have exactly what you want. His core thing is work out what you want. Work out how much it costs, find something to cover that money and then do it. That’s as simple as it is. Yeah, so great.
Resource wise, the last 3 years I’ve been trying to read a book a week. I love reading. I spend way too much time on the screen and…
As we all do.
Oh, a hundred percent, so my happy place is physical books. I think 2014 I read 49 books out of 52. Last year, same. This year I’m gonna smash it.
What kind of books are you reading?
They’re a mix. It’s on my Instagram, actually. It just says 52 books for 2015. You can see all the ones I’ve read, what I thought of it. It kind of keeps me accountable because people go, ah, you don’t really do that. I’m like, no, for real. That’s happening. They’re a mix. I just spent two months off in Tasmania and all the books…not business-focused. Not ideas and hardcore. It’s kind of this chill out zone where I’m just like whatever, I’ll read anything. You can tell the times when I’m really focused because it’s just back to back business books. I’m reading the one over there about productivity [points to book]. Chris Baily. That’s this week’s book.
Nice cover too.
Yeah, it’s alright. I’m not sure about that typeface. [Laughs]
The book thing’s really cool because I get to take from each one and add it to my life, so I’m continually learning. My top three books, Tim Ferris would be number one. Based on efficiency, working out what you need to do and getting it done. Number two would be Walden. So that was written in the 1800’s. Obviously you’re American and it’s sort of a big deal hear. A lot of my Australian friends don’t know about it. He lived in the woods because life is too stressful. I think what I get from that book is just simplicity. Coming back to what’s the point and what are we all doing here? I found it really grounding. It’s really great. The other of my top three would be Malcom Gladwell, Outliers. I think that comes down to success and timing. He talks about 10,000 hours and doing what you love and doing your 10,000 hours because you love it and then timing it right so that after you’re 3 1/2 years in, it aligns with the need in the market. Then you’re in the right place at the right time and boom, off you go.
I really feel like that’s an amazing lesson. I didn’t start The Design Kids because…I don’t know, I started it because I was passionate about it and I’ve always been following that passion. I’ve been true to it. I feel like now, six years in, it’s all coming together. Education’s a really hot space. Design, it’s kind of all this big melting pot and I’m six years in. It’s awesome.
You’re a voracious reader. That’s really admirable. Reading a book every week? Man, I struggle to read a book every month now. Do you have any pointers on how to keep up?
Yeah, I think if you set that goal then you can make it happen. I used to go on holiday and I’d knock out 15 books in 10 days and really enjoyed it. It was like switching off time. Then I’d go back to working and get caught up in everything and I think it’s like everything. Just making the time. Having the Instagram thing makes me accountable. I feel like if I don’t read to share it, someone’s going to be like, “Hey, you didn’t really do that thing.”
It’s like to make because I make it look nice and it keeps me on the mission. Really, I just enjoy it. I love reading so much.
What advice do you have for any artists who want to take a leap and want to do something on their own, as opposed to working at an office. I’ve come across several people who have…what some people consider a good job. They’re at a place but they want to do something else. Make a difference in the world or make a difference in the community. Any advice?
I think how you said “good job” is really interesting. Who thinks that’s good? Does everyone else think that’s good or does your mom thinks that’s good or do your friends? Do you look cool? What’s the rationale behind that. If it’s not good for you then I don’t think it’s good for anyone. That’s what I found with my job. Everyone thought it was the best thing ever except me. I have a friend in Melbourne called Kit. I always talk about her in my talk. Kit Palaskas. She makes giant pizza slices out of paper. That’s her job. She’s become the paper queen of Australia. She does workshops and she does window displays and she sells products. That’s her little niche that she’s carved out.
I think being so true to what you’re skillset is a beautiful thing and you fund that however you have to. If you have to get a job two days a week like I was doing in Brisbane, that’s totally fine. You don’t tell people you do that. My Instagram account before would be like, oh I’m just doing The Design Kids…no one needs to know that. It’s what you’re presenting to the world and you as a brand. If everyone could just do what they were meant to do on this planet, everyone would be pretty stoked on life.
How can someone find what they’re meant to do?
What that is?
I guess a lot of soul searching. I feel from travelling a lot, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I want and who I am. I’m not sure. I think it’s a personal thing. You just have to drill down. I meet students all the time…I’ve got an email this morning saying, “Hi, I wanna work in these studios,” and I was like, no. This is a bad idea. “This isn’t your skill.” You pick these studios because they’re cool and you want to work in them but that’s not who you are.” Really, you have to look at who you are because as soon as you focus on that, then the right people will be attracted to you because you’re killing it in your area. That’s what I want to do with The Design Kids. Encourage people to understand the design industry and all the hundreds of different options their are and look at themselves, what their skillset is, then align those.
Be so good they can’t ignore you.
Yeah, hundred percent.
But you have to make sure you love it and you’re enjoying it and that you’re destined to do. That it’s something you want to do. There’s so many different elements that come together to live by this philosophy. I have to admit, that’s the way I feel at the moment. I’m just trying to see where do I land?
What’s the next big thing? You’re just gonna cover the world.
Yeah. I’m really interested in meeting other people. I had a really good meeting yesterday and Paris came up a lot so I’m pretty high up to getting back over there. I’m from England so that’d be cool. I’d be based a lot closer to my family. I’m already thinking of vehicles. I’m thinking maybe a convertible could be pretty cool, but yeah, that my change. We’ll see how it goes. That’s the mission. After that, I don’t know. I don’t want my life to be The Design Kids. I want The Design Kids to be a chapter in my life. Then I’d do something completely different and have these various lives because as soon as it’s boring to me, I’m sure it would be boring to other people. As long as you keep that excitement high…the dream is it becomes a global resource in every design school. I’ve done lecturing and it’s really hard to keep up to date. Who’s working where and who’s doing what. The lecturers just concentrate on what they’re teaching and then they say, “Hey, if you want industry stuff, head over to The Design Kids.”
The dream would be that an LA student could go and work in Melbourne or they could get an internship in Stockholm. They could see what events are on in New York and it just becomes this huge resource for students. That’s the dream.
Amazing. I love how you’re thinking of reinvention. This is one chapter. The next chapter, I want to do something totally different. Love that.
How can people find you online or in person?
Physically, quite hard. Online, much easier. My personal Instagram is @frankieratford and it’s documenting the whole trip. @thedesignkids is our other Instagram. That’s for the whole company. There’s a lot of Australian content and snippets of what I am doing here as it ramps up. We have Twitter and Facebook. Everything’s thedesignkids.
I’m just in awe of everything you’re doing. I’m almost intimidated to ask more questions because you covered, like, everything. Also because I’m like…it’s making me want to get up and leave. Get out.
I’m recruiting people to get on the bus, so…
Leave my desk job [Laughter]
It’s amazing the amount of designers I’ve met. All the trips where they are coming co-driving. Me a hundred percent then it’s a combination of different people for different legs. A whole list of people. It’s like this is epic. Can I come? I’m like sure, that’s the whole point because it’s just me, that’s kind of boring. If it was just me and the same person, that’s kind of boring and I like the intimacy of travelling with people and camping and really getting to know them. It’s such a huge part of the trip so you’re welcome to come, Cesar.
Thank you, I’m honored! Thank you for being on the show!
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