Designer Interviews: Terry Chisholmby Alana Broadhead on 22/06/2012
Expat kiwi Terry Chisholm is working and playing hard in Sydney, spending his days at multi-award-winning creative agency The Monkeys, and nights and weekends into his own art and product design projects. He spoke to me about inspiration, career plans and watching Ricky Lake…
For those not familiar with you and your work, can you please fill us on what you do and whom you do it for?
I currently design for Sydney based creative agency ‘The Monkeys’ (formally Three Drunk Monkeys), you may have heard Justin & Scott speak this year at Semi Permanent & yes I’m the guy they made fun of & yes there will be retribution. I have also been credited for Art Direction, ninja-esque back flipping, muffin throwing & awkwardly hovering behind people while they work. In my own time I am a practising artist and exhibit near on a monthly basis, mainly in Australia but I have exhibited internationally also. Currently I am working on a new solo show incorporating 30,000 spray can nozzles & developing a few products.
Tell us the story of how you came to be a designer?
I will try keep this short – like my cat milking career. I used to be a boat builder for Americas Cup, one day I fell down a set of stairs and out a window and broke my neck, I had 6 months paid leave off work due to this. As amazing as sleeping in until mid-day, stuffing my face with food & watching to see if Tyrone is the real father on Ricky Lake sounds, it soon became routine & dull. Suddenly the Internet fairy visited me and I was captivated by her magic. Anyone who knows me well enough knows I was always into creativity, so while I was having to wear a ridiculous looking neck brace and not wanting to be seen in public, I locked myself away & taught myself design, vitamin D levels were at an all time low and I came out looking like I’d been dipped in bleach.
If you weren’t a graphic designer, what other form of creative expression do you think you’d choose?
Easy, 1st choice is obviously ‘Releaser of the Hounds’, isn’t that everyones first?
2nd: Industrial designer. I think having been in the marine industry making physical functional objects I guess I am revisiting the side of me which enjoyed creating objects I can actually hold. In saying that, I am currently developing a number of products with the team at Vert Design over here in Sydney so I am kind of doing it.
What’s the biggest professional lesson you’ve learnt and how has it shaped your career?
Don’t ask what people like, ask what they don’t like. This way you will be designing something truly yours and not something based off someone else’s work. This has helped me create some unique work.
Never eat the last piece of free food at meetings, otherwise you’re obliged to clean up.
Spot trending design styles so you can avoid them.
If it’s predictable, change it.
How does the Australian design community/industry differ from the NZ one?
You only have to see the streets of Melbourne to answer this question. There seems to be alot more going on over here to be inspired by, more exhibitions & far more opportunities, I think its partly due to a larger population though. In regards to commercial design (in advertising) I think New Zealand designers & art directors are allowed to push the boundaries far more for their clients, the clients here seem to play it alot safer, again I think thats due to population and the amount of money they are pouring into a campaign. I guess you have to take into account that I am working for clients who are Australia wide (Sydney alone has a similar population to the whole of NZ) and in some cases this work goes international so the work has to be well received for a very wide audience.
What has been the coolest experience of your career so far?
A few so far are:
Having my work chosen for the cover of the 2011 Semi Permanent book.
Having commercial work I created for BBC published in a book to show how to execute nonlinear design.
Awards are always nice.
Being part of/showing work at Sydney’s annual light show ‘Vivid’ this year.
So many more, I have been very fortunate & seem to always land in the right place at the right time.
Where do you go or what do you do to get inspiration flowing?
I dont believe design is a job, it’s a lifestyle for me so I often see everyday things that can spark an idea off, for instance a friend smashed a glass at a pub and it formed what looked like an ampersand, from seeing that I developed a font called Smash & Grab, the same happened with a spider web I saw. A lot of design experimenting helps as I find ideas can happen accidentally. Humour & playfulness plays a big part in what I create so if someone says something funny it can bring a basic idea into my head which I evolve and refine over time. I also surf all the usual blogs & sites, inspiration is everywhere if you look for it.
What was the last thing you saw or experienced that got you really creatively excited?
Saw: Dominique Falla’s tactical typography string work.
Experienced: Semi Permanent a few weks ago.
Name a designer or design studio you admire, and why?
A few people have asked me this and I always say Alex Trochut & Jasper Goodall. Reason being is that they manage to start design trends every time they drop some new work which reverberate around the world.
What is your dream for your career – where would you like to take it?
Long term, having my personal work exhibited in the Saatchi Gallery.
Creating some of my own books.
What are you working on at the moment?
I can’t go into details sorry but a few clients I am designing for are: Sydney Opera House, Guide Dogs, IKEA, Intel & The Caxton Awards to name a few.
Personally I am working on an art series using 30,000 NY Fat Caps (spray can nozzles) which has already taken me over 1.5 years developing.
A handful of products & a bunch of other art pieces.
And finally, tell us something awesome.
I bought 4 ceramic scary looking clown faces & I hide them under peoples desks so when they go to grab something it scares the shit out of them. Putting them in the reflection of mirrors is always a laugh too.
These are a little old but still great: