Monday, March 17, 2008

Interview - Seesaw Design

Poster and website design for Kate Alexa (Liberation Records). I really love that yellow diagonal stripe with the black and white...

Globe promotional material

Gallaz print campaign

Corporate identity and signage

Mode promotional material
Wrangler print campaign

Seesaw Design is a boutique graphic design company based in North Melbourne. It was set up in 2003 by Anita McArthur and Matthew McKenzie, who met whilst studying at RMIT. I'm always interested to hear the story behind creative start-up businesses, and the point at which they took the plunge and went out on their own. In Anita's case, I was interested to hear that only 2 years after graduating, Anita and Matthew were already gaining so much freelance work that they didn't have time to continue working 9-5 for somebody else! This is a testament to Seesaw's talents and professionalism in looking after their clients.

Seesaw handle a real variety of projects and clients - everything from fashion and T-shirt graphics, to web design, advertising and print media, and film graphics. I first came across Seesaw whilst working on Channel 10's Thank God You're Here... they used to do a lot of our graphics... which was an absolutely endless task - often with quite unrealistic deadlines! Each week there'd be at least 2 if not more scenarios that would require a lot of graphic signage... Anita would often get our brief with only a couple of days to complete the job... then they'd do a range of logos etc, and we'd print these on adhesive vinyl or canvas to dress in to the sets. Seesaw were so patient and professional in dealing with all of our endless demands and last minute changes... and no matter how crazy our requests, Anita always came through!

Read on to learn more about Anita's creative inspirations, the challenges she faced in setting up her company, and the perks of running your own business - like having pets in the office!

Tell me a little about your background - what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I originally completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Science straight after High School. A few of my friends at the time were studying graphic design and I knew that was what I really wanted to do. So I went on to study a Bachelor of Communication Design at RMIT. At RMIT I met my business partner Matthew McKenzie and we always dreamed of one day opening a studio together. About two years later after collaborating on many freelance jobs and working together at another studio, we started Seesaw.

What were the main challenges you faced in starting up your own company? How did you take the leap from working for someone else to going out on your own?

I think the decision to go out of our own happened pretty organically, we both started receiving so much freelance work that working nine to five for someone else just became too difficult. Initially the hardest thing was trying to be creative while attempting to run a business. We figured out pretty quickly book keeping wasn’t our forte.

What are some of your projects/clients that we might be familiar with?

We are really lucky to have a diverse range of clients, from fashion and music though to finance, not for profit, architecture and engineering clients. Some of our more recognisable clients include Wood Marsh Architecture, Wrangler, Body Bronze, Gallaz, Globe, Mooks, Bettina Liano, Marshall Baker Homes, Liberation Music and Variety the children’s charity. We have also worked on a number of TV shows including Channel Ten’s Thank God You’re Here.

How do you approach a brief initially – Do you turn to books, magazines or websites for initial inspiration? Do you brainstorm your ideas with your colleagues or prefer to work independently?

After meeting with the client and learning about their business and direction, we start with brain storming and researching by looking at relevant books, magazines or websites. We then come up with a plan of attack and one of us takes the job through to completion while still bouncing ideas around the rest of the studio. The team is quite small so there is no real hierarchy, rather we all work together to make sure the job is completed with the best result, on time and budget.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

So many people inspire us, the design culture in Melbourne is amazing. We are really lucky to have incredibly talented contacts and friends who work in architecture, interior design, photography, illustration and fashion.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Every morning starts at about 9am with a coffee. Then pretty much everyday is different.

What are you most proud of professionally?

There are many jobs we are truly proud of but most of all I am really proud of our client relationships. I also love the fact we work with great charities. There is nothing nicer than knowing that the work you create directly helps someone.

Where do you find inspiration?

Gosh, we find inspiration everywhere. From friends, magazines, architecture, interior design....a beautiful chair, old signage, a colour palette, found type. Pretty much anything.

What's the best thing about your job?

The freedom to pick and choose who we work with.

Oh and having pets at work.

And the worst?

Tight deadlines and unreasonable clients. Thankfully that doesn’t happen too often.

What would be your dream project?

It would be a complete re-branding job with a completely open brief. Oh and one with an endless budget!

What are you looking forward to – professionally or personally?

Professionally - growing our team, working on exciting new projects and moving into our new dream studio. Personally - getting married in December.

Melbourne Questions –

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

The Aviary - Victoria Street, Abbotsford

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Normally wake up late, walk up to Errol Street in North Melbourne, stock up on magazines and grab a coffee from the lovely Fandango.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret!


  1. Your interview with Anita was very informative and gave a real insight into the workings of a boutique design studio. I am now much more informed and found your interview extremely interesting. Anita was very candid and open about her business and I must congratulate here and here fiance on their pending marriage in December.

  2. hey thanks for your kind words! I'm sure Anita will thank you too for your well wishes :) I really appreciate your comment!

  3. I have such a girl crush on Anita! Thank you for the nice write up.

  4. thanks for your comment :) Yes Anita is a very inspiring lady. I hope she's reading these comments! x