Mentorship 2021 - Josiah and Milk

Students who win a Gold Pin at the Best Awards are offered, along with a cash prize, a mentorship with the studio that has sponsored their specific category. Here we delve into Milk’s mentorship of Josiah Rees – winner of the Student – Graphics category in the Best Awards 2020.

A mentorship can be a high-speed escalator on a young person’s career path.

In the best of cases, it can offer valuable industry contacts, insights into the craft of more seasoned practitioners and, perhaps more importantly, practical skills which can translate into confidence and improved work performance.

All these are highly valuable skills and assets which might take years to gather through standard, in-house graduate roles.

To this end DINZ has for a number of years been offering students who win a Gold Pin at the Best Design Awards a mentorship with the studio that sponsored their specific category.

In 2020, after winning the Student – Graphics category for a ‘A Font for Christchurch,’ DINZ paired Josiah Rees (Ara Institute of Canterbury) with the category sponsors Milk.

“There were never any rules around it,” says Milk’s creative director Sarah Melrose, “the first time we had a meet and greet and then we just worked with him on what he was going to get the most out of from the mentorship,” she continues.

This organic approach led to fortnightly, hour-long sessions in which different members of the Milk team would catch up – through Zoom as Josiah was already working in Christchurch – to explore the studio's current projects and their individual contributions.

Sarah: “This was a really good opportunity to take him through all the different facets of what we do and all the different parts of design,” she says, alluding to the many layers and dimensions of any given project. “Part of the mentorship with us was [about] going through projects from creative strategy, right through all the phases and through to output because when you're starting out, you often don't know where you want to end up, or what interests you.” 

“It was cool to see the big picture!” says Josiah, admitting to having experienced some “tunnel vision” during the early stages of his first graduate job and how the mentorship’s multiplicity of voices, perspectives, and specialisations gave him a clearer picture of “each individual facet, all the different parts and how they work and complement each other” in a studio setting, according to Josiah.

More importantly perhaps, was that broadening of professional horizons; giving a recent graduate a glimpse behind the stage curtain and at the many, rich roles – from strategy and branding to typography and illustration – he might one day like to perform there. 

Given Josiah’s Gold Pin-winning interest in fonts, Milk’s design director Anthony Hos quickly became a crucial go-to mentor for the budding designer. Anthony’s passion for lettering has been widely documented and, in 2019, New York’s Type Directors Club named him one of ten, global “designers under the age of 35 who show remarkable achievement in typography, type design, and lettering”, according to the club’s website.

Josiah: “Type was something that I was interested in as a student, and I wanted to grow in, but I didn't really see it as practical… like something that you could actually pursue commercially. But then talking to Hos and how his approach actually enabled him to include this in his work and push it to clients... that kind of made me think ‘this is actually something that could happen’!” he says, “it's been a bit of a motivation... stirring the fires a little bit!”.

According to Anthony and Sarah, that motivation was not entirely one-sided and even the mentors themselves saw significant benefits to the process.

“Some of our younger designers don't present in front of clients yet,” explains Sarah, “so it was a really good opportunity to throw them in and go: ‘Hey, I would like you to do an hour-long presentation on that job you did’. It was a great opportunity for us to help grow that talent, get them presenting, get them understanding how to communicate and how to lead.”

Anthony seconds that motion and explains how personally satisfying it was to work with Josiah, sharing stories and a mutual passion for craft: “It was really refreshing to see someone who was just so hungry to learn more. [I enjoyed] that kind of attitude, that desire and that hunger!”

As for any words of advice that Josiah can impart for potential, future mentees?

“Do your research on the specific studios and learn as much as you can about what each team member does there, follow up, keep in touch and remember people are way more generous with their time and with the resources, than, as students, you expect. You kind of live in your own world as a student and you think the industry is so far away, but being able to actually know that the person on the other end of the email is a human being who can and wants to help you out has been really refreshing.”

DINZ Interviews

When the opportunity arises, DINZ interviews leading designers from here and overseas. These interviews seek to dig beneath the surface to address the common and uncommon challenges, problems and opportunities the design community faces.