PDINZ Interview - Tristan O'Shannessy

An existing Member (DINZ) who has gained up to five years experience as a practising designer and attained a high level of professional competency in their design sector. A Professional Peer Review must be carried out by a selected panel to acknowledge this Professional Membership (PDINZ).

PDINZ Interview wirh Tristan O'Shannessy
Interview by Federico Monsalve

FM: Why PDINZ now
Tristan: I was nominated by our Executive Creative Director, Ryan Marx for the title (thanks Ryan). I’d like to think it’s come at an appropriate time in my professional development and involvement with the NZ design community.  

FM: What do you hope to contribute as PDINZ?
Tristan: We are super lucky here in NZ to have a very healthy and supportive design community. Anything I can do to add value to the community, I am up for... Cathy, just let me know!

 FM: What is your role at Marx Design and what does a ‘standard’ day look like for you?
Tristan: My day always starts with coffee. Always. Other than that, there is not a ‘standard’ day for me in the studio. My role puts me in a few different places. Most days there are client meetings or presentations, with plenty of internal catch ups on the various jobs moving through the studio with our fantastic accounts staff, and checking in with the design team on their progress. I’m also lucky enough to still be ‘on the tools’ quite a bit - I still love designing, working with type and layout, so that’s something I’m definitely keen to keep as part of my role.  

FM: Where do you see your strength as a creative director?Tristan: I make pretty good coffee which wins a few brownie points. I’ve been lucky enough to gain experience in quite a few aspects of design, with a varied project base to draw experience from. Early in my career I worked with a small team and have looked after many aspects of the design process that bigger studios would have separate rolls for, such as copyrighting, retouching and finished art. Having a good understanding of all the steps in the process helps me guide people working in those various areas. 

FM: What are the main tools of your trade and are there tools you are keeping in your radar/hope to upskill to?
Tristan: I feel I’m slowly getting on top of various aspects of my role, but there is always more to learn as roles evolve and develop. Directing designers is a constant learning experience, and each designer you work with requires a tailored approach to get the best from them. That’s something that will perpetually be in development as you work with new teams. Having never been a business owner myself, I also have plenty to learn in regards to the various dark arts of business management. New business and managing clients to keep projects on track are current work-ons for me. Luckily, I’m in a good place to learn.

FM: You studied fine arts - (painting) how do you feel this influences your own design practice?
Tristan: I wouldn’t want to play up my experience in fine arts. It’s probably fair to say I was a misguided youth who fell into art school and was lucky enough to have a couple of ‘shows’. I worked out pretty early that it wasn’t the best place for me, and after a break, I went back to university to study graphic design and haven’t really looked back… though sometimes I dream of a return to fine art. I think, generally speaking, having an understanding of the academic and conceptual aspects of fine arts brings value to most careers and life as a whole. It’s influence on my design work is hard for me to define, but I strongly believe that the best work has depth and intelligence which is driven by a strong concept and educated decisions.

FM: How was that transition between the two?
Tristan: Like polar opposites: As I said, I was misguided when I was at art school and when I went to study design I was the model student, and I loved it from the start.  I had three years off in between, so there wasn’t really a transition as such.

 FM: During your PDINZ interview you spoke about the importance of chemistry or clicking between designer and client, care to elaborate?
Tristan: When I look back over my career, all the most successful projects, both commercially and in regards to awards and accolades, have been with clients with whom I share a mutual respect and trust. I think designers should always be open to learning from their clients, and in any good relationship that learning will go both ways. Mutual respect and understanding generally leads to great results. 

FM: You also helped design the Best Awards campaign last year. How was that process and any highlights? Tristan: The Best Awards campaign for 2020 was a really rewarding (if not slightly terrifying) project. Creatively, we saw it as an opportunity to deliver something that didn’t conform to traditional design commercial communication values. Essentially, we didn’t mind if people didn’t get it – we wanted to provoke emotions and feelings from it. The idea was a slow release, coming together over the course of the campaign, and ultimately only understood on the night. Given the length and complexity of the campaign, it was surprisingly smooth, largely thanks to DINZ being a dream client. The highlight would have to have been hearing someone behind me gasp ‘that is so weird’ after the intro video was played at the event. Mission accomplished.

Marx Design studio

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.