New Designs

Small-towner Sinead Murphy forged a career in fashion, but at 29, clothes no longer cut it

_DSC4341Graphic design was the go, so she enrolled in a course and created a new path, which now includes the emerging talent gong from the prestigious Create Awards.


Your journey started in fashion, where you wrangled an internship at New York’s Proenza Schouler. Do tell…

I had always worked for trend-led labels, so when working for the people who were actually creating the trends, I found their design process so creative and artistic. They’d go to costume shops, hire fencing uniforms and go travelling to all these crazy places. It made me think, ‘how do you get from that inspiration to a design?’ When I came back to Melbourne, it was so different. The labels I was working for were fast fashion, made in China, go, go, go sort of stuff. I realised that my passion had been for the creative process, rather than the industry.

So you enrolled in a design course?

Being a bit older, I just liked getting the job done. I didn’t want to go and do a three-year degree and had already made the decision to live away from the city, so I enrolled at Shillington College, which seemed perfect for me. It was intensive and covered everything!


What’s the best thing your studies taught you?

That there’s a method and a process to designing. The way they taught everything was so methodical and structured. By the end of it, because you practiced everything, you learned so much and it was all just instilled in you.

You hit the ground running as a freelancer and started your own studio. Were you ready?

When I was freelancing, my heart would sink a little bit with every task. I’d think ‘oh God, do I know how to do what they’re asking me to do?’ But every single thing they asked me I knew because of Shillington. My studio, Lovelock [based in Port Fairy, Victoria], was what I’d always wanted to do. I think rural areas are really lacking creative storytellers doing visual communication, and after the course, I felt like I knew what I was doing. It’s been really great, I’ve had lots of clients and lots of different projects.


What’s your favourite part of the design process?

I still get butterflies when I get a brief. I love the initial research and development part, where anything is possible.

How have you found the balance of designer and businesswoman?

It’s all really fun and I’m learning so much. It’s challenging working by myself because I have to be the designer, but also the creative director, marketer… You have to have a pretty clear idea of where you’re going with something and not waste too much time on it.


What’s in your tool kit?

I couldn’t get through the day without my Pentel P205 pacer and a sketchbook. Sketching is so important for me because it sets a tone that’s unique to me right from the start. I also couldn’t work without my iMac, Magic Mouse, Adobe Creative Suite, paint brushes, ink, ruler, tea pot, reference books and magazines, camera and a ball of wool to keep my dog hilariously entertained and tangled.

How do you recharge creatively?

Just being outside and setting limitations. I leave my phone downstairs, go out and walk my dog or go to the beach before I start work.


Any tips for freelancers?

I got freelance work by contacting a studio and asking if they’d view my folio and give me some advice. I was so surprised that a busy creative director would take time out of their day to see me, but it’s just what they do, so people should take advantage of that.

And what’s the best advice you’ve received?

Always question whether something can be better. It’s what a senior designer taught me when I was in fashion. She had the most amazing attention to detail and high expectations of me, so I had to be very dedicated and have this great work ethic – which has hopefully continued!


Photography: Sheree Dubois

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