Life & Style

Pocket Design

A brand designer, sign painter, gold leaf gilder, curator, artist and more.

Moor Café, The Ori, Civic Theatre, Doughheads…you don’t have to venture very far in Newcastle to see some of Brett’s work on display!

Beginning as a sign-writing apprentice, Brett then went on to study Graphic Design at the University of Newcastle before forging a career in advertising in London and then Sydney.

“I got to a level I wanted to get to and then realised I didn’t really like the advertising industry and jumped ship and started Pocket [Design].”

Pocket Design is a Newcastle based graphic design and creative studio run by Brett and now working alongside him is junior designer, Renee, who “is pretty much side by side with me on most projects now which is awesome.”

Although Brett has clients both nationally and internationally he admits, “I love the local mentality, the conversation, getting to run into those clients which is awesome, building a network and a group of guys you can hang out with.”

Growing up in Griffith, Brett admits that there were “just not too many opportunities and no opportunities to express yourself.”

Have you found those opportunities here (Newcastle), rather than Sydney or Melbourne?
Definitely, it is here but I don’t think enough of it is here. I guess that is why I have the conference (MAKEit MADEit), it is to bring more people here and more energy to the city, get speakers here that normally wouldn’t come to this city and share their practices.

MAKEit MADEit was started by Brett 3 years ago. The conference hosts a diverse and unique group of creative speakers. “It is definitely an educational platform. I ask all the speakers to share inside tips into their practice, so they are giving away a few of their secrets, which is pretty bold of them”.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I don’t want to say funds because it just sounds crap, but it definitely is. The first year cost me a fortune but you're not going to get anywhere unless you give it a real go. So this year I finally feel like we are going to just break even or have a little bit on top that would allow us to bring in a new element into the conference.

Through Pocket Design you specialise in gold leaf, tell me a bit about that?
Gold leaf is one of the most elegant forms of signage that you can ever possibly create. A lot of the signage I do isn’t practiced by many people these days, it’s because it does take a bit longer than typing something in, pressing go and it prints it out and then you're on the job site.

It is real 23 carat gold, or 12 carat or 18 carat depending on what effect you want. So it is a longer process but you won't get a better result in any other way.

I did about 12 months practice non stop every week just to get to a point where I am happy with it before I did my first gold leaf job for a client.

It was a lot of self-taught and practice but never really feeling confident with it. I probably spent about $5000 on courses to learn this stuff and get more confident. I was trained under Dave Smith. He did a class in New Zealand and he’s probably recognised as one of the best gold leaf lettering artists in the world.

As the business has grown I have brought new practices. If I’m not trying something new and different and bringing something to Newcastle then I don’t really see the point in moving ahead.

What would be your advice for people getting into the design industry?
Stick with it, find something you are interested in that is industry focused and just get moving with that, practice that, get better at it and while you are getting better at that find the next thing. And then it becomes this pattern of you're moving ahead so well in basic logo design, and then you’re into a more structured logo design, and then you get into illustration and that is moving along and sooner or later you become a multi disciplinary designer with a skill set that can be really hard to beat. The more skills you are rewarding yourself with practice, the easier it is to find a job I think.

Is it hard finding a job in the design industry in Newcastle?
Definitely. There are a lot of studios in town but they are small scale. There are larger agencies as well but it depends if you want a job that might pigeon hole you in some sense. Or might not give you that creative freedom.

How have you noticed digital and technology impacting your industry as it has evolved over the years?
My last job I was a senior digital designer. Completely different to what I am doing now. I thought that was where I was going to end up. If you can do print and digital, you have a better chance of getting a job, depending on where you want to work. If you work for Pocket we don’t care for digital. I am definitely the most different design studio in Newcastle, but I have created that. So it is hard to know what the industry is doing.

Everyone is going digital, but I don’t really give a f#$k, I am just so analog at the moment! I am just more appreciative of going old school, I feel like I am just keeping it real.

Pocket Design