Year Graduation / Grade
2002 / 1st
Mike is a British graphic designer living and working in Sydney. He began his career at The Chase – one of the UK’s most creatively awarded design consultancies. He loved it so much he stayed for over 4 years, leaving in 2006 to travel extensively.
In the years since, Mike has worked for Pentagram London, True North and Landor, joining Interbrand Australia as a Creative Director in 2010. As part of a fantastic team Mike has helped to establish the studio as one of the most creative in Asia. Recently picking up the Campaign Asia-Pacific Specialist Agency of the Year Award.
Mike has been fortunate enough to win over 40 international design awards for brand identity, packaging, direct mail, advertising, marketing and design effectiveness.
In 2012 Mike has continued his awards success with in-book for D&AD, Best of Show at the Brand New Awards, recognition of typographic excellence by the Type Directors Club and is the recent winner of The Bill Bernbach Award for Creative Brilliance. An award that recognises the most creative individual within the DDB group.
Mike is a council member and strategic advisor to the Australian Graphic Design Association NSW (AGDA).
Clients include: TATE, The National Portrait Gallery London, Adidas, Queensland Art Gallery, The World Gold Council, Argyle Pink Diamonds, The New Theatre, Alzheimer’s Australia, Telstra, SKY and AGDA.
Hello Mike. How and where did you secure your first job?
Hello TDOD. I was very fortunate to be offered a job at The Chase by the great Ben Casey having completed a placement there between my second and third year. I had a few other offers from London agencies but The Chase always felt like my spiritual home so it was an easy decision to join full time.
What was it like starting out?
It was exciting. There was a new generation coming through at The Chase and we all wanted to add our own small chapter to the significant history of the agency. We did some good work, won some awards, drank a lot, had a laugh and looked out for each other.
Looking back, I learned a hell of a lot, and I still carry The Chase principles of ‘a great idea, well crafted’ into every new project I begin today. Simplicity above all else – communication not decoration.
University taught me how to think, The Chase taught me how to design.
Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
Absolutely. Preston has given me much; lifelong friends, a philosophical framework and many unforgettable memories (and hangovers).
To me it’s always felt like being part of a big family and I’m genuinely proud to say that I studied at Preston. You only need to see the calibre of graduates the course has produced over the years and the positions they now hold. Look into many of the UK’s most successful design studios and you will usually find a Preston student there – from Pentagram partners to the Creative Director of Apple Europe – it’s clear the influence of the ‘Preston Mafia’ runs deep within our industry.
How has the industry changed over the last 10 years in your experience?
There have of course been some significant shifts; from Corporate Identity to Brand, from traditional media to digital and social media…etc.
It’s an industry that is and should always be changing. That’s what design is: it’s a search for new and better ways of doing things. It’s part of our job to understand and embrace new technology and thinking. Therefore you should always feel on the front foot.
Having said that, there are things that will never change… Bob Gill put it best by saying ‘now that everything’s different, nothing has changed’. In other words, we will always need great ideas, executed well.
So how do you generate those ideas?
Of course you should look for ideas anywhere and everywhere but the truth is they often come when you stop looking! Reading a book, taking a walk, watching a film having a conversation…etc.
I’ve always found the more interesting my personal life, the better my ideas. It’s one of the many pleasures of being a designer; your personal interests can inspire your professional output. It’s therefore crucial to make time for outside influence. Think of the books you read, the films you watch, the people you meet and the events you go to as fuel for your next idea.
Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
Starting out at The Chase we would usually get a few days thinking time and then come together as a group to choose which ideas were worth pursuing.
These days I’m far more likely to be generating ideas in small teams of 3-4 people. This does rely on having a good creative rapport with the other collaborators. I’m very fortunate to share a strong design ideal with the creative team at Interbrand Australia.
What’s the best thing about branding?
It’s often said that a brand is a lot like a person, to which I would add that branding is about finding the best in that person.
We try to work with clients that have something important to share; be it an important message, a brilliant idea or a great product. It’s really rewarding to help communicate something worthwhile.
All of this does mean choosing our projects carefully and I’m happy to say that we politely decline far more work than we take up.
And the worst?
Looooong hours I’m afraid.
What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
My family, friends and mentors. I have been fortunate to work with people like Andy Bainbridge, Peter Richardson, Alan Herron, Lionel Hatch and Ben Casey. Not just great designers but great mentors, who were more than happy to give all of their knowledge away (thank you!). I now aspire to do the same.
What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
At Interbrand Australia we don’t talk about hiring great writers, strategists or designers. First and foremost we hire great people (who also happen to be great writers, strategists or designers).
I have hired designers that may not have had the best portfolio on offer but had an amazing attitude. I’m looking for humbleness, passion, enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard. All backed up by strong conceptual and layout ability of course.
At the end of the day you work with the person not the portfolio.
Any advice for students entering the industry?
Michael Bierut once said that making your name in this industry simply comes down to ‘doing great work and telling people about it.’
So build a website and send your best work to your favourite blogs; It’s never been easier to promote yourself. Of course the trick is doing great work in the first place! That’s obviously where your focus should be.
One final piece of advice would be to get excited! You’re about to enter one of the most dynamic, exciting and creative industries around. Design at its best is transformational. It can challenge perceptions, revitalize businesses and on occasion, change the world.
Below are some examples of Mike’s work. For his full portfolio you can visit his website here.
You can follow Mike on twitter @mikerigby and Interbrand Australia at standapart.com.au
News Limited – One degree initiative
Recognising that many people feel helpless in the face of an issue as large as environmental degradation, the One Degree initiative works by breaking a large problem into “small steps”.
Gustav Klimt Exhibition Identity
The show piece event of Tates year. It was the first time a substantial collection of Klimts work had been exhibited outside of his home town of Vienna. We redrew the Tate typeface to include Viennese secessionist typographic characteristics and printed everything in Kilmts trademark gold leaf.
By 2030, Alzheimer’s disease could kill more Australians than any other disease, and, currently, there is no cure. To help increase awareness and the level of funding afforded to Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, we had to create a brand that could cut through the clutter of the charity landscape.
The Great Blandini
Steve Bland is a re-toucher extraordinaire. The identity stands out from the usual, appeals to the creative industry and reflects Steve’s sense of fun and humor. The brochure features 10 tricks used by the great man himself, plus some custom retouches that show off his unparalleled skills.
The New Theatre
New Theatre is one of Sydney’s oldest, proudest and most independent theatre’s. The logo combines the three initial letters of The New Theatre into one simple mark. It is also completely rotatable, allowing interesting juxtapositions of messaging.
The challenge was to reposition two sites, the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) into a single QAGOMA brand. Inspired by the idea of Yin and Yang, we created a strikingly simple visual and verbal system that pulls the two brands together.
1 Degree designed with Landor Sydney. Gustav Klimt design with True North. All other projects designed with the wonderful team at Interbrand Australia.