7 Min Read

Who are The Design Kids?

The Design Kids is a global movement which supports emerging designers across 34 countries and 75 cities. Perth is lucky enough to be one of these cities.

To learn more about what this international collective is doing for the local design community, I spoke with one of Perth’s TDK Hosts, Independent Designer and Illustrator Shona Wong.

Who are the design kids?

The Design Kids is an organisation founded in Australia by designer and world traveller Frankie Ratford. 

The mission of TDK is to bridge the gap between education (i.e School, TAFE, Uni) and industry. We do this by developing a close-knit community within each city. TDK has developed a strong brand, which makes it easy to reach out to studios and ask them to give back to the design community; which many studios and agencies are happy to do. 

Do you know how it all started?

Founder Frankie Ratford, who is from Tasmania, was inspired to start TDK, through her experiences observing the same design industry issues across the globe. TDK is now in around 75 cities; each city has its own Hosts, who look after the community and arrange events. Frankie does regular TDK bootcamps, such as Resume workshops, Design study tours (which can be overseas) and offers opportunities for designers to work on projects.

Here are a couple of links to where you can find more information about how TDK started.

What does TDK do?

TDK exists to develop tight-knit communities within cities it operates in. Events are held on the first Tuesday of every month around 6pm, hence the #TDKTuesdays. In these monthly meetups, the hosts reach out to agencies and studios to deliver design talks/tours, panel discussions and workshops. We also hold casual catchups for designers to meet each other and develop their own peer network.

Each city’s TDK has a Facebook group which is used to post jobs, internships and utilised as a general forum. It’s a positive way to nurture the Perth community and meet people outside of your education institution. Sometimes we can get stuck only knowing people from our schools or TAFE but there are diverse people outside of there. Plus, because the people who come to TDK are generally young, from 18 to 30, it feels easier to connect with people your age and in a similar boat. Once someone comes to a TDK event for the first time, it’s less daunting the next time. Usually, regulars come to the meet ups and it becomes their time to catch up, it’s a really good atmosphere. 

Why is it important that emerging designers have a platform like this?

Much of the benefit is in being able to connect with industry people, other Perth creatives and building a network. A lot of jobs can be contracted through your network. It’s said, your network is your “networth”. Plus, it’s a great way to build your peer support and understand the diversity of so many styles; suddenly those who you think are your competitors are your friends and people you support.

I’m over the mindset that we are competing with each other. I love the idea of collaborating and supporting one another. Friendly competition is fine but supporting each other’s businesses, or helping each other, boosts mental health and that’s so important. Sometimes being alone in the industry is so overwhelming, you see everyone as your competition and as the enemy. It leads to comparison and jealousy, something I know all too well. Get to know your community and get involved because the opportunities are there! Design is already complex to understand, so why not learn with others! 

Recent TDK meet up at the brand agency 

What are some of the opportunities TDK members recieve?

Being a host means we have #TDKTuesdays to organise and that’s an excuse to annoy and bug creative directors. Regular members get learning experiences through our workshops and build their network. 

TDK does have the ‘TDK Awards’ that happen at the end of each year. TDK management gets some of the best creative directors, across the globe, to be the judges. It’s free for TDK members to enter and participants who win do get some type of prize. There have also been exclusive job offers and internships shared to TDK which is great for everyone in our community. 

What’s your one piece of advice for new/emerging designers wanting to start working professionally?

Only one?! That’s difficult. Try everything – it’s the best way to know what’s right for you and what’s not. Don’t just use Pinterest for inspiration. Inspo is all around you, your hobbies, movies/TV/Games… daily activities…

Attend lots of networking events – as daunting as they are, they actually get better the more you go to them. Plus… you aren’t the only one who’s daunted by them. You never know who you’re going to meet and how they might lead you to your next opportunity. Help out your local community– think about what’s important to you, do you care for a certain charity/cause? Do you have a family business you care for? Focus on helping out that community, I helped out the student magazine, Dircksey, at ECU and it led me to work with Magazine 6000! (Fun fact: Shona was one of three designers to work on Magazine 6000 and was the project manager!)

I started a foodie instagram as a passion project and that led me to work with Fresh Frontier, COSTCO, and many more food businesses! And that’s another thing, your passion projects are so important! They can be really great portfolio pieces or even opportunities to learn and try new things. Just go for it. The ‘How’ is not the hard question, it’s the ‘What’ and ‘Why’. Once you have that, the ‘How’ will come to you when you’re ready. And it is always easier to ask someone ‘How’ than ‘What’ and ‘Why’. 

Independent Designer and Illustrator Shona Wong. @somechuppy

Are you looking for new members? How does someone join/get involved?

Always! It’s free to join and the meetups are generally free. Since most of our updates and communications are via the FB Group, it’s recommended to join it. www.facebook.com/groups/thedesignkidsperth . Everything is done for students/grads/young creatives to be able to go to meetups and have a community that is accessible and afforadable.

What does the future look like for TDK?

I hope it continues to help students/grads/young creatives and remains a safe space for people to communicate and engage with each other. If I pass my role onto a new Host, I can only hope they continue to help out the community and deliver assistance to students/grads/young designers with the same or more effort. I’d like to see more workshops, more engagement, and more flexibility. I would love a mentorship program – that was something Frankie, the founder, wanted to initiate but hasn’t done so yet.

At the moment, I’m looking to set up an updated directory and an expression of interest form for local creatives and organisations around Perth. I also want to trial a shout out system on the FB group where I promote a creative of the week/fortnight/month and showcase them. The showcase profiles can include their body of work, website, social media, etc. Yours truly also wants to hold an ikigai workshop to help young designers and herself figure out what to do with our life!