As Wallace Finnerty-Mackay draws to the end of a month’s work experience at OPX studio and just days before she starts her new role with an agency in Rotterdam, she reflects on her early pursuits as a graphic designer and the internship process.
Seconds before I press record on my phone’s microphone, thanks to the corner of her curious eye, a book has caught Wallace’s attention. She pulls it from its hiding place on the studio’s bookshelf and flicks through the pages. The word ‘MAK’ stretches itself in big, bold white letters across the black cover. An abbreviation for ‘Mackay & Partners’, her dad’s architecture practice. In this moment of family recognition, she’s almost answered the first question. Why design?
A family affair
“It runs in my family. My Dad’s an architect, my Mum worked in fashion and my step-mum is an architect and interior designer. I suppose graphic design was the one part of design that hadn’t been explored in the family.”
It was always very clear that she and her siblings were going to be designers in some form or another. “Growing up I was always into drawing. I went to school and enjoyed laying out those presentation posters you used to make and I remember one of my teachers telling me how neat mine was. She told me there was a job that tapped into that called graphic design. I didn’t really know what she meant or what it was but I just thought if I get to align things or make nice bubble writing, then I’m happy. I think I fell in love with graphic design because of patterns and typography.”
As Wallace grew, so did her love of art and design. She studied art at A-level and then at Kingston School of Art, sidestepping what she now considers to be a “bizarre” initial application to study history.
“The foundation course was what drew me there. It was considered one of the best. I loved how it was hands-on and focused on big ideas. I stayed on, did the foundation and three years of degree afterwards and then graduated in June.”
Time for a rebrand
There’s unspoken but widely acknowledged pressure among university students to finish their degree and immediately embark on the gruelling job hunt, but it seems Wallace had got things rolling in advance. “I went to Rufus Leonard, the branding agency, for a month after finishing, which I found through a university mentor scheme and had worked for them last summer as well.”
And it was here where one branding agency introduced another. “I found OPX through a colleague I worked with at Rufus Leonard who sent me the Instagram post asking for an intern. I really liked the look of the work that was being created. It was perfect timing. The content on Instagram displayed exciting blends of branding and showed a massive interest in typefaces. The fact that OPX had its own typeface showed such care and attention to detail which was something that really appealed to me.”
Wallace’s background specialised in more practical, book-design, hands-on work. “Some design studios are entirely digitally lead and with OPX it felt like there was more of a balance”.
The nature of the internship has been a reflection of her last few months — busy.
“I’ve been placed on lots of different projects which has been really good fun. It’s good to spread the work. Amongst other things, I’ve worked on photoshoots, art-working for the medium content, finding footage and images to aid the launch of projects.”
She believes there’s great value in internships. “It gives you an idea of different studios, to work out what environment you work best in. People can have such broad interests, especially coming out of university…work experience can help slowly narrow that.”
Before her placement at OPX, Wallace had been offered a role in Rotterdam, which she agreed to take once she had finished her spell at our studio. She believes that catapulting herself from one agency to another so soon after her time at OPX has given her the necessary momentum.
Studio Dumbar itself is a company based on a rich history of dutch design but one always re-generating its work. “They’ve recently created DEMO, a motion film festival in Amsterdam Central Station where they converted all the electronic billboards so that they rotated the animations and the whole station was subsequently converted into this huge display.”
London is being swapped for Rotterdam, but not disregarded. Born and bred here, it would be difficult for that to happen anyway. Friends and family aside, from a design perspective it’s always going to have a pull. “I think even if you’ve graduated here or somewhere else, you always feel like you need to be in London to truly kickstart your design career. There’s a lot going on in a very small area. Hoxton and Shoreditch have so many studios. Clerkenwell is famous for its furnishing studios. There are hubs where you can just walk down the street and see about six showrooms. It’s difficult not to be consumed by it all.” And like all great designers, it appears she too has immersed herself in this world, even crossing countries to find a new one.
Interview by Henry King, Copywriter
Find out more about OPX at opx.studio