Megan Perkins on the Tasmanian design scene and the experimental approach that drives her practice
Megan Perkins is a multi-disciplinary creative based on the Australian island of Tasmania. She runs her own practice with a research-driven and collaborative approach; working with a wide roster of clients that include cultural institutions, events and consumer products. We caught up with Megan about her creative influences and inspiration outside of branding, and how working tangibly affects her digital work.
PT Since launching your own practice, how has your work, style and process evolved?
MP I’m fortunate to have had a solid background as an in-house creative for one of Australia’s best museums and festivals, which has set me up with a strong, creative process where each aspect of the branding is integrated and cohesive, driven through experimentation and play. As an in-house team, we were not beholden to external clients which allowed for more agency and experimentation, and our art audiences expected this of us – you could always see the play in the work. Moving into private practice I’ve sought to retain this, and I’m lucky because my clients seek me out for this approach.
My work has always been about getting to the essence, and this aspect has not changed, but stronger commercial priorities have appropriately led to an emphasis on strategy. The broader variety of clients and sectors has brought more diversity aesthetically, to find the right approach in those specific contexts. I love being able to assemble the right team for each project, and keeping things flexible, which keeps the work fresh.
I love being able to assemble the right team.
PT Can you describe your creative approach in three words?
MP Immersive. Meaningful. Distinctive.
PT What is your ideal workspace setup? What kind of environment do you work best in?
MP To keep things relaxed I tend to vary things up a bit and change the scenery. I like a lot of plants, a couple of screens and access to good coffee. I also have a clean and a dirty studio – one for the computers, and one for experimenting, where I can get my hands dirty with the raw materials. Both are important. In Hobart, we are sandwiched between the mountain and the ocean, a landscape of changing moods and variable light. I love an aspect where I can see the rainbows, the snow and the crisp skies.
PT If you hit a creative barrier, what do you normally do to overcome it?
MP There’s always inspiration hiding in the research, otherwise I give the project a bit of space and come back to it. Ideas often come in the shower or the garden when the unconscious mind has had a chance to think.
PT Who has had the biggest impact on your creative career? What did you learn from them?
MP Definitely my father. He is a brilliant furniture designer. Both my parents are complete individuals, the impact of which I only appreciated later on. Kevin is a perfectionist, stubborn and confident, with a practice deeply rooted in place. These are all things I have learnt, along with a strong work ethic. He helped me understand that my difference is my strength, and to back myself. That success does not just come from talent, it comes from grit.
There’s always inspiration hiding in the research.
PT In addition to graphic design, you also have other creative pursuits such as jewellery design – do they influence each other?
MP My broad creative background in art, craft, object, photography and theory definitely has a strong influence on my practice. Materiality and experimentation are important, and are sometimes a sidelined aspect that I retain in my projects. I also chair Design Tasmania, Tassie’s leading not-for-profit design institution, so although my jewellery and other creative pursuits have taken a bit of a back seat, for now, the approach and inspiration definitely influence me, especially for projects that have a packaging, product or signage outcome. It’s these kinds of projects where this aspect of my knowledge is really beneficial – where I can consider the design of these key touchpoints when developing a new brand to achieve great sensory impact and cohesion.
PT Do you feel connected to the Australian design scene, coming from Tasmania?
MP Scenes have never been a priority for me, it’s always been about the work. In the digital age, it’s not that isolated, and about 50% of my clients and collaborators are mainlanders or international. The islander, outsider mindset resulting from our physical separation from Australia drives this feeling, which helps our makers’ design distinct work. Tassie has always punched above its weight in creative practice because we do our own thing. I feel our big cities end up focusing on themselves and can become self-referential, but Tassie keeps it more open, and this is where innovation comes from.