Creative Lives — Amelia Leuzzi, designer at DesignStudio, on thinking big and having fun
Amelia Leuzzi launched herself into the unknown when she made the move from Melbourne to London in 2015. Quitting a job she loved and packing up life as she knew it, she reached out to her favourite studios in the big smoke, meeting everyone she could. After a short stint “panicking” and working in a bakery, Amelia landed a dream position as a designer at branding and digital agency DesignStudio, where she thrives on collaboration – whether that be working with the client, internal teams, or alongside animators, illustrators or editors. Spontaneity and flexibility are both essential to her work, alongside a little bit of “nonsense” – all great training for her future ambitions of becoming a sitcom-writing stand-up comedian...
Middleweight designer, DesignStudio (2015–present)
Designer, Ortolan, Melbourne (2013–2015)
Freelance – clients included The Hungry Workshop, Perimeter books, Broadsheet Media; all in Melbourne (2012–2013)
Internships at The Jacky Winter Group, The company you keep, Beci Orpin, RoAndCo, NYC (2011–2012)
BA Communication Design, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (2008–2011)
How would you describe your job?
As a designer working on a branding project, various teams will be assigned to different projects for extended periods of time, usually seeing the project through from the immersion stage to guidelines. We also need to be flexible enough to jump onto any project that might be going on, and help out wherever we can. With everything we do, it’s all about working as a team.
What does a typical working day look like?
Our studio is in east London, and I take the overground in most days to avoid the tube. Just enough time for a podcast and a few daydreams. Every day at DesignStudio is different; unexpected, challenging, and exciting, and I bloody love it. My housemates are fairly over me talking about how much I love my job, so I’ll cool it.
Studio hours are 9.30am to 6pm, and our studio culture is really positive about leaving on time when possible. Of course, the nature of the creative process doesn’t really lend itself to strict working hours. On top of that, you’re usually working on projects that you want to make amazing, with a team you totally believe in – so that pesky passion makes you stay late sometimes. Generally though, my outside-of-work life is super-important. When I’m happy and healthy I have better ideas.
“When I’m happy and healthy I have better ideas.”
How did you land your current job?
It was all timing. I quit my awesome job in Melbourne to move to London and wanted to try and get some work in a big old branding agency. I didn’t know exactly what that entailed, all I knew was that I wanted to be in the room when the creatives presented the ideas to the clients, and the clients say yes, and I wanted to know what made them say yes. I made a list of studios to contact, and I sent them my portfolio and an email asking for advice. While I waited I met with everyone I could, panicked a little, and worked in a bakery. Just as I was about to take a job at a different studio, DesignStudio were hiring and they got me in for an interview. Branding agency dream – check.
Where does the majority of your work take place?
You can usually find me in the studio, and if I’m not at my desk I’ll be wandering around looking for snacks or pestering my work buddies.
How collaborative is your role?
Super-collaborative. We work on projects as teams, with animators and illustrators and editors. We even work directly with clients, sometimes even out of their offices, or they work from our studio.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The most enjoyable part of my job is getting to work alongside the most amazing team of talented and driven people. Things always get less enjoyable when I put too much pressure on myself to make something great.
Our studio isn’t a very stressful environment. There is definitely pressure when it comes to expectations and deadlines, but it’s usually productive!
“Just make sure you’re interning for good people who treat you nicely. Don’t make time for anything else.”
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
We’ve been working on a project for the last six months that has been absolutely amazing; it’s a new brand for a charity that works to empower young girls all over the world living in poverty. As part of the research phase, we travelled the world to learn from the girls, and I was lucky enough to travel to Nigeria and Colombia. I worked with an amazing team, together with the clever, kind and inspiring team on the client side. The full brand will be launching in the next few months, and we are beyond excited.
What skills are essential to your job?
Flexibility, the ability to work as a team, not being precious, asking questions, passion, big thinking, nonsense – I’ve been saying this for ages, but I really want to learn improv comedy. I think that will be super-beneficial.
How would you rate your work-life balance?
I think work and life has a tendency to blend together, especially when you love what you do. I definitely think making time to get away from the screen gives me much better ideas, so it’s important to strike a balance between the two.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I always liked bubble writing...I also always wanted to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
Super-important, especially because of the friends I made. Opportunities constantly come from my peers.
What were your first jobs?
When I graduated I interned for a bunch of different places and people that I was really inspired by. Jacky Winter (an illustration agency), TCYK, Beci Orpin and Hungry Workshop. I was lucky enough to work alongside directors and designers that took the time to teach me how to do the job, and I’m still surrounded by people who are willing to share everything they’ve learnt to make us all better. Internships are so useful, for all the obvious reasons. You get to work in a whole lot of places, you can afford to take big risks and take a stab at stuff you have no idea how to do. Just make sure you’re interning for good people who treat you nicely. Don’t make time for anything else.
Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
Rhys Gorgol (at TCYK) pretty much taught me how to use a computer, and to start to think like a designer. My colleagues at Ortolan inspired and encouraged me, even when that meant leaving my awesome job with them and moving to the other side of the world.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
With every new project I learn so much. Obviously I’ve learnt how to use a range of programs, and this is a skill set that always needs to be expanded. More importantly though, I’m learning so many valuable skills around the design process that I don’t think are going to shift or become obsolete. Things like how to work with a team of people, talk about an idea, explain design thinking, how to present to a room full of people and not freak out.
“My biggest challenge has been gaining the confidence to even call myself a designer.”
What’s been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been gaining the confidence to even call myself a designer, maybe that sounds silly. I think I’ve made a lot of mistakes when I haven’t believed I could do something, or haven’t trusted my instinct. Or when I’ve been scared to fail, or even scared to succeed. They were also all good mistakes though, important mistakes.
Is the role what you thought it would be?
Yes and no. I never really knew exactly what a graphic designer did, but from a distance I thought it would be fun, and it really is.
What tools do you use most for your work?
A Mac, the big one, for everything; a Wacom tablet for freedom; Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Bridge, Premiere); Sketch; Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Sheets; a pen and notebook (Muji, A5 ruled); various materials (paint, ink, plasticine – you name it).
What would you like to do next?
Keep learning, get better, work with more people, start a career as stand-up comedian, write a sitcom.
Could you do this job forever?
100 percent. It’s not a real job.
What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current role?
Work harder, maybe become senior, wangle my way into some kind of a director role, and work on more and more crazy stuff.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a designer?
Have fun. You got this.
This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on DesignStudio.