My graphic design journey

I was seriously lost with what I wanted to do with myself. 


It was coming to the end of school and I needed to start applying for uni. I had no real idea what I actually wanted to do with my life. All I knew was I wanted to have a year off and travel the world.


I applied to do psychological science degree (for no real reason). I managed to  get a place and deferred for my first year so I could go and live abroad and do what a lot of Aussies do straight out of school. Have a gap year. A lot of my friends had done the same and I didn’t want to be left out while everyone was partying it up in London. So I packed up my life and moved over to Dublin (because I wanted to be different and thought Dublin would be cool but still close enough to London to pop over for a weekend session).


It was fun for the first few weeks…..until it was hell.

It was the GFC so it was pretty hard to find work. I had a shitty waitressing job with horrible hours. I was broke. It rained. It was cold. And I lived in a house with my boyfriend and 6 of his closest mates who had never lived out of home.

You can imagine….I can’t even go there….


I lasted 8 months, which is a pretty good stint I would say, before returning home telling everyone what an amazing time I had. Even though it had it’s ups and downs (probably more downs than ups) I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So now that I had my year of freedom I needed to knuckle down and really decide what I wanted to study. I’d thought about the psychological science degree I had sitting there ready to go and thought there is no way in hell I want to do that. I wasn’t even good at science.


So I had a really long think and looked at the subjects I enjoyed at school. My favourite was design and technology. I didn’t think I was particularly amazing at it but I did really enjoy it. Something that had been poking around in my head for a while was a short two-day course by a design college from Sydney that I did in year 12. I loved it and I mean really loved!! It’s the first time I discovered I could draw.


Before I knew it I was putting together a portfolio and going in for interviews. When I got the letter saying I was accepted I actually couldn’t believe it. This college was known to be quite selective and only took a small amount of new students each year.

And holy shit……One of them was me! I was over the moon.


Fast forward three years and I was graduating from uni with some fun new friends, a few extra skills up my sleave and of course a bachelor of design specialising in styling and creative direction.




My course allowed me to get a feeling for a lot of different design career options. We covered fashion styling, interior styling, graphic design, events, and visual merchandising just to name a few.

I left uni with this awesome degree, a pretty decent portfolio, no real work experience and 70K in debt.


And I knew what I wanted to do…


I was going to be a…….. VISUAL MERCHANDISER. And I couldn’t be happier.


Ha, like that was a good idea. I did actually start working as a junior VM for an international fashion brand. My first ever full time job and to be totally honest it was also my last. Long hours, very physical work, night shifts every two weeks, starting work at 6pm and finishing at 3am, it was essentially a glorified retail role. So it wasn’t for me, I lasted around 6 months before resigning; once again lost with what the hell I wanted to do.


This is when I made a change and ended up moving to Cairns with my boyfriend at the time. His mum owned a motel up there and we went up to help run it. By this time I was now interested in interior design and was given the opportunity to re-design some of the hotel rooms. I dabbled in this for a little while which was fun but I wasn’t 100% sold on it.


The motel had a restaurant attached to it that ended up closing down while I was there.


Light bulb moment!


Why don’t we open a restaurant!


So we did.


Ha… Another brilliant idea.


It was a tough slog! I had to play every role in the business imaginable….. waitress, cleaner, receptionist, graphic designer, interior designer just to name a few. All in all it was a great experience and it taught me so much. I certainly learnt how to work hard!


BUT the best thing I got out if this - I discovered my love for graphic design.


I designed the whole brand identity for the restaurant from the logo, website, menus, business cards, social media, signage, you name it I did it, digital and print. I didn’t really know how to do much of it but I researched online and figured it out while learning along the way. It was so much fun and I loved seeing the project through from concept to completion. It was a great feeling.


Even though we were working like maniacs it was pretty lonely up in FNQ. All my friends were back in Sydney, well in to the start of their careers and I felt like I was stuck trying to get a restaurant off the ground with either of us having no previous experience running a business, let alone a restaurant.  I had no close friends up there because work took over my life and I didn’t have time to even try. :-(


After spending two years up in Far North Queensland I decided I’d had enough and moved home. I got rid of that boyfriend (because he was a dud. It only took me 8 years to figure out!) Got a dog instead - best idea ever! I’m still totally obsessed with her. And I was heading back to Sydney.


And once again…..I was scratching my head thinking what the hell am I going to do with myself?






I know! I’m going to be a digital nomad! aka A FREELANCER.


Now I have the graphic design skills and a decent portfolio but I didn’t want to work in a full time role. I wanted my own business.


Online I had heard about something called the NEIS program. It’s a Government funded program to help individuals start small businesses. It was awesome and exactly what I need. So I applied, put together my business plan and got accepted. It paid me a little wage for 9 months so that I could start my freelancing business and get it off the ground.


So here I am today. I’ve been living back in Sydney for four years now. I have my business EMCO design and I’ve been working as a graphic design contractor in a big corporate bank (somewhere I never thought I’d be)


But most importantly - I love what I do.


So there it is. A brief rundown of my how I got to where I am. There is of course a lot more to this story but there will be more in blog posts on this to come.


The moral of the story – Don’t give up or become complacent, try different things until you are doing what you love.


If you’ve made it this far down the post well done! Thanks for sticking with me.


Em xx