Regional creative: Amanda Cole, designer


By Mirella Marie

Amanda Cole is a graphic designer from Newcastle, Australia. Alongside her husband Scott, she runs Shorthand, a creative studio that specialises in branding. I wanted to get Amanda’s insights into running a business in a regional area after moving from a capital city, and her thoughts on starting up a design studio.

After living and working in Melbourne for many years, how have you found the transition to Newcastle, both personally and professionally? 

The transition to Newcastle was actually a move home. I completed my degree in Newcastle, living here before heading to Melbourne. Personally it wasn’t too stressful as I was returning to old networks and my husband and business partner Scott has been there every step of the way (including that dreaded 10 1/2 hr drive!) Professionally it was a bit daunting at first. There isn’t the sheer volume of potential clients in Newcastle like there is in Melbourne. Getting your name out there is tricky, as businesses in smaller places put a lot of weight on word of mouth referrals. You need to be patient as it takes time to build up your reputation. We were lucky in that previous Melbourne clients were nothing but supportive of the move and many have stuck with us even now, two years down the track.

How would you describe your work?

We are first and foremost a branding studio and that is at the core of everything we do. Generally our projects begin with a client requiring a new brand, or a rebrand in the case where a business is evolving. We like to work closely with our clients, spending time getting to know their business first before jumping into creative. Once an identity is finalised we roll-out to any number of touchpoints, be it business cards, stationery, web or environmental design. Visually we are big believers in less is more and find that a minimal approach allows for the clearest communication.


Who is your typical client?

Our studio doesn’t have a typical client and we tend to attract from a variety of sectors, which I have always enjoyed. In saying this, quite often their problems are similar e.g. businesses evolving internally with new technology having a bigger influence on processes. In recent years the studio has attracted a lot of not-for-profit organisations which has been really rewarding.

Which part of the creative process do you enjoy the most?

Presenting the concept to the client is always stressful – but when they love the work and have a big smile it always makes my day. We have an initial collaborative approach with clients and like to involve them in the strategic process. I find working this way really beneficial, as relationship-wise we form a team. This also means when we unveil the concept, the client already has a general idea of what the identity is going to look like so there is no ‘presentation shock’. By getting clients more involved, they take more ownership over the brand as truly theirs which is great!

What advice would you give to someone starting a design studio?

While some manage to pull it off, I would advise against attempting to start a studio straight off the back of study or abruptly leaving a full-time position. The way I got to where I am now was in small transitional steps. I began freelancing after hours until I could no longer manage both it and my day job. After this I began a part-time position and eventually moved on to doing my own thing full-time. Even then I still occasionally took contract jobs or a bit of freelance before I was in a really secure place to start the studio. This was great for me as it’s low stress, low risk, and gives you opportunities to keep earning some steady cash whilst setting yourself up and gaining regular clients.

Once you’re set up, keep your overheads low by setting up a home office – although if you don’t trust yourself to get things done at home, co-working spaces are a great alternative.

Plan ahead. You need to be constantly thinking about the future and looking for new clients to keep the work flowing. Aim to transition your regular clients to retainers to give your business stability. Make sure your website and social media are regularly updated – leaving these jobs until the work starts to dry up will only give you a headache. 

Lastly, don’t neglect the admin. Xero is great if you’re looking for some easy to use accounting software and helps you keep an eye on those monthly budgets. Also, figure out what those budgets are! There are lots of easy to find calculators out there to help determine how much and how many hours you need to be charging. If you prefer the printed word, the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines is a great resource.


What is the creative community like in Newcastle?

Really blossoming which is fantastic! There a lot of talented people here doing amazing things. Newcastle has one of the highest retention rates of any place in Australia. This is of great benefit to the area because while people often leave to experience other (bigger) cities, they then bring that experience back home with them when they return. 

What does a typical day involve for you?

I jump on my phone with my morning coffee to check any overnight emails, social media and read the news before heading to the office by nine. As Scott and I have evolved our roles within the business, I now spend the first full half of the day on meetings, scheduling, accounts, proposals and emails. After lunch is when I’ll aim to get into any creative work – this can be helping the guys with any overflow or actioning our latest brand roll-out. 

Each day ends consistently at five. After working in bigger agencies where it seemed competitive as to who could stay the latest, I'm very aware of leaving on time. Occasionally if there are deadlines looming we will work after hours, but I like to avoid that as much as possible.

I enjoy cooking so most nights revolve around making dinner. Being winter, it gets dark earlier so nights are spent in hibernation, but in summer it’s hard to resist a walk along the beach to the Anzac Memorial Walk (if you’re ever visiting Newcastle I recommend it!).

What are your plans for the future?

Currently the biggest priority is moving into a new studio space by the end of the year. When we established the studio in Newcastle, we started in a smaller space while we got ourselves settled but have quickly outgrown it. Currently we have three team members, with the studio networking with quite a few external creatives on a project-by-project basis. We intend to keep this model moving forward as it allows for the greatest flexibility on projects and personally it makes for my ideal studio balance.

To view Amanda’s work visit Follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Photography by Sophie Tyler

Mirella Marie is the owner and creative director of Vertigo, a Melbourne based graphic design studio specialising in brand identity and design. She is also a contributor for Women of Graphic Design, a project examining the work of female designers around the world. Join her on Instagram @studiovertigo.

Regional creative: Danielle Thomas, photographer


By Jasmine Mansbridge

Regional photographers are often spoilt for choice in the gorgeous landscapes and vistas they can shoot - usually in their very own town. One Day Collective's Danielle Thomas in no exceptions. As a wedding photographer based in south-west Victoria, Danielle hasn't let her location stop her from attracting clients and shooting stunning images.

Can you introduce yourself?

I am Danielle. Wedding stalker. Storyteller. Photo taker. Moment seeker. Family sorter. Happen maker. Girl Boss. Wife. Mother. Yep, Danielle.

Where are you based and what business are you in? 

I am based in Tarrington, Victoria. A little village south of Hamilton in the western District. About four hours west of Melbourne. My business is One Day Collective and I am a photographer.

Have you always lived in a regional/rural area? 

Yes, I grew up in the area. I used to ride my bike to the general store in the village where I now live to buy 20c worth of lollies and ride home again. I went to school locally from prep to year 12.

How long have you been in business? Have you found it has got easier or harder as time has gone on?

 I have been a photographer for about 10 years now. It has actually always been quite natural to me so the harder / easier discussion is not something I have with myself often. I think if there has been anything hard at any time it has been through my own self-infliction.

I could honestly say that it has become more enjoyable [easier] as I have got a little older, surer of my direction and myself. Not seeking out as many back pats, I can pat my own back now....haha!

What has been/is your biggest challenge?

Biggest challenge was the decision to focus on weddings and commercial / product photography over being a jack of all genre’s. It was a little scary given my location.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of myself. Having the courage and conviction to chase what I wanted to do. Changing and adapting as I went without sacrificing or pimping myself to the lowest bidder. I now have my ‘no’ licence - A powerful thing once you get it. Being able to say no without the feeling of loss or offending someone.

What would you do differently in business if you had your time again?

I would possibly pop my blinkers on for longer in the beginning. I am easily overstimulated. Looking, following, chasing, being inspired by absolutely everything was a little crazy. I think I would have found my ‘mojo’ a lot sooner had I have done that. I would have also worked less when my little people were babies. I don’t think I am alone there.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

 A farmer's wife. Happy. Travelling. Still with camera in hand but more personal projects [I will miss the epic weddings terribly]

What are you looking forward to most in the next twelve months? 

I have both my children at school as of this year. I am excited for anything. Getting my workflow down. My home, being homely.

What is your favourite social media platform for your business?

I love Instagram, it’s a different vibe. Facebook is all business for me and somewhere I store my recipes.

You can find Danielle at her website, One Day Collective on Facebook and @OneDayCollective on Instagram.

By Emma Clark Gratton

Newcastle photographer Hannah Rose is winning awards and accolades for her stunning documentary, editorial and lifestyle photography. Her series 'The Empire' captured the bond between a group of homeless men in her hometown, while her 'Last Nomad' photographic essay captured her expedition by horseback across the wild of Mongolia. You can find more about Hannah at her website or follow her stunning images on Instagram.

What drew you to becoming a photographer, and to doing what you’re doing today?

I love adventures. Photography seemed like a good way to have lots of adventures. As a kid I was addicted to National Geographic magazines. I wanted to know the planet and it’s inhabitants- the images sparked an intense desire to travel and discover. That was where my curiosity for photography started, I wanted to document adventures and moments of the world.

Can you give us a little insight into your creative process?

I have a journal with me all the time and I write and draw the things I am seeing, feeling, experiencing.  Anything and everything. I have lots of things to work with in the pages of my journals. My mood and headspace, and what I am going through at certain time of my life influences my work too. I see things in nature, in books, a person's face and it might spark an idea so I make sure I write it down and I draw on all this with my work. I have an overactive imagination and daydream probably way too much!

Who is your typical customer/client?

I don't really have a typical client, but a common thread in the clients that seek me out is the storytelling element of my work. That is something I hear a lot and it tends to reference my personal documentary work, they want that element of narrative applied to their project whether its editorial, fashion, portraiture etc...

What does a typical day involve for you?

Not sure I ever have a typical day but typical things you will find in my days would be shooting, emails, quoting, invoicing , retouching, meetings, riding my horse and planning travel and projects.

What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

I have a bio on my website that will tell you about those things but if I think about this question and don't make it about awards or exhibitions and the like, then I do have a story. I was shooting a campaign and we were photographing  older women. All of these women were real women and they all were so shy and worried about having their picture taken. A lot of them said things like "I'm so ugly" Or "I'm too old and wrinkly". We did their hair and makeup, we had champagne and cheeses. We made a real fuss of them. I worked with each of them in a studio portrait session and talked them through their worries. When I showed them the pictures, there were many tears.  "I look beautiful, we all look beautiful" was the response. I was proud to be a part of that exchange.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

Shoot what you love.

What are your plans for the future?

I have some collaborative works planned, working with incredible artists and designers. I also hope to start shooting a project which I am currently researching. It’s still under wraps but basically the story looks at the bonds of a unique human/animal relationship in Australia, and the controversy surrounding it. Hoping to get back to Iceland and finish the project I started last year working with Icelandic horses and just create great work for great people.

What do you see as a benefit of being a CWC member?

Connecting with other women who are working in creative fields. It's nice to be part of a tribe and be inspired by all the great things these women are doing.

Regional creative: Tracy Lefroy, Cranmore Home

CWC_2016-01-21_georgia-phase_insta-graphic_template By Jasmine Mansbridge

For my guest blog this year I wanted to look specifically at women who are running a creative business from a regional location. One lady who is doing this, and with great success is Tracy Lefroy from Cranmore Home. I knew of her business even before I began looking for prospective interviewees and I was blown away to discover that she is based on a farm in Western Australia.

So, just as I was, I am sure you will be inspired by Tracy’s story.

Where are you based and what business are you in?

Cranmore Home is a curated collection of Australian-designed and ethically-sourced homewares, art and fashion. The online store is complimented by a brick and mortar store located in my hometown of Moora, Western Australia, 180km (a beautiful two-hour drive) north of Perth.

Have you always lived in a regional/rural area?

I have spent the majority of my life living in WA’s beautiful Wheatbelt and Midwest region. I grew up in a very small place called ‘Irwin’ which is near the coastal town of Dongara, 350km north of Perth, just 10 minutes from the beach and with three sisters to keep me on my toes…. It was a pretty ideal childhood.

Like many country kids, I headed off to the city for high school and stayed on for Uni, where I completed my Honours in Agricultural Science at the University of WA. I greatly enjoyed some ‘obligatory’ overseas travel before moving to Northam in the Wheatbelt for work.

In 2005, I was the youngest recipient to be awarded a prestigious Nuffield Scholarship, which took me to some amazing places around the world. Since then, I have been farming with my husband, Kristin and his parents at our property ‘Cranmore Park’ near Moora.

How long have you been in business? Has it become easier, or harder as time has gone on?

The seed for Cranmore Home was planted in 2010 shortly after my husband and I moved into our beautiful old farmhouse. Three babies, three years and a once-off pop-up shop later I launched my website and in 2014 opened a retail space in Moora.

I started this business because I am passionate about Australian food and fibre and the manner in which it is produced, AND I saw a massive gap in the homewares market for a retail outlet that championed our amazing home-grown designers and artists.

I had passion, a great premise and a strong business background but absolutely ZERO retail experience! So I always knew it was going to be a steep learning curve and a lot of hard yakka (I am a self-confessed workaholic). What I didn’t expect was the amazing array of opportunities for me to grow my business- I am currently developing a trade/commercial arm of Cranmore Home, which is super exciting for my little business.

So to get back to your question…. It’s definitely not easier, but it is not necessarily harder either. Cranmore Home is this amazing vehicle for pursuing my passion and the more I put into it the more rewards, challenges and crazy experiences it throws at me.

What has been/is your biggest challenge?

With three young kids, I juggle Cranmore Home around family, farm, friends and other life commitments. Like any working parent and partner, the work-life balance situation is constantly being tweaked but I am getting better at taking a breath, stepping back and knowing that while I cannot "do it all" right now, I can do my best at each facet of my life.

Business-wise, freight is the biggest cost challenge as I offer free Australia-wide shipping. It is just not cost-effective to freight stock across the Nullarbor to my showroom in Moora only to send it back to customers on the East Coast. As a result, I now have warehouse space in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth where stock is sent direct to my customers.

What are you most proud of?

My three gorgeous kids! I’m also incredibly proud to be a farmer and business owner that champions Australian design. Having the honour to represent incredible designers + makers whilst living and breathing farming, has been such an honour and something of which I am very proud.

What would you do differently in business if you had your time again?

Eeek, I am an eternal optimist so my sights are firmly set forward, I am not great at hindsight. But I have learnt a few expensive lessons in my first few years of Cranmore Home. One of the areas I am trying to improve upon is really targeting and refining my advertising spend.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

Wow, in 10 years my kids will all be at high school, which is scary and makes me a little teary! Life will be so different but, there is nothing like three sets of boarding school fees to keep you motivated in your business.

What are you looking forward to most in the next twelve months? 

We have an amazing ‘Winter Workshop’ planned for July. Now in its third year, the Winter Workshop is a dynamic event, with the format changing yearly. This year I have such huge ideas… now to get them to happen!

I learn so much from collaborating with the Cranmore Home designers and it is such a rewarding experience being part of their creative process. The Winter Workshops is an opportunity for my clients to be able to experience this same creative excitement and fulfilment plus be exposed to the beauty and heritage of ‘Cranmore country’, the WA wheatbelt.

Can you offer anything special to CWC readers?

I sure can! I would love to extend a special CWC offer of 15% store-wide here at Cranmore Home (only excluding Heatherly Beds). Just enter CWC15off at checkout to redeem.

Have you got anything you'd like to plug?!

I have just started a fortnightly newsletter to bring my customers behind the scenes of Cranmore Home. It features sneak peeks of new products, subscriber-only discounts, first dibs on advanced orders and takes clients ‘behind the brand’ to get to know the amazing designers and artists that I proudly represent.

To sign up just fill in the pop-up window when visiting

What is your favourite social media platform for your business?

I am an Instagram addict!!! @cranmorehome and @cranmorehomesale allow me to converse directly and instantly with clients, designers, journalists, bloggers, etc.

I am a very visual person and a firm believer in the phrase ‘a picture says a thousand words’. Instagram allows me to express the motivations and inspirations behind Cranmore Home.



Interview: Allison Smith, architect

CWC_2016-01-21_georgia-phase_insta-graphic_template By Emma Clark

Allison Smith is the woman behind Studio 15b, a boutique architecture studio based in Brisbane. With over 20 years experience in architecture, Allison branched out and began her own practice in 2013. You can follow her work on Instagram and Facebook.

What drew you to becoming an architect, and to doing what you’re doing today?

Architecture was the main idea that stuck in my mind as a possible career path during high school.  It’s a profession where every day is different, every project is different and as an Architect we are required to continue to learn and adapt to changes in the world. The variety is what keeps me going and motivated in this challenging industry.

I’ve worked in small, medium and large firms in Brisbane and London, which has seen me work on a large variety of projects from small alterations and additions, new large homes, multi-residential developments, heritage buildings, community, commercial, train stations and education projects.  Seeing a project from the very initial client meeting through to the finished constructed project can take years but it makes it all worthwhile when you see the final product.

I have most recently established my own small practice - Studio 15b.  In two and a half years I have built a small team but would like to expand this team in the future.  Having my own practice is an enjoyable challenge and I’m glad I took the plunge.  I feel that Studio 15b is able to provide a personalised service as a small practice that is backed by big practice experience.

Allison Smith_Studio 15b


Can you give us a little insight into your creative process?

One of my design strengths is being able to take the disorder and sometimes confusion of a client’s brief, along with all the other constraints that comes with building and then reorganise to give it purpose and reason.  Whether those constraints are budget related, to do with the site or council, I enjoy testing the options to produce one clear concept that fits the brief and the constraints best.

Creating interest and flair while fulfilling the brief is key.  We continually test ideas with form until we are happy with the results, before we present to the client what we feel is the best solution for a project.  I’m a very considered designer and prefer simple, refined solutions. The simplest solutions are often the hardest to achieve but I prefer not to take the easy road. I like designing the most efficient solutions that are not necessarily what the client imaged but end up fulfilling the brief even better than they could have anticipated.  This clearly demonstrates the value of our service to them.

Who is your typical customer/client?

Our clients could roughly be allocated into three types each with totally different needs.  We have a good understanding of each of their different needs and what they require from a project perspective.  We enjoy the variety that each client brings.

Typically our residential clients have generally never been involved in a building project.  For these clients we spend a great deal of time educating them in the process.  This helps them better understand and gives some reassurance to what can be a stressful process for them. It is our job to guide them through.  We are given a lot of trust, with in most cases their biggest investment - we value and respect this.  Design decisions are very personal choices and we aim to guide as well as collaborate with our clients.

Our multi-residential clients are generally developers with a range of experience.  We tailor the service to their needs.  Personal considerations are not usually a factor with these cost driven projects, however factors such as; designing to the current market, maximising the development in terms of saleable area and number of units plus aligning with the budget that is driven from sale prices all come into play.  We enjoy working with experienced and new developers to help them achieve the most from their development.

Our commercial clients also have different project requirements.  We have worked with a number of businesses to improve their fitouts.  Every business is different and I enjoy finding out how each of them tick.  Then we question whether there is a better way of operating from a business perspective as well as in the available space.  A well designed fitout can improve staff productivity which generally leads to increased sales or revenue.  We enjoy working with businesses big and small.

What does a typical day involve for you?

A typical day starts with getting on top of any urgent emails and quickly flicking through a couple of construction or architecture blogs such as The Urban Developer and ArchitectureAU.  It keeps me on top of the industry as a whole and also sets the tone for the day.

I’m big on writing lists, so weekly I put together a ‘to do’ list but I also have daily ‘to do’ notes which I often leave as reminders of urgent things to do.  Because I am the sole director, it’s important that I spend my time on the most pressing things first and prioritise well.  This list is constantly changing so it’s important to revisit it daily.  It serves as a good reminder to focus and help with my productivity.  I try to roughly plan out the week ahead for meetings at appropriate times, but also plan time for project work.

I usually arrange a coffee with an industry colleague or potential client every week or so.  Networking serves multiple purposes.  As a small practice it is important to seek communication with what is going on in the industry outside your own world.

Once I’m organised with a list of priorities, then a typical day could involve a mix of writing a fee proposal for a potential client, reviewing my staff’s project work as well as completing my own project work.  Depending on the stage of the project this could be some initial design sketches or design development, through to coordinating with consultants or visiting a project under construction.

What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

There have been many proud moments throughout my career and it’s hard to pinpoint just one.  The most recent being the start of Studio 15b and winning a HIA Interior Design Award with our first project.  It was totally unexpected but important to recognise and celebrate these achievements.  It certainly gives you motivation to continue what you are doing.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

A direct piece of advice doesn’t come to mind, but I’ve watched and learnt from many other architects that I’ve worked with.  I’ve tried to model myself on a little of all the things I admire about others but with my spin on it.  Things such as being proactive in sorting out any issues that arise, not worrying about things that are out of your control and keeping a good work/life balance most of the time.  These are all things I aim for.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to continue building Studio 15b.  I would like to grow our small team and create a culture of friendly and dedicated people who use their strengths to provide Architecture & Interior Design solutions to those that see the value in our service.  I encourage anyone to approach us for networking or project opportunities.  We are always available for a chat.