Phd? Meh. | Dow Design, brand strategy, identity and packaging design agency

Phd? Meh.

Phd? Meh. image

May 15 2017

Meet Kirsty, Design Director, Master and soon to be Doctor – “I’m not an over-achiever, I’m really not” she says.


Kirsty Harvey – Design Director

What’s your background? What bought you to being the Design Director at Dow? 

I grew up in Christchurch and chose to attend Burnside High School which had an amazing reputation for art. The very distinguished Richard Gardiner who was head of art at the time had a big influence on me (and I’m sure many others) pursuing design. I had been more inclined to paint, but discovered I could use the computer in a lot the same way which resulted in a barely readable but very expressive 7th form portfolio (!) 

I also had a fantastic mentor in my cousin Phil, now CD at DNA, and it was on his advice I took myself off to the Whanganui School of Design. It was a pretty cool & progressive place at the time with a bunch of amazing American designers who would take sabbaticals to come tutor us in New Zealand. I was quite in awe of the fact they had ACTUALLY worked alongside some of the American greats like Paul Rand. Ended up very interested in typography and motion and an experimental vid I created there landed me my first 3 month internship at Inhouse. 

From there I honed my eye (and my OCD!) working mainly in corporate brand identity and publication design, took some time out lecturing and then arrived at Dow Design Group where I have been ever since. Give or take the odd year elsewhere and a recent sabbatical of my own doing my Masters.

So what is it about Dow that keeps you coming back? 

I’ve always loved the culture and I think they have a great philosophy of work/life balance because all that stuff outside of work feeds in to your design. I like the vibe and how they treat their people. I love working with [Creative Director] Donna, she’s very on to it (-not only sartorially!) and I find that really inspiring as well.

You have a masters in human-centred design and behavioural science — what exactly is that…briefly? 

Officially the Masters was in Creative Technologies actually and I was looking at how design can improve people’s behaviour with money. The Human Centred Design & Behaviour Science bit was how I went about it. 

Human Centred Design is a way of solving problems based around the people you’re designing for. So you really immerse yourself in their world, getting to know them and how they see the world, how they behave, what they think about things, what pushes buttons, excites. You involve those people throughout the design process as well so you end up with a solution that really meets their needs.

‘Behaviour science’ on the other hand uses psychology to look at how and why people behave the way they do. 

I thought it was quite interesting & inspiring to pull the two things together. Sort of like ‘anthropology for designers’- that do it in a nutshell?

What is your approach to the directing of design at Dow? What’s your day to day like?

Weeeellll, my day to day involves a mixture of designing myself and also overseeing as things go out the door, making sure we keep up our high standard of design.

I’m also working on a not-so-secret-squirrel project that helps our clients to get closer to their audience and be a bit more ‘human centred’ and collaborative about it. See DowLabs!

Approach? Would be to make the decisions when it’s needed, but also to allow room for autonomy I guess. Because I think too much control has a tendency to stifle creativity.

You mentioned before about Dow being really great with the work/life balance, what do you like to do outside of work in your spare time that feeds into your design?

Haha, well to be honest I don’t have a lot of spare time as I’ve decided to try and do a bit of a Phd on the side…

Hahahaha OK that’s great. What do you do in your spare time? Oh, just a Phd. What’s your Phd?

Haha it’s really just continuing on with what I started in my masters.

I should say for the record, it actually is quite an undertaking that I am currently figuring out exactly how to fit in. I don’t think my supervisors would be hugely impressed with that blasé attitude!

Lastly are you the kind of curly haired gal that finds your curls the bane of you’re existence or do you embrace them in all their glory?

Ha well both really. They’re annoying, unpredictable, easily afro, dodgy in weather…so many problems! One day though, confused by the term ‘blow dry’ I let my hairdresser straighten them on me. That totally freaked me out. So I’ve learnt to love them – to an extent!