Frankie Ratford, Graphic Designer

Talk about making dreams come true - we are beyond inspired by Frankie Ratford's commitment to her work creating a community and the way she has built her lifestyle around it. This is a story of big ideas and hard work that you will want to come back to.  

What do you do?

I run a design blog and community called The Design Kids that aims to educate and connect graphic design students with the industry. Our community just hit six figures and I'm stoked!

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

After reading The Four Hour Work Week in 2010, I started designing my life around life not work. If I had $5m in the bank how would I spend everyday? Remove spending money and making money from your decision making - it’s a lot easier! Lying under a palm tree will only be satisfying for a few hours, what do you *really* want to do?! The last seven years I have been contributing my energy to the global emerging design industry and trying to bridge the gap between students and professionals - it’s been challenging, fun, hard, exciting, terrible, successful and a wonderful mix of work/play.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

Coming on a family holiday to Australia from the UK as a bright eyed fourteen year old. This beautiful country blew my mind! And moving back solo four years later. Working at Frost, a great studio, my dream job throughout Uni only to realize that it wasn't for me. It's funny when you pick the best that's on offer (design studios) and then realize you can choose from so much more (design industry) and still have an awesome career. The realization I hate sitting still and I had to combine travel with design and I actually could was huge. I’m currently 2/3 of the way through a six year roadtrip around the globe. Before that I mixed travelling for seven years with uni and design jobs for seven years. A 50/50 split is perfect!

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

I'm setting up a Studio Consultancy at the moment. It makes sense, I help students understand the industry, so I'm going to help studios too! I'm about to roadtrip around Europe for the next 9 months, launching TDK there, 16 countries in 24+ cities. Fun! Writing a book about my grandparents. Starting a travel blog. Offering design residencies in my Tasmanian home.

What is your dream project?

TDK would be - I designed it with my skill set and lifestyle in mind, only less IT problems, less emails, less meetings and more down time!

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

I'm highly dyslexic - I had extra help at school. I find pronouncing some things impossible. Languages are out of the question. I do have a good memory that hides it well, names and birthdays are my jam! Ngaio / October... 11?!

If you could choose to hear from any female contemporary at a Make Nice event, who would it be and why?

Perrin Drumm, from Eye on Design at AIGA. She flies under the radar well but is a dead set legend and her focus is laser sharp. Dawn Hancock in Chicago runs Firebelly, my dream studio if I went that way. Leta Sobierajski as I just love her work, and she’s a sweetheart.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

"If you couldn't share it, would you still do it?". It's pretty sad that we've got to this point, but I think sometimes you need to check yourself. Are you doing this because it's cool, or because if you lived in a remote cave you'd still do it and it would make you happy? The lines are blurring and I think it's important to check in. My phone-less, facebook-less, computer-less brother who hitchhikes to Japan from the UK instead of flying every year is my constant inspiration on how to not be a dick and keep life in check.

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

I have tons of awesome design female mates, but my actual favourite is my design twin Dahlia. We share a birthday, and the exact same personality. I LOVE nothing more than a chat with her - it's like living a second reality, making all the same decisions, double the excitement with double the fun. We understand each other as well as we know ourselves and even the worse decisions we both back each other, haha!

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining? 

I was about six, and a pigeon had died in the garden. I was collecting the feathers and gluing them on my Alive Pigeon Collage, and my granny said “You’re so clever Frances. [yup - real name. Eeek.] I can’t do that.” I think it was the first time I was aware we were all different and my artistic talents were always cheered on by my family. I think those warm and fuzzies are huge when deciding ‘this is for me’.

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

Reading A LOT. Too much info for here! If you want some book tips, see my Instagram: #FR52booksfor2014 #FR52booksfor2015 #FR52booksfor2016 #FR52booksfor2017

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

I'd like to see more women asking for more money, without apologising! I'm doing a lot of sponsorship work at the moment and it's so hard to put a number out there. I'm the worst!! Also if there are any ladies reading this who ARE good, please email me as I have a job for you!

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

Favourite place in the world - Norfolk Island, South Pacific. 5km wide, no phones, nothing locked, amazing landscapes, VERY interesting people. I lived there twice back in 2002 and 2003, and also met my amazing friend Tim there. Tim is my life mentor and keeps me on track. I literally fight every piece of advice he gives me, only to follow it perfectly two months later! Norfolk Island taught me a lot about life, people, what's important, values, not being attached to things and to enjoy this crazy ride we’re all on.

How can we find our more about your work?

Instagram @frankieratford or @thedesignkids. Also,

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?  

Adèle Favreau, one half of Atelier Bingo in France.