Roydon Misseldine

Founder and Designer at Subject Studios

Designer at Strategy Design and Advertising

"You might find that the door to bad ethics is really easy to go through... good ethics is the hard route."

Raphael Roake: I was wondering how you navigate, if you do, ethics within your work?
Roydon Misseldine: I guess ethics is an interesting one because
generally you’re getting hired to do a particular job and they expect a certain outcome. So if there’s certain ethics along the way that you find that don’t align with what you’re about, and your own vision or the company's vision that you’re working with, I kinda think that it’s up to you to convince that client that there’s a better way of doing this through design. If it’s a particular medium that’s unethical whether it be a t-shirt that gets made in a certain area, then I think because you’re in on that project. Now it’s up to you to voice your own opinions to the client or whoevers higher up and say ‘hey we can get some organic t-shirts and this is how we can make it happen.’ And put in that kinda extra effort to make that happen. Sometimes that may not work but it kinda comes down to putting in that extra work to make those conscious decisions around ethics.

RR: I think that’s a really proactive way of looking at it!
RM: There’s obviously a scale of ethics. There are small things that might be unethical and very large things. There’s kinda like a two way street sometimes. You might find that the door to bad ethics is really easy to go through, because it’s the easy route and the good ethics is the hard route. It actually takes a bit of effort from yourself to go down that good route. So the doors are kinda black and white right? And it’s very easy to keep going down the bad ethics route with these decisions so i think its kinda up to (if you’re a designer) try and persevere and take the good ethics route. I mean that could be a decision between the materials you’re using, where the typeface has come from, whatever the hell that (decision) is. It’s little decisions that make up a bigger picture in what we do. There’s tons of different examples from those things. So I kinda see it as two doors, in all those opportunities, taking the route to good ethics. Because that’s generally the harder one.
RR: That’s a dope way to think about it.
RM: Yeah that’s kinda how I interpret it. Obviously it’s not always in your control and there’s kinda a battle there and I think that when it does get bad, and it never really does, but if it does, then there’s decisions you can make if you’re working on a project within yourself like, ‘am I doing the right thing here?’ But I mean from my experience it doesn’t get to those kind of extremes. It’s all the little things, all those little decisions. It could be the bloody colour of it, and how does that influence a certain area or if it’s going up in a certain place.
RR: Do you think that most people that you’ve come across in industry are conscious of this? Do they practice it?
RM: I think it’s a subconscious right? If you’ve been brought up with ethics in place and strong emphasis on good ethics, then your gonna consciously make decisions that go through that white door without even thinking about it. But there’s obviously going to be times where you’re presented with a huge black door and there’s only a really small white door. You may need to go through that black door and through that black door there are going to be other situations where you can make better decisions in an ethical way. I guess everyone’s kinda different and everyone approaches it differently. I think there’s various people in positions of power who make good ethical decisions around employees and their business and how they run that. So from my point of view i’m not in that position of power with a lot of the projects that come across my desk. So it’s up to people in that power, to convince others and to take lead. Did I even answer that question? Hahaha
RR: Yeah I think so? This stuff is just really interesting to talk about anyway. That’s really interesting because a lot of design work and stuff that I really disagree with, for example anyone working for McDonald's say, or Coca Cola but then I’ve drunken Coke. I’ve eaten McDonald's.
RM: Yeah I guess the graphic designer working for Coke or McDonald's, he’s probably got a family to feed and stuff to look after and a life to live right?
RR: Yeah.
RM: He might be for all we know, and everyone there might be pounding on the door of the boss and be saying, ‘Hey, we should do it this way’. I think if every designer was to leave McDonald's or Coke or whatever it is, tomorrow, then they’re only gonna get worse because they don’t have people with the skill sets to say ‘there’s a better way of making these cups’ or whatever it is and they need designers. Designers need to help out these companies to make those decisions and those better informed design choices to create a better product or create a better product or whatever
it is.

RR: Do you think that it is, if not the way forward, one of the ways forward for a lot of these companies. Not ethics as an entity, but in the commercial world we’re sort of on the edge of the art world and the commercial and business world.
RM: Yeah i think that design can play a huge role in any company, and it should play a big role in any company regardless of what it is. If the design team can design for people and design for a particular experience, then that’s going to make the product, the company, whatever it is externally or internally better. If you’ve got designers thinking in the right way. I guess there are situations where it could probably go sour, if you don’t have educated people or if you don’t have the right team there. I definitely find that in group situations you can achieve a lot more, in a design team or even having people, they don’t necessarily have to be designers but someone who you can talk ideas through with.
RR: I’ve definitely found that with… everything.
RM: Yeah, yeah. Regardless, whether you’re designing a design solution, having a team generally means better results. Or having the opportunity to talk to someone else about a problem or a solution or whatever it is.
RR: That’s something that has come up recently is like a, almost people terming designing in a team. Like co-designing is like that. I guess it’s a little bit like anything, with experience design, people have been doing that and were just kinda categorising that now, to an extent.
RM: Yeah you give it a name and it kinda becomes something a bit more, that people kinda strive to do or strive to learn about. Which is not a bad thing.
RR: Yeah! It’s just interesting because when i’ve talked to a lot of people, this is kinda going off track but, outside of it and they’re like, ‘well, my mum had a restaurant for 30 years. She was doing all this shit?’ and I was like, ‘yeah absolutely, that’s great! But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be a thing’. Just because she did it of her own volition, doesn’t mean that no one else can.
RM: And i guess there’s scales of that right, like you can work closely alongside another person and be 50 50 on decisions and get to a certain point but then I guess in the same way client relationships can work it can be 99 and 1 right? But that 1 percent could make the difference as to what the outcome is, it could be a huge difference or a very small difference. There’s still potentially a difference for the better, in theory.
RR: Have you had any borderline experiences? Where you’ve been like, ‘fuck I really don’t feel good about doing this’. Or maybe even in hindsight?
RM: Umm, not really. One that does come to mind is some recent work. I won’t name any names but kinda goes back to the point I was first talking about. The company was in a certain situation where they were a bit unethical with what they were saying about themselves or presenting themselves. So they got in a bit of trouble with another company. What was interesting was how a group of designers could actually just stop and think about their situation, and design a solution that works and that still aligned to everything else that they do and wasn’t some far fetched idea. It was a really simple solution but it solved those problems. Now that they’re implementing that, they’re ethical you know? That’s like a step forward for them and the way they’re presenting themselves as a company. Whereas before they were presenting themselves in a bit of an unethical way. And it wasn’t some ingenious idea, it was a line of copy. I guess that speaks to the power of design and the power of a team and us just persevering and going through the white door and spending a little bit of time trying to crack it can help these other companies or clients.
RR: I think that’s such a dope way of looking at it and this is kinda why I wanted to talk to you. You seem like such a person, like you’re doing a lot of shit. We’ll not shit! But stuff hahaha.
RM: Stuff and shit hahaha
RR: Hahaha stuff outside of work and that’s something that you kind of see from people that are really passionate. I wonder whether that’s kinda part of it. Not necessarily avoiding these situations but how you pick your clients.
RM: Interestingly enough, i’m not sure how much I can talk about this but we’re a small team. Obviously you’ve been up there, Fraser, Ollie, Matt, yeah. Really onto it guys that are really forward thinking. So as a studio we’ve been talking about what that vision is in three years time and where we want to sit ourselves. Everyone’s aware that there are some clients that don’t particularly align to our vision, that’s for sure, but on the other hand there are clients that definitely do align to our vision and that’s kinda the balance right? Of having a working company where everyone’s trying to earn money and live. That you’ve gotta have, well you don’t have to, a bit of a line where they’re potentially not on the same plane or the same vision. But in situations where we’re actually helping them you know? If they don’t already have that vision, how could we get them to be aligned to that vision? A more ethical vision. So on one hand you’re helping companies align with a vision, or on another hand they already have a vision and your just helping to make that better and better. So i think that’s always coming back to the idea of how can you make them as a company better? You’d probably be familiar with For The People? In Sydney?
RR: Yeah.
RM: They’re a pretty interesting example. They’ve pretty much taken a big stand in what they believe in, ethics or not. Saying no to pitching, not doing all these different things that are breaking this kinda, studio norm. They’re going really well and it’s obviously working for them. If someone doesn’t align with them or if someone isn’t open to doing new things as well, they’re just not going to get involved. So they’ve stuck to their guns and they’re doing really well.
RR: That’s kinda like an interesting thing that alt group do a little bit eh, don’t have anything on their website. But they’ve got all their best awards, which is kinda like… ehhhh ok? But I guess the quality of work has to come a little bit before that?
RM: Yeah, yeah! For The People are 3 different, very established designers coming together. They’re big names in the industry over there. But setting up a studio comes with all it’s different challenges and i think the beauty with them is that they just haven’t set up a ‘studio’, they’ve set up a studio with a very clear set of ethics and morals to kinda break that mould. Literally how they’re name says, For The People, you know improve the situation. I think they can see the situation well. I can totally relate to how you can get yourself in one that’s not that bright and there’s probably decisions being made that are going through that black door, whether they’re small or big.
RR: That was kinda one of the reasons that when I started this because like I definitely not the best graphic designer in the world or the best at anything and I was kinda, ‘like fuck I can kinda see myself ending up somewhere like MPI or somewhere that’s a little bit substandard and kinda work my way in. And be like, how would I react if I was given a shit brief. So there's this tool that we had to make a video for recently and it’s terrible, like it just doesn’t work and it’s shit but the next ones coming out in 3 years, like the update for it. And it affects a lot of how like market gardens import their seeds for growing and all this shit. And so i was like a bit dejected at the start of it and I was like shit… This is just bad? And I feel kinda terrible directing people to use this tool. But then I kinda realised this is kinda the only thing they have? And that’s really encouraging to hear your say, sorta showing your client the way potentially. Trying to bring them into a positive or different mindset. Because I think that the video we ended up making, this tool is now semi-useable. But yeah it’s definitely a far cry from the art school, ‘I’m gonna change the world’.
RM: I mean it’s like one step at a time right? Like changing the way a company does a certain something or presenting some information in a better way so that someone actually reads it, is kinda like all these little things that we have I guess the power to do, for lack of a better word. So it’s about always trying to strive for that white door and you might bang your head, you might find there’s a brick wall behind it but at least you give it a shot right? And because the scale of that changes every single day you know yeah.
RR: What, sort of like, how do I phrase this properly…
RM: Give it a go.
RR: So a lot of people continue to ask me what the fuck do designers actually do? Aside from make shit look good, and when I talk about designers having the power to like really shake things up and really impact the way people do things, even just from graphic design people get kinda triggered. And I was sorta just wondering what your kinda take on it was? Not necessarily your opinion but…
RM: My thoughts on it.
RR: Yeah!
RM: Like the amount of power we actually have in a sense?
RR: Yeah, do we hold a bunch of power?
RM: Probably something you’ve heard before, but the stuff we do really well, people don’t notice. Because it’s like, it’s the way it should be and I know there’s a thousand different ways you can illustrate a certain thing or design a certain poster. But like if you’re just making it better for the person using it or more exciting or giving them a smile throughout the day in a poster that they might see on the way to work. Those are the moments right? It’s not just about making it cool, or just making it pretty, there’s so much more that goes into it like if we’ve got a quirky idea, that’s fucking cool, someone’s gonna see that on their way to work and have a little smile and there you go right. It’s all those little bits there and yeah that person isn’t gonna think, fuck this is a beautifully designed poster done by _______(whoever). They’re just gonna think like hey this is cool or this is pretty sweet. So there’s obviously different scales, you think of like wayfinding. That can kinda save lives right? Bad wayfinding or road sign and there’s all those different kinda situations and scales of it. I think like it all comes in the small steps, and even looking at like For The People and James Little and the work they’ve done with communities and community groups. Alzheimer's and the Sydney cats and dogs house, there’s some pretty sweet graphic design orientated projects that they’ve poured a lot of hours into and really changed some lives for the people that work for those companies. And there’s nothing revolutionary about what they’re doing but they’re just understanding what that company needs to kinda empower the people to get behind it. So it’s kinda like taking a step back and thinking about the situations properly and not going into it having a predetermined solution right? Like if someone comes and says, ‘I need to promote an event, do me a poster’. Is there another way to actually do that? And take a step back and not just go for the poster and say, ‘there might be a better solution for yourself or your audience that might make more of an impact. And it might cost less, or it might cost a little bit more but that’s when you wanna persevere with a better solution for whatever it is.
RR: Do you have a lot of opportunities, or do you create a lot of opportunities for yourself in that way?
RM: Ummm.. I think like at work were never restricted to this needs to be a certain something. There’s always, we never ignore that idea that this could be something else. There might be a certain brief and it’s gotta be a certain dimension whatever it is, to do a tile. But we always think, what if? Or maybe they should have done this, and yeah it doesn’t stray away from the mind. I mean yeah there’s a lot of situations where it just doesn’t work and your not gonna be able to do a big social media campaign when they’ve only got $800 to spend right? So there’s obviously that balance and as long as your thinking in that realm, and making sure you have a moment to think about, ‘maybe this could have been like this’, and then when the opportunity does come to actually do that, create that opportunity for yourself. Whether it be sitting down with the right people to make that happen. That’s probably the biggest battle, I know that Dean Poole at the DINZ talk, did you go to the latest one?
RR: Yeah, yeah I did. That was amazing eh! I thought he was really rad.
RM: Yeah, yeah! Really incredible. The last thing he said when Fraser asked him what the biggest thing was that he’s learnt, and he kinda said that an idea is 1% right and the 99% is just getting it across the line. That’s totally relatable, i think it relates back to that little idea that you might have of, ‘hey this could actually be this, or could be something else that’s not just this poster’ and then it’s putting in all the hard yards to make that happen. And that’s basically every day at the studio, is having ideas and trying to get them across the line and get people on board with them to make them happen, because yeah it is just like a little vision that could totally change the outcome of a product. But there’s so much work after that to make it come to life. The extra hours whatever it is.
RR: Do you do, like I know you’ve got your own brand Subject. But you said you were doing this TEDX pro bono stuff? Do you guys do much of that? Is there a reason you’re doing the TEDX stuff?
RM: Yeah I don’t know how much I can like talk about it. Last year we did the TEDX booklet that they had. We helped them out. It was meant to be a take away poster and that was what they came to us with. With no money, they don’t have any money to spend. And we were like ‘hey yeah we can do that’. So we took this idea and it was a takeaway poster, and the outcome of it was these cards and it was quite different, very different, everything was different. So that’s an example of us taking a step back and understanding what this actually could be?
So that was really cool and then this year Strategy is a creative partner so we took a bigger role in creating this TEDX experience. Due to the size of it, there is a lot of people in it. But really it was an opportunity to enhance that experience and make a cooler and better event for everyone. And so that meant that there was a certain amount of hours in the studio that we would do and then me and Ollie have been working a lot more outside to make that happen. To kinda i guess in the same sense of that 1%, 99%. There was that 1% vision idea at the start, ‘oh we can do something really cool’ and now we’re currently in the 99%. But it’s that 1% that’s kinda like that vision that’s hey this is what we want to try and achieve right and there’s a lot of work that goes into it.
RR: That’s definitely something that i’ve been
struggling with.

RM: I guess that creating opportunities is kinda like just comes part in parcel with that. If you’re passionate about what you do, you’re gonna strive to create opportunities where you are doing those things.
RR: That’s awesome! I should probably turn this
off because...