Five minutes with James Harper
Q: Tell me about your role and how this intersects with design?
A: I run a Commercial Interior Design Practice, which specialises in Retail Design. Most of our work is ‘Retail Roll Out’, which is applying an existing (usually Global) design concept to specific sites. Typically, the greatest challenges are in the planning of the store, the lighting and services and the shop front design. We also coordinate the other consultants, contractors and suppliers to deliver a fully resolved, high quality result for our clients. The thing I most enjoy about this role is working with iconic brands like Apple and Omega and providing retail solutions that support and align with the great products they sell.
Q: Why do you think the bathroom is one of the most important spaces in the home?
A: With homes becoming more open plan, bathrooms are increasingly important sanctuaries for people to get away from it all. I think this is why they are becoming more luxurious and indulgent rather than the bland, functional spaces they used to be.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A: Travel, travel and more travel. I love visiting new countries or revisiting my old favourites like Italy, UK, France and Denmark. I seem to have my eyes open more when I travel so I see beauty, design, culture and innovation so much more clearly. Of course travel doesn’t have to be to other countries, it can be to the next suburb, but it has to be real, not virtual.
Q: What are some of the ways emerging designers can take their careers into their own hands?
A: Build a professional network by joining the Design Institute of Australia (DIA). Take advantage of everything they provide for those joining the industry such as Graduate of the Year Awards (GOTYA), Emerging Designer Councils, Networking Events and more.
Q: In order to put your best foot forward (and establish yourself or your brand as competition-winning material), what sort of things do you need to do?
A: As above, join the DIA (it’s really cost effective for Students and Graduates), develop a personal brand – as you would a Corporate Identity with a logo, look and feel, fonts – and apply this seamlessly to every touch-point including your website, business card and emails.
Q: Why is BIA such a great opportunity for emerging designers and professional designers?
A: The prize money is fantastic for a design competition, but perhaps more important is the opportunity to have your design realised or to experience working with a world leading company in Roca. Exposure to the judges, media and industry are also great opportunities.
Q: What are the benefits of entering into competitions?
A: Particularly for young designers, awards are a great way to gain experience and exposure. Producing a winning, commended or even shortlisted entry can reap rewards. Another benefit is designing to a relatively open brief, which provides so many opportunities to push the boundaries of your design work into new areas and to trial new presentation techniques.