Kettle on for a chat with David Wall, Head of Design at McCann Dublin and 2021 Design Management Professional Diploma graduate, to know a little bit more about himself and his experience on the programme.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a graphic designer, strategist and design director. Currently, I’m Head of Design at McCann Dublin, where I get to be all of those things, with a particular focus on our branding work. Before that, I was co-founder/director of WorkGroup; an independent design studio. I’ve known that I wanted to work in design since I was quite young and I feel lucky and happy to do a job I love.
What’s your day-to-day flow at McCann Dublin?
My day-to-day flow depends on the projects in the agency, but usually, I’ll check in with colleagues early and try to get some focussed time in before lunch on either writing or design work. I work from a home studio and from the agency offices which are very close to each other, which is handy!
You used to run your own design studio and are now Head of Design in a large agency. What are the differences and perhaps challenges?
Co-owning and running my own place (with my former partner Conor) was a great experience and it was a big change to come into this new world a couple of years ago. I now have the chance to be part of a broader team and to work on branding projects that have a big impact. Being part of an agency brings more opportunities to learn and be challenged and for the work to play a meaningful role in people’s lives.
What solutions were you looking to find in the Design Management Professional Diploma programme?
In considering the Design Management Professional Diploma, I was hoping to put a more formal shape on the design management experience I had built up in having my own business and in my role at the agency. I was concerned that my knowledge was limited by the shape of my personal experience and that there were more ways to approach that side of my practice.
What were your key takeaways from the Design Management Professional Diploma programme and how have you implemented them into your practice?
I got that more formal approach to design management and much more. Having a group of accomplished peers together in such a supportive environment was one part of the course that I had not foreseen, and which I enjoyed a lot. My fellow students were from a broad range of backgrounds and I learned a lot from their experience and insights. It was also affirming to see so many shared challenges for those in similar positions and to have a forum where approaches to those issues could be discussed and critiqued in an open dialogue.
Aside from that, it was an opportunity to articulate a more definitive view on how design could be managed, especially in an organisation that doesn’t exclusively deal in design. I was able to take structured ways of navigating that side of my work back to the agency.
Why would you recommend the Design Management Professional Diploma to others?
I think that making space for this kind of personal and professional development can be a real challenge in the context of our busy lives and the Design Management Professional Diploma was set out in a way that responded to that. It was a great space for that kind of development and learning, and I’ll be feeling the value of it for years to come.
Design heroes, dead or alive – who would you cite as key influences or mentors in your career?
I don’t have a good answer for this one! I am a rabid fan of graphic design and enjoy the work of all the usual suspects. The people who truly inspire me are those with the confidence to support those around them and who celebrate and foreground the work of others. I’ve seen this in colleagues, clients, in life, and in our shared culture and discourse. I look to those people to influence my practice and myself.
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