Name: KT Doyle
Job title: Artist / Designer / Studio Assistant
Current employer: KT Doyle / JEANBAG (founder) / TheSumOf
Location: Brisbane, Australia
“I am totally motivated by doing meaningful work,” professes artist, designer and assistant KT Doyle. “I care about people, and that’s why I care about the planet.”
In the era of the ‘slashie’, where a growing number of workers are moving beyond the traditional boundaries of a single full-time job, we’ve come to see the rise of creatives carving themselves a niche spot in the industry as the master of their (many) domains. The idea: work one job by day, go home, work another. Or increasingly, for the modern ‘slashie’: work one job a few days a week, another for a few more days, and then fill in the rest of your time with another project. From the practical to the passionate, there are a number of reasons for throwing the idea of the ‘traditional’ working week out the window.
As a business owner, independent artist, and assistant to director Kevin Finn of Brisbane-based design practice TheSumOf, KT Doyle is – if you’ll forgive the pun – the true sum of all of her parts. This determined, insightful woman has forged an impressive career path across a number of mediums over the years, but her motivation for doing so remains resolute: to create meaningful products through meaningful work that can make a difference.
A graduate of Fine Art degrees in both Melbourne and Brisbane, KT’s working relationship with Kevin Finn and TheSumOf came about in the way most creative partnerships do: the discovery that you’re on the same thinking plane.
“In 2010, both Kevin and I submitted project proposals for Brisbane’s inaugural Unlimited: Designing for the Asia Pacific event,” recounts KT. “The curator for the exhibition program suggested we meet as our projects, while different, were conceptually quite similar – I contacted Kevin and our first phone call lasted hours.”
The rest is history. With DESIGNerd, Open Manifesto, and the fact that at the end of the day TheSumOf is a functioning studio, KT’s daily schedule is, unsurprisingly, full and varied.
“On any given day I will be adding new content to our websites, collaborating on new project plans, proofreading issues of Open Manifesto, compiling newsletters, and undertaking general administration,” KT explains. “Kevin and I work together to drive and deliver the websites, communications and long-term strategies of both DESIGNerd and Open Manifesto, so, generally speaking, I do whatever Kevin needs me to do and if I don’t know how to do it, I find out!”
You’d think such a role would see her schedule at capacity, but KT’s role at TheSumOf accounts for only two days of her week. The rest of her time is spent dedicated to her own business, JEANBAG, which launched in September 2014. It’s a nod to her time previously spent as a surface designer for companies with a sustainable focus. The brand functions as a collection of products for the home, created from recycled denim jeans, and focuses on the diversion of textile waste from landfill to support charity organisations in the process. To add to her assistant duties at TheSumOf, KT’s development at JEANBAG is as multifaceted.
“I am the only one in the business, so you can find me undertaking research and development for new products, managing social media and communications, forward-planning product launches, or fulfilling orders,” she says. “And yes, I make all the products myself!”
The motivation to create meaningful work often starts with good intentions, but it can also quickly fall apart as the balancing act of multiple jobs and projects appears easier than it seems. KT’s work ethic extends beyond just getting things done for the sake of forging a successful career. To foster a viable existence across a variety of projects, passion in planning is still key.
“It’s really important for me to work within a structure with deadlines,” KT explains. “I think a lot of people fail in their ‘side projects’, because they don’t create deadlines or, if they do, they don’t stick to them.”
It’s an extensive but worthwhile process.
“At the beginning of the year, I list my goals and set them into a timeline and then break each of the major goals down into tasks,” she says. “I figure out what I need to do to get to where I want to be and then I calendarise those tasks.”
KT says business entrepreneur, Marie Forleo, sums it up by saying, “If it’s not scheduled, it’s not real.”
Planning and refining her work processes has also allowed KT to relish the downtime she has on weekends, as time on and away from multiple projects remains precious. It has helped her improve other aspects of her lifestyle, too.
“I’ve been consciously simplifying my life for a while, and pairing everything back to the bare essentials – curating what and who is in my life from the clothes I wear, to the projects I take on, and the people I surround myself with,” she says. “This has helped me gain back time and mental space and has made a huge difference to my productivity. Do more of what feels good, and less of what doesn’t.”
KT also lists unwinding with a good film, a swim at the beach, and “super-early” trips to the market on a Saturday as her cure-alls for when things just get a bit too much. But even when things do get a bit too much, there is always solace in the fact her work is meaningful.
“I started JEANBAG to help make a difference in the world and that’s also why I came on board [with TheSumOf],” KT says. “I believe in Kevin’s holistic and integrated approach to the work he does through the practice, DESIGNerd and Open Manifesto.”
“Kevin approaches everything with honesty, rigour and the sort of thoroughness that comes from caring deeply about people and I am excited to be a part of that.”
In the near future, there are plans for DESIGNerd to expand beyond 100+ to cover other events that focus on fun, engaging and meaningful educational content.
“My role will be to help get the events up and running, to make sure everything goes to plan on the day and, most of all, to ensure our speaker, our collaborators and our attendees have a great experience, ” KT explains. “They will be inspirational events aimed at sharing experience and personal insights with the design and business communities.”
For KT, it means her role at TheSumOf, alongside the growth of JEANBAG, might just get more busy than it already is. Or it might not. One thing is certain, though: it’s this dedication, motivation and passion that takes the creators of meaningful work far.
We hear a lot from Creative Directors, we’ve checked out our share of studio profiles, and we think we have a pretty good idea of what designers do. But what about the account managers? The copywriters? The accountants? A machine needs more than one cog to run smoothly, right? Each month, we’ll introduce someone working behind-the-scenes wonders and give you an insight into the wide scope of roles within the creative industry.
Photos by Savannah Van der Niet