Brooke Thorn

As a leading Interior Designer working in the corporate office of Melbourne's leading Interior Designers, Brooke came to OSNS because she wanted to find the satisfaction and  personal fulfilment that was lacking in her current role. She wanted to work instead in an authentic space and learn essential knowledge of Typographic Craft. She especially wanted to step away from the screen, and reconnect with using her hands. Her client and project management  skills supported the cross over into an allied discipline. Her training and practice as an architect meant that she was comfortable with the rigours of the creative process.

Have you had any form of design schooling before?

Yes, I’ve studied a 4 year Interior Design degree at UniSA in Adelaide, and I have also taught Interior Design subjects at Swinburne University in Melbourne.

How do you think Old School differs from traditional design education?

Old School is different in every sense. Old School is how I imagined my own Interior Design schooling would be, and it is also how I imagined I wanted to teach design when I was in a teaching role. Large university design institutions have massive amounts of bureaucracy which stifles good teaching practice, and often the people at the head of the Design Schools making all the decisions on academic outcomes have no passion for teaching and sometimes not even a passion for design. So the whole thing gets weighed down by procedure, red tape and making money. There are plenty of wonderful teachers in those institutions, but with the large class sizes they have to deal with, the lack of admin support and the diminishing motivation of students in these classes; it’s a really hard slog. The roots of Old School are fundamentally different to large design institutions. It is driven by a single person, who clearly has a passion for design and for education. And so with Veronica at the helm the focus is directly on the students and how they can individually improve themselves and their design thinking. The assignments are written to inspire and to engage the students… and it is hard work! But that’s the point. Because of the small class sizes, we are all motivated to be there and to produce the best we can. We get clear and unambiguous verbal feedback of our work on a weekly basis, and constructive and thorough written feedback at the end of each 5 week module. And we have to engage with each other in class and give each other feedback, advice and leads. We are encouraged to work together, as well as independently, in a stimulating and supportive environment.

How do you think you have developed creatively from your education at Old School?

In general I feel like I have refined my overall design understanding, and absorbed some very crucial and specific communication design knowledge such as typography and the power of images. But the biggest and most stimulating learning that has happened for me so far at Old School has been the realisation that communication design isn’t just about creating posters, pamphlets and logos. That the most exciting and cutting edge communication design is thinking about how designers can motivate and engage people and communities with participatory design projects. Doing the neighbourhood social design activity, and the Inspire Me module was probably the most exciting, inspiring and challenging exercise I’ve done through Old School and in that sense it has been the biggest development of my creative education so far…

What would you like to see in the future of design education?

More of this! More student focused design education and more innovative assignments which direct the focus away from doing pretty things on the computer and into a broad spectrum of intelligent, world-wide, cross-boundary design problem solving with effective social engagement and positive social outcomes. I would also love to see a broader crossover between design disciplines to achieve the above goal. Because I come from an Interior Design/Architectural background I can easily see how with the power of those ‘built-environment’ design disciplines, as well as industrial design, can work to huge beneficial effect with communication designers to achieve positive social impacts on the world around us. It is so frustrating to see designers box themselves into little niches and have little understanding of how they can positively work together with other design disciplines to achieve amazing things. I think some of the best examples of this are from Architecture for Humanity and their ‘Design Like You Give A Damn’ publications. This sort of thinking and this sort of outcome needs to be taught in design education today.

What has been your favourite activity?

The neighbourhood social design activity, and the Inspire Me module.

Brooke wants to be a better typographer, and is just starting to realise how long it takes to see the details and difference required to make type that is dazzling. Pictured below is just a tiny sample of Brooke's recent work for our last module called Design Inc, when Brooke designed an identity for another designer and her peer, Sooz Lomas.