By Ryan Malcolm
Digital design luminary and Swinburne grad, Tim Kotsiakos, is using his years of experience to shape the future of digital design students.
A 22-year career in graphic and digital design has provided Tim with a vital outlook on the landscape, one which he aims to impart to aspiring designers.
Since completing a Bachelor of Graphic Design (Hons) at Swinburne in 1995, Tim has blazed a trail in digital design, navigating huge changes in technology and garnering an impressive reputation within the industry.
Immediately following his graduation, Tim became a senior designer for DTDesign, working with fellow Swinburne grad David Trewern to establish an upstart design studio that would be able to compete in an ever-changing and close-knit Victorian design industry.
“It was a pretty exciting time to be in the industry and it was all very new,” says Tim.
“The industry was so small, we’d meet at a bar once a month and we’d all fit in the tiny back room.”
Becoming a creative director
Tim’s first exposure to the industry also played a vital role in shaping the kind of creative director he wanted to be as his career developed.
“Some of these early experiences certainly helped me understand the importance of being truly human-centric. Being able to watch David interact with clients and build his own business was a massive influence, and one I’m still very grateful for,” says Tim.
Tim spent eight years playing an integral role in pushing DTDesign to the forefront of the Victorian digital design scene, where he developed his knowledge of production and interface design for the user experience (more commonly referred to as Information Architecture at the time).
Developing these skills early in his career helped Tim stand out from the crowd, giving him the opportunity to collaborate with the Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA), where he developed his outlook on the business of design.
“It was a very good reminder of how many amazing, hard-working design businesses there are in Australia, and a reminder of how many of them are small, micro-businesses,” Tim says.
“It helped me form the opinion that to do great design work you also need to be great at business.”
Taking on the world
Following brief stints at Atomic and Eclipse (Deloitte), Tim joined the world-renowned Reactive design team as a creative director. He completely overhauled the Reactive brand and website, before collaborating with a number of international clients, including British Airways.
Working in conjunction with Reactive’s London office, Tim developed an in-flight entertainment interface that would work while reclined in first class with a handheld remote, as well as in a confined space in economy, utilising a touch screen display.
This experience, working in a small team of “really experienced people” had a lasting effect on Tim, as it provided a model for him to launch his own design company in 2015.
After a fruitful tenure at Reactive, Tim’s new company MASS hit the ground running, quickly developing a reputation for exceptional design output and client collaboration, which Tim hopes will lay the foundations for future growth.
“We’re excited about solving big problems in lateral ways and we want to work on projects that have a long-term impact on peoples’ lives.”
“If we achieve this and continue to grow, we’ll be absolutely rapt!”
While managing his small Fitzroy-based team, Tim has also returned to his Swinburne roots, becoming heavily involved in developing the Make It, Break It Design Sprint, a five-day program that allows communication design students to workshop creative new ideas in a team format.
In addition, Tim has been involved in adjudicating an honours year ‘shark tank’, allowing these same students to pitch their ideas to established industry experts and garner feedback that can help shape their own design outlook, a role Tim takes great pride in.
“My goal has always been to remain connected with education, and Swinburne has made it very easy for me to do so,” says Tim.
“I’m impressed to see an emphasis on research and user-centred design… the immediate benefits to students are obvious, but I think there is a longer-term benefit to the industry.”
“If we raise the overall quality of graduates we can in turn progress the industry.”
By Ryan Malcolm,
Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) (Professional). Ryan is currently completing a 12-month Professional Placement with Swinburne’s Centre for Design Innovation.