The Interview Series // 21

DavidRacchiDesigner

David Racchi is a designer. David Racchi is from Melbourne. David Racchi has spent most of his working life in Spain. David Racchi just won a Gold Lion. Which smiley faced runabout in the image above is he? Could he be the middle guy? How cool is the middle guy!? Ha! No! He’s the brooding character over there on the far right! Hello David! How are you? Wait, don’t answer. We’ll do the question thing soon. First we’ll do the intro. David started an agency in the Spanish city of Murcia just a few years ago. Its name is F33 (http://www NULL.fundacion33 NULL.com/). They did some work, lots of cool stuff actually (http://www NULL.fundacion33 NULL.com/), and eventually won a Gold Lion at Cannes for a particularly cool piggy bank. So we sat down with his good self on his return to Melbourne, drank many Spanish beers, and discovered that your career doesn’t finish with a Gold Lion. It starts with one.

Jr: Where did it all start for you? Obviously in Melbourne, we know that much. Give us your best nutshell.

David Racchi: Ha, OK. So I went to Tafe, studied film, and dropped out. Then I studied animation and dropped out. Then I studied illustration for a year and finally discovered a design course. I thought that was cool, so I got into design. I met Matt Quick (http://www NULL.matthewquick NULL.com NULL.au/), (then: practicing designer and teacher, now: a Melbourne artist), and he changed my way of thinking into being more concept based. Before what I learnt seemed stuck on being all about the finished product. But I soon realised the idea was important as well.

So I worked in a few small studios for short periods of time. I decided I wanted to leave Australia, just to travel. After a year of travel, a small agency in Murcia (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Murcia), Spain, called me after I sent them my folio and they offered me a job over the phone. I worked in Murcia for two years at this agency, and then I decided to quit. I had no folio, and had nothing to show for my time there, and I wanted to go back to Australia.When I was about to leave a friend of mine recommended me to a studio called Dfraile (http://www NULL.dfraile NULL.com/) and said the guy there was pretty amazing. I met this guy (Eduardo del Fraile), who is now really well known in Spain. The interview was at four o’clock in the afternoon, but we got along so well the interview finished at 2 o’clock in the morning. In the end he gave me some part-time work. I started working there a lot, and over time our styles changed together, something clicked, and the kind of work that we were producing showed that.

Jr: Wow! That’s such an intense story. But maybe that’s how most careers start. So this working relationship was pretty cool for a young guy like you to have. You must have learnt a lot from each other. What did you learn?

D: Yeah I think we both just gelled. What I learnt was how to work, how to treat a client, how to persist, and how to choose what you want. He also taught me that it’s not about the big businesses, and with smaller clients you can do incredible things. Everything is a possibility, it doesn’t matter who it is.

Jr: So you were an awesome team! That’s so cool. Was it better working collaboratively like this? Would you recommend it to the kids?

D: Depends on who you work for. The hardest thing is working for people that have an ego and can’t take constructive criticism. You have to have an ability to be able to step back and listen to the person making the judgment or the criticism. I’d go and ask someone what they could see in a piece of work, and I’d say it was an elephant. They’d tell me it was a dog. So obviously it doesn’t work. I learnt to feed off of each other. If everything has a concept, the possibilities are endless.

Jr: Concepts make it easy!

D: If you do something pretty, you can only go so far.

Jr: Totally. So after you were involved in the A-team, what did you do next?

D: Well from there I wanted to set up a studio. I met some people who offered to help me set it up, so we just did it. Not little by little, but we just did it. We called it F33 (http://www NULL.fundacion33 NULL.com/main NULL.html). (Editors note: at this point in the interview, David rolls up the arm of his shirt to reveal an F33 tattoo. Us: “Fuck yeah!” Cough. “Continue…”)

Heh. So the first six months were horrible, we had no money and no clients. Slowly we had little jobs come through, but they weren’t paying anything and I was getting worried. A gallery in Spain gave us a contact for the chance to pitch for a client. We spent two weeks doing the job and went to present it. We got through it, and they called us two days later and told us that they loved it. From one day to the next, as soon as that job came out, we got heaps of work. What we decided from the start was that we would do the best we could. A lot of times we paid for the jobs so we could get a good body of work behind us. The clients never knew. It just worked. The first year we had nothing. The second year everything happened for us. We started sending out to the three big award competitions in Spain. We sent off what we had, but we had no idea if they were any good. And we started winning; a bronze here, a silver there. It was then that we realised that we actually had some good stuff.

Jr: A little faith goes a long way. So after you started winning awards and getting all famous and stuff, did you become pretty well known in the city?

D: In Murcia we were pretty well known within two years. We became one of the top studios. Once we won the Gold Lion, we started getting a lot more work. However two weeks before we won the Lion I told the guys I was ready to move on. I didn’t expect we’d win.

Jr: Bzzzt! Hold up! You just won a Gold Lion and now you’re leaving!?

D: Heh, yeah I know.

Jr: More intense stories! So did you leave just because you wanted to move on?

D: I met a girl in Poland. But, I wanted to leave the year before. I’ve got this thing that I’m not that old yet, I’m only 34,and there are still many more things I want to see. The studio has never been a dream of mine; it’s only been a project for me. My dream is to just keep experiencing new things, and I felt that Murcia was going to hold me back. I needed something else. The last month became a huge dilemma for me, and no one in the studio actually believed that I was leaving. It’s not about my girlfriend, and it’s not about work. It’s about what you feel inside and what you are looking for. I felt like it was fantastic, but I need to do something else. So I went to a few ad agencies in Poland and had interviews. They’re really interested in me, and they all want me to be creative director. I’m not sure I want that role; I want something lower so that I can learn. I’m not a creative, I’m a designer with ideas. I lack confidence in some areas, but I’m not afraid to learn. I’m not ready for that position. It isn’t about the money to me, but about being happy where I’m working.I think that there are much more important things than making money and getting known. Things that aren’t related to design, but are related to being happy. But I’d be an idiot to say no.

Jr: Maybe. Maybe not. So rewind a little. Tell us more about the split from F33.

D: It’s hard because you become F33. Everything is the studio and every decision you make goes through the studio. It is great, but I needed a break from it and to find myself again. The best thing is that having the studio has given me the opportunity to be where I am now. It’s the best position I’m in at the moment, where anything is possible. F33 was a decision we didn’t think out, we just did it. But it’s given me so much more working with F33. Working with my F33 partners has been an unforgettable experience and without them I don’t think I’d have the same opportunities I have now. Together we all came of age and became a great team.

Jr: Who was the team? Who are the folks in that photo?

D: There were four partners; I was designer/creative, Rodrigo Fonseca was a designer/creative, Joaquin Martinez de Salas was creative who deals with the clients as well, we had an administrator Pepe Sola, plus we had a web girl Nika, another designer Alberto Perez, and another guy who helped with production.

Jr: They all sound lovely! What was it like in the office when you won the Gold Lion (http://www NULL.psfk NULL.com/2009/07/aussie-david-racchi-wins-cannes-lion-gold NULL.html)? Was it fun? What happened?

D: We entered and I called to find out the results. I thought maybe we could have won a bronze. When I called, they said that they had already called the people that have won. So I thought, right, well, we haven’t won then. But I knew we were in the first eight. Then she called again, and said, “Actually, you have won.” This time Rodrigo answered and said, “What? Bronze?” She said, “No, you’ve won!” He said, “Silver?” She said, “No, you’ve won!” And he said, “The gold?” We couldn’t believe it.

Jr: Ha. That’s hilarious. Did you go to the ceremony?

D: We couldn’t go. They only called us seven hours before the ceremony and there were no tickets left to France, so there was no way for us to go. Most people usually go whether they have won or not, but we couldn’t afford that.

Jr: What about the entry itself, how did it all work?

D: It was a book to do with taxes (http://www NULL.psfk NULL.com/2009/07/aussie-david-racchi-wins-cannes-lion-gold NULL.html), kind of like an annual report for the Agencia Regional de Recaudación (Regional Tax Collection Agency). We decided we wanted to put the book inside of a pig, like one of those moneyboxes. All of it is how to open the pig. The whole idea was how to make it what it isn’t – which is serious graphs. We had them specially made, and the best thing was that it was only a small client so it was very inexpensive – we only had to make 500. We couldn’t have done it if we had a big client. And we won an award from it, so anything is possible.

piget_web

Jr: Did you send a sample into the awards?

D: We did, we had to send two in case it broke. We found out later that everyone, all of the judges, were waiting to smash it open. One of my favourite designers is Frost (http://frostdesign NULL.com NULL.au)

Jr: Yeah we like Frost too. We even interviewed him you know.

D: Great! He’s one of my favourites. Everything he does has an idea behind it. Anyway, he was one of the judges at Cannes, and for me that was amazing. My work is completely different to his, but his ideas seem so simple. They are the hardest ones of course, because they are so obvious. I’m starting to understand a little bit about how winning awards, for design, works. Basically, if you can take a piece of paper and do something incredible with it, you’ll get there. I saw this idea once for a program for a music festival. Basically the program was printed on fluorescent green paper, scrunched up into a ball, and thrown onto the street. And there were thousands of them. Everyone stopped to pick them up to see what they were. That won a pretty big award, just for an A4 piece of paper. With so little, you can do so much. It isn’t about having a million dollar budget. These guys did it with an A4 printer. A simple idea that shows a lot of thinking.

Jr: When you presented the piglet to the client, was it just the one concept?

D: Yes, and they loved it. We never presented more than one. That’s our strategy, we only present one; it’s the one we want and the one we believe in and we fight for it. It has backfired a few times, but most of the time it has gone through. I’ve worked in studios where we present three and it’s always fucked up. They want a mish mash of the ideas. The idea that we present is the best one for you, and the one we thing is going to work best for you. My thing is that If you have to explain an idea for more than half an hour, then it isn’t worth it. If they don’t get it straight away then it isn’t working.

Jr: Now that you have had your own studio, how will it be working for someone else?

D: It will be a bit of a shock. This is the interesting thing, a guy from Ogilvy told me I had a pretty consistent folio. The old train of thought is to have 15 pieces in your folio. But now it’s all about putting only your good pieces in. If you have 50,000 good pieces, then put them in, as long as they are the best pieces. My book has 130 pages of work, but I consider them all really good, for me. I was told it is rare to have such a consistent great book. But I think it’s simple – I’ve been working for myself in my own studio for the last three years. If I’d been working for another studio, I’d have a lot less great pieces of work. I was controlling what I wanted to do with my other partners, everything that we did we tried to do the best. That’s the big difference. Every other place I’ve worked, I’ve probably got three or four pieces. If I start working for someone else, I think it might be difficult. But it would be fun.

Jr: What was it like working in Spain?

D: The weather is great all year round! However, the money in there is pretty bad. It’s one of the lowest paying countries, and they won’t offer to give you more. I have a theory when it comes to asking for money, and that is to do it when you don’t want it. Traditionally, you always ask for a pay rise when you think you deserve it, or if you’ve bought a house, etc. And you know they’re going to say no. So if you ask before any of this stuff happens, and they say no, they know that you’re thinking that you want more money. Rather than asking when you need it and then hating your job as a result, because you need the money. People are afraid to ask for a good wage, because they’re afraid they’re going to get fired. You aren’t going to get fired. You’ve got to make it clear from the start and know what you’re worth. You’ve got to get what you deserve. It’s like Ant Keogh said in his interview: you make yourself invaluable. And I think I’ve got to that point of knowing how I can be important, and knowing that I’m worth it.

Jr: But how the hell do you do that? How do you make yourself invaluable?

D: The most important thing I’ve realised is you need to make sure people remember you. People go into jobs and work two hours, and think, this is how much I need to be paid for this time. I often work a lot of hours for free. It’s not about my ego, but I know that one day that’s going to give me more than the money they could have paid me will. They will remember me. Again, I think it was said in another interview with Marcus from Droga5 – make an impression.

Jr: That’s really great advice. We’re pumped to do stuff now! So what’s the deal for you now? You’ve got the design background, and now you are going to go and dabble in advertising. Is that out of ambition, or what you want to do, or winning the Lion pushed you in that direction, or would you be happy to go back and just pursue design?

D: I think I’d be happy doing design. We were doing advertising at the studio mainly because we had to eat. We did a lot of guerilla advertising in Spain. We started doing that by accident, but it always worked. And that’s how we started thinking. I’m at a crossroads where I have to decide what I want to do and where I want to go. For me, outside people have been telling me I should try something else because I’ve got the type of book that shows fresh ideas. That’s the only reason I’ve been considering it. I do like it but I’m not sure it is my thing. I’ve fallen into it and I’m not sure yet, I know I’m good at it but it’s just happened. But maybe I should trust these guys who have more experience than me and know more than me, and see if they are right.

Jr: You definitely should! Go for it!

D: I feel like creative director is a bit out of my league at the moment though. If I could just be the guy that helps out I’d be happy with that. The honest truth is I’m scared, I’m shit scared.

Jr: You’ve got to make a crack at it though. You’re at a crossroads, and which way do you go?

D: You’re never going to know. That’s the thing. Only when you look back will you see how your choices have shaped your road.

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 07/10/2009