Opening up opportunities and exploring ideas in Nicholson Street
When she was a little girl, Liana Lucca-Pope had no idea what a graphic designer was. She was the kid at school who liked to decorate and arrange school projects in a very considered way, with particular attention to the layout of the page: beautiful, perfect margins and a lot of time spent on really good headings.
Talented at drawing and painting, Liana thought that her future career would be in fine art, until she had a revelation. “I was trying to work out what to do with this apparent skill of visual art, and nothing to say.”
Liana was told she should consider becoming a graphic designer, so she entered this design stream and began to understand exactly what design was, and how, finally, she could communicate her talents.
"It was like a light-bulb moment for me. A designer speaks for the client. It’s not just about making things look beautiful, it’s also about the thinking and the psychology behind it, which became my motivation as a communicator and an artist."
I enter the space that makes up Liana’s two businesses that live here in harmony: The Idea Collective, and Hello Idea, her six-year-old graphic design business. I am immediately impressed by the visually dynamic, and savvy communication enterprise of both these businesses.
The Idea Collective has been operating for three years and is a modest but gutsy co-working space for like-minded, creative people running their own businesses. Located on the top floor of the Footscray Mechanics’ Institute Building in Nicholson Street, “it’s one of my ideas manifested,” says Liana. "I’m passionate about community building.”
The four-foot cardboard cactus with the toothpicks for prickles; the bookcase filled with esoteric collectables from a seventies childhood; the board game ‘Test Match,’ and a small doll with an oversized head that talks when you pull the string in her back (among other gems), leave me with a warm, fuzzy longing for my own memories of iconic seventies memorabilia, and a feeling of personal understanding and inclusion in an unfamiliar room.
Liana greets me with an equally friendly and inclusive persona and invites me to take a seat while she troubleshoots and ties up some unexpected loose ends that are a frustrating reality of running one’s own business.
Off the main area is a cosy kitchen nook, four offices and a boardroom. Through this door opening, I can see a message, sprawled across a blackboard on the wall, which says,
“A Good Idea Brightens a Dark World.” It’s a simple statement, but also an intrinsically motivating one. Liana takes a seat beside me.
All at once, I’m curious and want to ask her a myriad of questions on both the space, and her graphic design business. She explains that the people working in ‘The Idea Collective’ really like its reasonable rates as well as the community and the support aspect. We agree that it can be very lonely working from home and it’s nice to be in a space with other people who are going through similar kinds of issues, even if their industries are quite different.
“Collaboration is not something I engineer, and connections are not something I engineer deliberately. They tend to happen organically and it’s lovely when that occurs.” Liana emphasises that the space is certainly curated. She makes sure everybody meets each other, and encourages them to talk.
“I definitely engineer that,” she says, and has had a lot of positive feedback from people saying that’s what they really like about the space. “I don’t think its ok for someone to walk in, not talk to anyone, and then leave.”
She invites people to become members and maintains she can tell quickly if somebody is a good fit, in terms of their personality. It’s like a share house. People need to feel comfortable with each other, but the challenge is letting them know that. Liana says she always tries to pull things back to the truth.
“My priority is to create an environment whereby people feel like they’re in a connected community, and can support each other in some way.” Some co-working spaces develop networking sessions and workshops, but this space doesn’t. It’s small enough that they don’t need to.
Explaining to a prospective business that they’re not a good fit for the environment and subsequently, not a good fit for the other businesses there, is challenging and can be quite tricky. Thankfully, Liana has never had a situation turn nasty. She doesn’t know if she has a ‘sixth sense,’ but she believes she’s developed a ‘muscle’ through graphic design, and having to read her clients.
“When I sit down to get a brief from a client, it’s not just what they say, it’s what they don’t say.” This experience and knowledge has activated her discerning eye and brings me to Hello Idea, and the whole graphic design ethos.
Liana explains that a graphic designer visually communicates for a client. “It’s not necessarily about an alternative. It’s about a solution.” In order to do this, she has to understand who the client is and what they’re trying to say: the client doesn’t necessarily know how to visually communicate because that’s not their job.
“That’s my job. They can’t always precisely articulate their needs. I have to be able to dig for the information they may not even know they have.” Liana reads the client’s non-verbal signals to work out what they are trying to tell her so she can make it real. The client doesn’t need to find the solution.
Liana has a process when she’s designing. Whether it’s a new brand identity or it’s to support an existing brand, the process is usually the same. “I ask the client who, what, why, how? What do they want to achieve? I research the market and the market they sit in. How are they visually communicating?” She reiterates that you need to sit comfortably, stand out and communicate your authentic message. How you can use colour, shape, typography and an image to communicate what the client needs to say.
Does she leave something of herself in her designs? She grins broadly. “I think you have to, but it’s about suspending ego.” Liana goes on to elaborate that her aesthetic taste and value judgements are always going to be there. Her visual language references her life. “Inspiration is based on how I walk through life and what I observe; where I live and what I see in my environment. Where I travel. Artwork I’m exposed to. Galleries I go to. Books I read. All of those things inform my visual language.”
“Why Footscray?” I ask. She continues her passionate stance. “It’s about the fantastic sense of community in the inner west, as well as being affordable and close to the city.”
Liana is drawn to areas that change. “I like dynamic areas that feel culturally rich in terms of ethnic, artistic and social cultures.” She feels you get a good sense of that in Footscray. A sense of the past and a respect for migrants and how important they are.
“It’s a living, changing community. It doesn’t feel established.”
The same could be said of The Idea Collective. It’s an ‘innovation hub’ within the Nicholson Street vibe, and Liana is steering it, and Hello Idea, in the right community-connected direction.
Pictures by Karen Joy and Michelle Fincke
Karen Joy is a student at Victoria University studying
Professional Writing and Editing. Her professional background has been in hospitality, marketing, radio copywriting and more recently,
human resources and recruitment.
She lives on the Mornington Peninsula with her husband
and four sons.