Our interview with Amanda Henderson of Gloss Creative.
We couldn’t think of a better way to launch 2021 than a Masterclass with one of the most respected and revered designers in the country.
Today we're talking to the founder of Gloss Creative, Amanda Henderson, who will be delivering Temporary & Enduring Emotion on Saturday 30th January. In this live and immersive class, Amanda will be sharing valuable insights into how you can successfully combine your creative brain with business smarts to build an enduring, fun and rewarding career that perfectly expresses who you are and how you want to live your life.
Amanda draws on two decades of experimenting with and exploring her creativity in exquisitely ephemeral visual gestures that impact audiences, years after the installation has disappeared. She brings a unique perspective on how designers can put their dreams to work and build a successful brand that is able to weather everything life throws at it, including an extraordinary year like 2020.
Secure one of the last available tickets to our upcoming Masterclass with Amanda HERE.
TDC: Thanks for speaking to us today, Amanda. We can't wait for your Masterclass coming up at the end of January. It feels like an eternity since we first started making plans for this special event. For many of our members, it's been a challenging year. Since you're always so full of positive energy, can you tell us a good news story about your 2020?
AH: It has been an incredible year. But, for me, it's also been a time to reflect and be really grateful—not just from a work point of view, but from a personal point of view. Right now, it's interesting to reflect on Gloss Creative's 20th year from this fresh perspective. I've taken the time to appreciate, with full gratitude, everything we've done in the last 20 years—and it's proven to be a nice circuit breaker.
I think that the good news story for everyone is that with massive change comes a world of opportunity. Things that probably weren't possible before are now possible because everything is now possible. 2020 was definitely a double-edged sword. For example, we found it difficult to find housing for homeless people until the pandemic. Then we did it in three weeks. And for every person retrenched, others have started new jobs or an alternative way of working that perhaps suits them better.
So, I feel like 2020's good news story was that we now have license to follow our dreams and do what we really want to do.
TDC: We love your business mantra of "temporary and enduring emotion". Can you please explain to our readers why you chose this phrase to explain what you do?
AH: When we started Gloss Creative, it took four or five years to understand what we were doing—I was just busy creating and doing.
Then I began noticing repeated creative patterns. When we were creating copy for our first website in 2006, I had the beginnings of an idea about grand simplicity—that the large visual gestures we created filled a space but were often also very simple. And they still had a massive impact on those who came into contact with them.
People regularly come up to me, saying, "Oh, I really loved that marquee you did in 2005." Even after 13 years, they want to share their installation memories. So, I've become increasingly interested in the idea that something can be ephemeral yet inspire an enduring memory. I love that even when the physical installation is gone, it survives in someone's memory. And that's really a metaphor for the industry—installations are put up and pulled down again and again like waves, but it's the memories we've inspired over the last 20 years that remain.
TDC: You started Gloss Creative over 20 years ago. What was the industry like at that time, and what changes have you most noticed since then?
AH: There wasn't really any industry then. It was just people like me doing things. Slowly, over time, as Melbourne emerged as the events capital, people started realising what could be possible. It's been so exciting to be a part of events like the Fashion Festival and Myer and DJs runways—they've been a great platform for us to explore our creativity and connect with incredible collaborators.
Now, there's an industry full of amazing makers, graphic designers who work in 3D, printers, carpenters, florists and more. Many creative geniuses now have a platform and a career path to explore the ephemeral and immersive art. And it's developed into a lovely industry to be in. We support each other. There's an energy that builds up through collaboration and creativity. After COVID, there's also a sense of camaraderie and respect, particularly amongst the young female business owners who dominate the industry.
I do still feel like I'm part of that Girl Boss generation who wanted the flexibility to raise my kids and focussed on the quality of the work. I just started doing it 20 years before it was commonly accepted as a way of balancing work and home lives.
TDC: You've built a reputation for being the masters of brand expression, yet there is always a hint of whimsy and fun in your designs. How do you manage to strike a balance between representing your clients' important brand values and not taking things too seriously?
AH: That's such a great question. Of course, there's two parts to our work—the visual and the way we go about business. The fun and whimsy is essentially just part of my heart. It's me—persistently, doggedly—holding onto a childlike brain. Unfortunately, many designers take themselves way too seriously and incorporating way too much philosophy into their designs. At Gloss Creative, I like to think we're the philosophy-lite people. Sometimes we'll just do something because it looks good.
Ultimately, people love fun. They love to play. We've seen it in international brand events over the last five years—Gucci, Fendi, YSL, Louis Vuitton are deadly serious about their product design. You only have to walk into a Champs Elysees concept store to feel the tension around the product. But they also know how to have fun in their marketing campaigns.
My business's vibe was always about fun, positivity, and doing an outstanding job. It's why I started Gloss Creative—to be myself. You have to be yourself. Over time, you get to know when to have fun and when to focus on the details. It's not that we're happy-go-lucky all the time. Getting the big strategy right and the small details delivered is part of the fun for us, too.
TDC: We're inspired by your generosity of spirit and eagerness to give back to the industry. Why do you think it's so important for established designers to share their knowledge openly?
AH: First, I'm a massive, massive fan of the fact that someone else's star shining doesn't dull your shine. I really can't emphasise that enough for those just starting their career—just because someone else is doing well, it doesn't mean you're not. Your career path is long: you'll shine brightly and not so brightly and in all different ways.
When you collaborate with people whose star is shining, you become brighter. There's a lot of replication in this business, but you don't have to worry if someone's does something the same way. It'll end up different in the long run—I'm who I am, you're who you are, and we bring unique experiences to the table.
Finally, I like to share because I wish I'd known this stuff when I started out 20 years ago. Twelve years of guest lecturing in Visual Merchandising at RMIT has given me great joy to see what students want to achieve and sharing what I've been through. They remind me to keep fresh, be curious, and push myself to try new things—so I think I get back as much as I give.
TDC: You've worked on some amazing award-winning projects over the years and collaborated with some of the greats of the industry. Which of your achievements are you the most proud of?
AH: There's so many to pick from, but I what I'm most proud of is my relationships with other creatives. I like to think we've inspired each other, had fun and collaborated on beautiful projects. I love seeing what people I've collaborated with are working on—it makes me happy to see them flourish and know I've shared some small part in their journey.
Collaborating with clients is equally rewarding. It's wonderful to create something that both of us are proud of—you get better results. It's one thing to win awards for doing fantastic work, but it's really just a reflection of the creative team and their level of thinking.
TDC: The events industry has taken a huge hit over the past 12 months. What are some of the positive changes that you think will stay with us, long after Covid has disappeared?
AH: As I mentioned earlier, the positive changes are that we've now got the power to create change. New doors are scary, but they're also exciting. We need to remember that the setbacks or sidesteps in your career often help you build a career for how you want to live, not just how you want to work.
Parts of our industry have made incredible gains over the last 12 years by switching it up and trying new things. And I think that's a signal to all creatives that you can go where you want to and do what you want to do. Nothing is stopping you. Even a disastrous year like 2020 can't stop you; that's when people shine; that's when people step up to the plate and create the new. I hope that strength, resilience, and fight remain in the industry long after the spectre of COVID has disappeared.
TDC: As creatives, we can sometimes be guilty of focusing more on the design, and less on the dollars. Running a business can be tough! Having run a successful and profitable business for over 20 years, what advice do you have to designers looking to start out in business?
AH: I'll have lots to say on this in the Masterclass. It's good to concentrate on your creative work because it ultimately gets you the next job. But running a business is a whole other thing. And if you can get that right, you can spend more time being creative and less time sweating the admin stuff.
My first piece of advice is that your business superpower is equally made up of creativity and business acumen. You need to have both to be successful. The first thing you need to do is make sure you know why you're doing each job that comes across your desk. Sometimes it might be for fun or PR or marketing, and that's OK, but on other occasions, it's about the dollar. And you need to know which project is which from the outset.
The second part of business success is what I call the 'dripping tap.' This means paying attention to administrative tasks, whether once a day, once a week, once a fortnight, or once a month. Pay attention to the bills you need to pay, check off your commitments, your taxes regularly in a disciplined manner. Set aside a time to do that, and then you won't be up at 3am worrying yourself sick about the basics.
Third, focus on your relationships. Look after your clients, your team members and collaborators. Build long-term business relationships that will drive creative work that is profitable and drives business growth. Finally, if you know you're not good at bookkeeping or administration, outsource to someone who is so you can focus on being creative.
TDC: What exciting things are in the pipeline at Gloss Creative and how are you celebrating your 20-year anniversary?
AH: We're doing a massive reflection on our body of work, and it's also beautiful to be celebrating 20 years by facilitating the Masterclass. So, this is part of that celebration. I'm really humbled and excited to be a part of The Design Coach and what it's doing for the industry.
TDC: What can guests attending your Masterclass on 30 January expect?
AH: Let's call it a shot in the arm for the start of a new year. I will share everything I know about running a creative business—the whole truth and nothing but. I'm out to bust the myth that creatives don't have business acumen. I'm going to talk about things no one talks about. Besides discussing creative vision, processes and confidence, I also want to talk about the more challenging areas of business and dealing with clients. So, get ready for some very high-quality brain food!
We can’t wait!
You can learn how to run a successful creative business in 2021 by joining our January Masterclass with Amanda here.
Time & Location
Masterclass: Amanda Henderson of Gloss Creative
Temporary & Enduring Emotion
Saturday 30 January 2021
Class: 10.30 am—12.30 pm (Doors open 10 am)
Lunch: 12.30 pm—1.30 pm
Big Plans, 687 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
Please note that due to COVID-19, event details may change.