Frankie Ratford — Building A Global Creative Community and Designing Your Life.

18 May 2020 | Episode 4
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Frankie Ratford is the founder of The Design Kids (TDK), an organisation that bridges the gap between studying and working in graphic design. It’s a global community of 275,000 designers, running 495 events a year. 

Frankie also coaches design studios around the world, on their market positioning.

In this episode we discuss Frankie’s recent venture: Designer’s Bootcamp, a program that takes groups of 20 designers to exotic locations, to workshop their career goals over 8 days. Frankie shares how she’s been forced to pivot this program to work during a pandemic. 

We discuss Frankie’s journey to 73 cities across the globe, growing The Design Kids, what inspires her, and how she has designed her life around the things that excite her. 

Follow Frankie on Instagram.

 

Frankie’s profile: 

Combining her love of design, business and travel, Frankie is one of the world’s leading experts within the Graphic Design industry on how to position your studio or business, get more clients and how you look online. She single handedly visited over 2000 of the world top design studios across 33 countries and got a detailed overview of how the business was run from the Founders themselves. No one else has such a global advantage. Frankie’s set up three thriving businesses of her own and regularly gives guest lectures, workshops, private coaching and group bootcamps in all corners of the globe. 

 

Episode Contents:

  • Pivoting your business to work in a COVID-19 world 
  • Designer’s Bootcamp
  • Designing your business around your passions
  • Her first job after graduation 
  • Why and How Frankie started The Design Kids (TDK)
  • Working 4 jobs whilst launching the design kids
  • Driving around Australia, New Zealand, across America, through Europe and travelling across Asia 
  • Designing your life around chasing excitement rather happiness 
  • How Frankie stays inspired and how to find the things that inspire and excite you 
  • How to work through creative blocks
  • Frankie’s favourite books

Read Transcript

Please note, this transcript was done through AI software and is not 100% accurate.

Dan:
Hi, this is Dan Rowell, Founder and Brand Strategist at DSR Branding and you’re listening to Discover Someone Remarkable: Conversations worth sharing. Join me as I interview passionate founders and industry experts. People who think differently, challenge the status quo and building a legacy. People who I consider, truly remarkable.

Dan:
In today’s episode I interview Frankie Ratford, a full-time adventurer obsessed with design, travel and business. Frankie is the founder of The Design Kids, an organisation that bridges the gap between studying and working in graphic design, it’s a global community of over a quarter of a million graphic designers, running almost 500 events a year. Frankie also coaches design studios around the world, on their market positioning. In this episode we discuss Frankie’s recent venture: Designer’s Bootcamp, a program that takes 20 designers to exotic locations, to workshop their career goals over 8 days. Frankie share’s how she’s been forced to pivet this program to work during a pandemic. We discuss Frankie’s journey to 73 cities across the globe, growing the Design Kids. What inspires her and how to work through creative blocks. And how she’s designed her life around things that excite her. Frankie is an inspiring role model and mentor for thousands of designers, looking to find their voice in the industry. I had heaps of fun chatting with Frankie and I hope you enjoy this conversation. Just a warning. This episode features some colorful language.

Dan:
So thanks very much for coming on the show. Thank you.

Frankie:
Thanks for having me Dan.

Dan:
We always kick these things off with a simple icebreaker of what’s your favorite brand and why?

Frankie:
It’s such a hard question. I was thinking about this and I feel like there’s lots of obvious brands, but I’m going to go with a really weird one. So there’s a Swedish clothing company called Monki.

Dan:
Yeah?

Frankie:
I discovered about 10 years ago. I’ve heard of them? It’s like M-O-N-K-I. And they’re just super fun. And they have, it’s way more than like a fashion business. It feels like a community and a brand that you can really be part of. It’s very inclusive. The stores are like really well designed as like kind of this fun energy. Just everything just feels like it’s done really, really well. I can’t even put my finger on it. It just feels quite magical. And yeah, I love that company. I don’t know why.

Dan:
I just look at out looking at the store. It looks very bright and vibrant and I really like that.

Frankie:
It’s more than that, like the models they have, like they have normal people models.

Frankie:
They have like a Monki Club, which is like like the membership model, but it’s like super fun. It’s actually feels very genuine and very like, yeah, I guess inclusive. And I think a lot of fashion companies like aim to do that, but they don’t do it very well. You see like business, whereas this you see community first. And then business. And I think that’s really cool. Yeah.

Dan:
So they started in Sweden and then have they… I’m looking here and it looks like

Frankie:
Should have done my research.

Dan:
Oh that’s alright, it looks like they have got a store in Bjärnum.

Frankie:
I’m pretty sure they’re Swedish. They kind of dotted around Europe, say, Scandinavian countries as a couple in England I think. I think that’s about it. But yeah, I always make an effort to go if I’m in one of those cities, because I just I love the vibe.

Dan:
Yeah, it kind of reminds me of what Urban Outfitters like, try to do.

Frankie:
Yeah. But to me that feels like commercialized.

Dan:
That’s what I mean. It’s like a model fancy.

Frankie:
You can tell they love making their clothes like it feels very genuine and. Yeah. So that’s my answer. It’s a very weird answer to kick things off.

Dan:
No, no, it’s cool. I like that. It’s different. So Frankie, looking back in the last 12 months, can you share one of the biggest highlights or one of the greatest challenges?

Frankie:
Well, I would say this little disease, you may or may not have heard of called Covid-19. That’s very challenging. Yeah. So I know Brisbane’s kind of cut off, but it’s kind of a big deal.

Frankie:
But now I think so. I run a company, called The Design Kids, which is being out for 11 years. And last year I created a spinoff business, go Designer’s Bootcamp where we take 20 designers to an exotic location and basically brainstorm their career for a whole week.

Frankie:
And it’s super fun, as we did for last year and we were planning on eight this year. Unfortunately, we were halfway through the first one when Covid kicked in. So I was actually stuck in India and we had to cancel all. So we had eight events, we cancelled seven of them.

Frankie:
And that was really crazy to come home to because we just didn’t really know what the situation was at that point. It was like, oh, it’s going to be two weeks and everything will be normal. So I swap Japan to Sydney while I was in India. So we like cancelled one trip, rebooked another trip, got back and we’re like, okay, we can’t even do Sidney. Let’s just cancel like the May events and then kick back off in June thinking again, everything was going to be fine. But obviously it’s not, so, a few days after that we cancelled everything and then I rebuilt it.

Frankie:
I think I got home so that we can’t finish at nine o’clock on Sunday. And then I left nine thirty. So half an hour later, I got like a bus across India and train. I was in Kuala Lumpur like 17 hours, like a nightmare I got home to two days ago. Shit like this spark, right? Oh, I got everyone’s cancelling, what do I do? I spoke to a very clever friend of mine, and he said, you need to rebuild your business networks online for the next year.

Dan:
Yes.

Frankie:
And that was quite shocking to me because, yeah, like I said before, I thought it was just going to be two or three weeks. I did. So I spent the rest of that day for four hours rebuilding the business to be online, launched it.

Frankie:
Then I provided it for two days. I did interviews for two days and we did the next event that next day. So it was a 4 day turnaround.

Dan:
Wow, that’s amazing.

Frankie:
It was crazy because because we’d actually paid for 80 people to go on holiday. Like we don’t cover flights, but we pay for everything else. So accommodation, food, coworking photographer, space teaching, everything. And then when you give your discounts, we were like massively negative, which I’m not used to. I’m such a. I’m really like conservative with money. I don’t buy things. And that’s I could afford them. I’ve never had a credit card and I’m thirty six. And so it’s a bit of a shock to me. Yeah. I think they, it was a real big shock to kind of have a business that suddenly the bottom fell out of them was like, oh my God. But I think as designers we’re designed to face challenges. And I love a challenge. I’m secretly quite excited. So, yes, I’ve done two events so far. We’ve got another two coming up in June, and then we’ll reassess what October, November looks like.

Dan:
And what type of designers come to these boot camps or what ages and things like that?

Frankie:
So Design Kids like industry wise is predominately graphic design, but then like advertising feeds into that illustration, feeds into that typography feeds into that and animation feeds into that. But I’d say broad category, graphic design. And then within graphic design, we have a 10 percent students that are freaking out about graduating and really want to get a head start.

Frankie:
And that’s socially amazing for me because I get them really early and you can really make a difference. We had a guy come to Sri Lanka last year who was in his second year. No idea what he was going to do when he finished. And now he has won all these awards. He got flown to Vegas to give a talk of AIG in America. Hey, it’s been offered like internships and he’s just absolutely killing it. And he still hasn’t graduated. So, like, the difference that one week made to his career is like so big. So it’s really exciting getting students. Then we get graduates feeling a bit lost and haven’t had the support when they graduated to get a job. And they don’t really understand where they fit in the industry. And then we have people that I’ve been working in the industry and have just taken opportunities as they’ve come and they haven’t been like deliberate choices and they’ve kind of ended off a few years in feeling a bit lost and a bit like they’re on the wrong path. So they need a reset. And then we have freelancers that are looking for new clients, new direction, how to position themselves. So, yeah, I’d say my skill is basically making people look good, on Internet.

Dan:
That’s great skill.

Frankie:
It’s actually really needed!

Dan:
Absolutely! And you mentioned Sri Lanka was one of the locations. It’s pretty cool. Like what other locations do do these boot camps? Well, where are you doing these boot camps at? And you know, hopefully moving forward, we’ll get to do those again. But yeah.

Frankie:
So last year we did Sri Lanka, Bali, Portugal and Byron Bay. And then this year we were doing India, which we just snuck through. And then the next one was meant to be in Japan last week. And then I was meant to be going to Hawaii next week, so sad! Then Mexico City. So we were running the event with Futura and Anagrama in Mexico City. Yeah. And then the second half of the year wasn’t booked but was penciled in. So we were gonna do a Greek island, Tulum, Barcelona and Costa Rica.

Dan:
This just I like it’s very, very conveniently located. How much design, you just have, do you just you just go to the places that you’ve wanted to go for years, and take 20 to 30 designers with you? That sounds amazing.

Frankie:
100%! Yeah. Yeah. I design my business around me.

Frankie:
I mean, like, I it was funny because we had a list of about 20 destinations for this year and everyone loves travel and they want to talk about it. So what I would do is read the list off my notes on my phone to whoever I was talking to and they’d be like oh two oh oh oh seven ones. And I’d put little X’s next to them.

Frankie:
And they were like visibly excited, say Japan, Hawaii, Costa Rica, I think got the most Japan, like killed it. Well, we sold out Japan in like two weeks. I think it was crazy.

Frankie:
And and the thing is, people don’t just jump on the site and buy a ticket like they had. They apply to come. So we’ve had maybe 700 people now apply well, and we only take twenty on each trip. So so it’s pretty loosely curated. Oh, totally. And it’s really hard for me to, like, actually reject people because our whole messaging is like, if you’re feeling stuck, let me help you.

Frankie:
So then to turn around and say, I got help you, it’s really mean. And it took. I think I spent about eight hours writing the rejection letter, like I say, it really was heartbreaking because if your feeling really lost and you have the courage to reach out for help and then that person says no. That’s a really hard pill to swallow. And say, I tried to like summarize why we were turning people down. And actually, they were really good reasons why. And it was like there wasn’t enough graphic design in the Folio to understand who they were as a designer. So you just need to do more work. Some of the folios, one actually graphic design related. So they were like art projects or painting or architecture photographies. And then the third reason was they wanted to learn like illustrator or like tell me more about this program. And I was like, I’m not actually teaching design. I’m teaching designers how to position themselves. And it’s so niche like I can’t actually help you if you’re a photographer. Because all you want to talk about is a graphic designer. So that rejection letter was kind of like you haven’t been successful. But we don’t want to waste your time or money. Like, I want 100 percent successful feedback. Like I want every single one of my boot campers to absolutely rave about it and get that value from it. I don’t want people to come for the sake of it. I don’t get any joy out of that. So it was a real like it’s not you, it’s me.

Frankie:
So I think we just don’t want to waste your time. And like here is some resources, if you want to learn more about design, has some competitions. If you need to do more design. Feel free to apply again. Like it’s it’s definitely not like a slap in the face. It’s like, yeah, it’s more of a we want to help you as well. So yeah, no, it’s been really good. And what it means is the quality is really high and everyone that’s there is on the same page and it means that you haven’t spent. I think it’s around two grand which is pretty cheap for eight days of kind of signature. But you know, our audience, like we basically just cover all the costs and then pay myself to go there, the photographer, to come and document it and take headshots. Lily, book everything. And Lauren to do all the interviews. So we just try and keep that price is like affordable as possible because again, that’s our audience. Like we’re a community. We support each other. So it’s less of like this business where we are making massive percentages of everyone, a more like a life experience, like I want to do it. And as a business, I need to cover my costs. But apart from that, it’s not. There’s not much.

Frankie:
Which is why when we paid for 80 people to come holiday and I need 20 went on holiday, there was a massive problem because we had to refund all those people, but we didn’t get refunds. So, yeah, there’s no. Yeah, the numbers were pretty bad. I was like, oh, we’ve got so X amount in the bank, you’ve got X amount and that’s kind of a bit more.

Frankie:
And then I realized the money we owed was a U.S. dollar and the money in my account was in Australian dollars. That was a double hit. I was like, oh, wow, this is really bad.

Dan:
This US dollar is a killer.

Frankie:
Oh, it really is! When you’re earning, it’s good when you’re refunding. But I think for me, like, it’s really satisfying running this business because I really see it as me helping people.

Frankie:
And like, I get so much joy out of running these camps. It’s like it’s so great for me. But also like during isolation. Mental health is like so bad. People are freaking out. If you already can’t get a job and then you spending hours on the Internet looking at everyone’s perfect lives, you’re going to feel ten times worse. It’s so bad. And so the boot campers have been doing the bedroom boot camp have just been really grateful to wake up every day, have class have each other, have a WhatsApp group to reach out to each other. So it’s been like that’s been really, really powerful. And the guys that finish on Friday, they’ve actually been continuing the cost this week without me and they’re all running their own little classes, so cute!

Dan:
Oh that’s so cool!

Frankie:
One of the guys from Barcelona is running a type class yesterday. Another girl is teaching everyone how to skateboard today. It’s so cute. And then on Monday. They were doing something else and they’ve got another class today and they will be messaging me and they’re just, like, super stoked to have each other. It’s really cute. Say that the other, like pro side of this is like they keep me sane. Like I like to get out of bed and have a reason for having a shower and stuff. So it’s been just as good for me as it has for them. Yeah, as long as boot camp. Biggest challenge yet.

Dan:
Just such an amazing sort of pivot or the ability to sort of quickly adapt and change the course and create something that can still function and work really well today and still build that community, because I guess that’s something that the design kids is really well known for, is that global community of designers. Could you give me a bit of a background on how you started it and I guess why you started and how you actually grew it?

Frankie:
Sure. So I graduated uni. I had three and a half years experience. When I finished, designs go in a four year degree and just because I was like a total nerd and I just put my hand up for any opportunity. Also, I’d move from England to Australia so I didn’t have any friends. So I just had lots of time and I wanted to smash it.

Frankie:
So I just put my hand up for every design opportunity. And I hated all those jobs, but they were like really good learning lessons of like what I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do.

Frankie:
And I decided I didn’t want to do any of those. But I really wanted a job at Frost in Sydney and I was in Melbourne. And when I graduated, I got a job there and I thought, you know, it’s gonna be it. And I just I really didn’t like it. And that’s like nothing to criticize.

Frankie:
It’s a total like I spoke to him a few days ago. I have so much respect for him. I think he’s fantastic. But for me, like, say that being a junior and then at Midway and sitting at a desk and looking at a screen and having a boss, like now when I look at my life, I can understand why it didn’t work. But at the time, I didn’t understand why I didn’t like it was very jarring to me. So yeah. So I quit, went travelling for six months and decide I wanted to help people. And I came back and started this thing called the design kids, and it was going to be cold, aesthetically minded people design kids.

Frankie:
Luckily I went with the design kids.

Frankie:
I literally came up with the name in an hour and I came up with the logo in an hour. And it hasn’t really changed in eleven years.

Dan:
Look, TDK is a lot better than IMP.

Frankie:
I know. I know. That’s what I like at the initial. Yeah.

Dan:
I think you made the right decision there.

Frankie:
I totally did what I started. I was looking at loads of like books and businesses. And when I looked at like directories of companies, it’s the word design or typography or something. Graphic design related was in the title. I would automatically look them up. And so I wanted that word in there. And then the whole premise was to help students graduate into the industry because I felt like there was a big hole in the industry and I wanted to help that. So kids is like young adults. And I started teaching after that. And we’d be like, what are we telling the kids today? And I still kind of stand by it. I did get a lot of stick about the name to you on. I especially like your kids, is not that popular.

Frankie:
But like when I started it, it was like that day in Sydney in my yard. We had a garage sale party shop. Thing that was very weird. And like I wasn’t thinking like, how does this translate in Estonian?

Frankie:
Like, I had no concept of like where it could go. I just kind of. And I think that’s what happens with business like you. So focus on starting like, where does it go?

Frankie:
It’s just such a journey. It’s amazing. So say luckily the names become really good. And like when we tweet things, we can say, Hey, Sydney kids, that is a lot. And it’s very like inclusive of our community. And it’s a really nice kind of like bubble that we live in. So, yeah.

Dan:
Can you talk me through a bit of the journey of The Design Kids.

Frankie:
The beginning? Yeah. Yes. When I was travelling, I went to Madagascar, had this epiphany, decided I wanted to help people decided that I still wanted to work in design, even though at that point I thought I hated it. And I started looking at ways I could help the industry rather than work in the industry. How could I help the industry? And yeah, I just feel like there’s a lot of money pumped into universities and getting people to sign up.

Frankie:
I’d like to be a designer, but there’s not much support the other end for getting a job. And I think that’s really sad. And you get a lot of people that are fantastic designers that have just given up because like no one helped them at the crucial time. And that honestly breaks my heart. Like, I really think everyone is on this planet to be like they’ve got their own strengths and to find that strength, nurture it and then give up on it. Just because you didn’t have the support you needed is really, really sad. Say so.

Frankie:
Yeah. So that was the premise. Originally it started as a shop, which sounds kind of weird, but students could design like tote bags and posters and we would sell them to famous designers or studios or whatever. And then they would like look into the designer that made it and then maybe hire them. And it was just very like fetched.

Frankie:
And I didn’t really know it was doing it, like, bless me for trying.

Frankie:
So the shop actually ran for like three years. Yeah, well, she’s crazy, like online. Yeah. And I remember sending out these hideous news that is. And, you know, I said I tried these things and it was like, say you’re making a T-shirt. It was like you make the T-shirt all promote it, you send it off. And then it was like you make the T-shirt, then you send it to me and then all provider and I’ll mail it off. And then it was like, you design it and I’ll make it and mail it off. And I tried all these different combinations and all of them sucked. It was a nightmare, especially when you work with students because they are like go on holiday and people would buy their stuff and then like, they just wouldn’t sell anything.

Dan:
I try to help you people!

Frankie:
I know, like for god sake! This is pre society six. These kind of shops didn’t really exist by. She had no idea what day it was a. But I remember the settings Mondays and we’ve met made like five hundred dollars in sales within an hour, an almost like why are people buying this? It’s so badly made. And like I was getting like Gilston T-shirts, you know, things like that t shirts that are kind of ironically cool now, but like not cool.

Frankie:
And then like printing these like designs on them. And they were like this design was way too small for the t shirt. Like it just looks so shit like I think it got featured in like Grazi magazine, one of my T-shirts.

Dan:
Oh wow!

Frankie:
And then there was can we feature it? And I was like, no, I knew it wasn’t good, but I think you have to push through that.

Dan:
Yeah.

Frankie:
To get to the good bit. So yeah. So that happened. And then I got offered an exhibition space in Sydney. I was working for jobs while I was running design kits the first two years. Wow. So basically I decided to get jobs to teach me how to do my own job. So I was working at Finders keepers markets. I was their first employee.

Dan:
Oh, cool.

Frankie:
So I was in charge of, like on my blog running the event, the joysticks, networking community stuff. So I learnt like so much of what I do now from Burkin, Sarah, they think. And that was working as a senior designer and a design studio. One day a week. And that was basically just problem solving. Like the projects would come in.

Frankie:
I’m high energy and I didn’t really care about the project, the execution and rolling it out like very.

Frankie:
I just wanted to be getting, so, Emma, bless her heart from the outgroup, would get me to do eight hours, just like. Here’s some ideas. Here’s so reference images like this is what I think you can do with it. And then the junior would roll it out and I would come in the following week and I’d have a new project every day to cut and framed them. And it worked brilliantly because, yeah, I just got to do that. I was really good at and so I really learned a lot from Emma because I think Emma’s great at designing the joke around the person.

Frankie:
I’m really getting the strengths of that person, you know. So it was good. And then I started lecturing Billy Blue and Shillington. So I did one Wednesday and Thursday afternoon and one Wednesday and Thursday night.

Frankie:
And I had Franki Friday. So working fridays and then running design kids.

Frankie:
And it was just it was really good because I get really bored and having five jobs actually was like kind of great and I was earning crazy good money. I don’t think I’ve ever been so rich and my life was like too good anyway.

Frankie:
So I decide to retire. I was twenty seven and true story. I moved to Byron Bay I’m, well I’m done now.

Frankie:
I think at that point I was like, I no longer work for money. Like if you offered me a job Dan and you were like I pay you a million dollars to do this job. And I didn’t want to do it, like I didn’t want to give you my time for that project, I would turn it down. And if you offered me another job that I did want to spend my time on, that was completely zero dollars. I would take it. Yeah. So I don’t make any decisions based on money from the age twenty seven onwards. Yes, so good.

Frankie:
Obviously I like being paid. That’s a bonus, but it’s not my primary decision yet. Say I got offered a exhibition space. I just said yes and I was like what the hell am I going to like. Look what was I thinking? And I said thinking about design kids and what I was trying to do. And the whole point was spraying a student in a studio together. And so I got them to collaborate and they created a piece of artwork that responded to a compound word like Aftermath, Lighthouse, pineapple, and they did half each. And so they base it because design is like collaborating, but they don’t like compromising sets of words. That’s like a one cut timely in half. And they got half each. And then we join them back together. And I think we made eight grand. For charity. It was awesome. And then in the lead up to the exhibition, I was just a one off face. It was a friend of mine that had the exhibitions space. Someone cancelled. He was like, Do you want it? I always say yes. It just kind of by accident may happened. But in the lead up to I didn’t have any press because, like, no one knew what I was doing. Yeah, I was still working at finders keepers, interviewing people, and they had a really big readership. And so I decided to interview myself. I was like, Frankie, your exhibition. I was like, well, it’s gonna be amazing. And so I said, I’m gonna run it in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane. It’s gonna be huge, blah, blah, blah. And I think, like, I’m not a liar. I’m very honest, but I like to in that instance, I wanted to throw things out let to see who would pick it up, say, like no one’s gonna call you in five years and be like, why was this exhibition you never did, like, no one cares. And so I was like, let’s just see if I can run one in Brisbane and Melbourne and just see what happens. And yeah. Brendan McKnight was the editor of desktop magazine at the time. He picked it up and he’s like, get will help me run the other two exhibitions and. I think if he had to come in at that point, it would have just ended there.

Frankie:
But yeah, those three exhibitions, four terrible twos turned into five, the following if a Threesome. That was a student graduate in a studio.

Dan:
That’s cool!

Frankie:
Still artwork unfortunately, not an orgy. Following year, we did Fourplay, which is also still just an art exhibition I promise.

Dan:
I’m sensing a common trend doing some of this.

Frankie:
Yes, Dan, numbers! So terrible twos as all second birthday and then Threesome was then and Fourplay was fourth. And we did it in eight cities the fourth year around Australia. At the same time, I was in Byron. I was teaching in Brisbane. So I was driving. Three hours once a week, I worked out when I moved to bar and I was like, okay, it’s only to eight, so I need some kind of job like just one or two days a week. So I worked a day and a half in Brisbane and then I had a five day weekend. It was awesome. Let’s go. So I used to go up there and then stay in a hostel and then come back the next day.

Frankie:
And I was done for the week, it was so good. I was working twelve hours a week and I only worked 36 days a year. I worked as well as I really was retired.

Dan:
That is good. Really designed your life around.

Frankie:
Yeah, totally!

Frankie:
So I was living in a warehouse. I lived upstairs. I had a coworking space downstairs. I had a shop gallery parties. It was epic. Like so cooL! Surfing all the time, had loads of friends. It’s just like good times. And after two years of that, I was like, yeah, I’m bored again. And so I thought, what’s the like? How do I grow? I hate this like comfortable zone where you’re just, like, cruising along. So I started thinking the opposite of having loads of space.

Frankie:
I had one hundred square metre warehouse is having no space, so I bought a van. Nineteen eighty three. The highways called mayar she had round lights so beautiful. I love her and decided that I was going to drive around Australia and I was going to build design kids in person and by talking at unis into creative director is going to events, running exhibitions, just basically putting it all together.

Frankie:
And so yeah, it was like the week prize leaving I hadn’t been teaching for. It was February, so it was the end of the summer holidays. And I hadn’t been teaching for like four, five months. So all my savings. So it’s like down to nothing. I got a sponsor. I feel like ten grand. I got rid of the warehouse, sold everything, bought the van, put graphics on side, was ready to leave. And then the sponsor pulled out and I was like, oh my God.

Frankie:
And I remembered like, on the phone, they’re like, you have other sponsors, right? They were giving me ten grand. And I was like, I’m so rich.

Frankie:
But like, you know, that’s not true. Oh, I’ll never work again.

Frankie:
And and they were like, you have other sponsors, right? I’m like, totally I’m like hung up the phone. I was like, oh, God, I don’t have any other sponsors. But like again, I had this real thrill. It was like Covid, like a month ago. It’s like this real thrill of like, oh my God, I’ve got to design my way out of this. This is great. And so I started looking what I did have. So I had a van. I had sixty four dollars.

Frankie:
I had a map of Australia where I was going to drive around Australia. And I had a really well-paid job in Brisbane. And I was like, well, I could just fly to work and actually fund the whole thing myself. And so I did it for a year. I flew to Brisbane every Wednesday morning. I taught for two days. And then I flew back and then I kept driving and I drove from the sunny skies all the way to Perth round the coast and back again, and basically just met all the designers I could in Australia. And yeah, it was awesome. And then when I got back, I got offered a real job. And Frankie magazine being the creative director, which was such an honor, and Smith Jeno. But I had to give up design kids. I mean, I didn’t have to they didn’t say that, but I had to. But I had to mentally focus on one. Yeah. And Design Kids was four years old. I was flying to work to make it work.

Frankie:
To make any money.

Dan:
Yeah.

Frankie:
So aka not a business.

Frankie:
And then I was I made to get a job and then I’ve been offered a really good job. But the problem was it was too good and I couldn’t still do my other business. And I just I honestly didn’t know what to do. And I make decisions really quickly. Like I could make a decision to move countries in like seven minutes and have the whole thing mapped out and be packed.

Frankie:
And on my way to the airport, I’m not even joking like I would. Yeah, I I’m like very mobile. And this decision to make three weeks, which is the equivalent of like 60 years, is tearing my hair out. I was like, I just don’t know what to do. And in the end, I just imagined my life for you and Bonds if I took it. And I was like, I don’t want this, I don’t want to sit at a desk like this is not what I was doing. I’m taking this job out of fear. And so I turned it down. And, yeah, a few weeks later, I got a load of sponsorship money, which was amazing. And then I was like, let’s see if this works round the rest of the world. So we went to New Zealand to trial it. I hired my friend Eve. We couldn’t get a van in time. Everyone in America is like, why don’t you just take your van from Australia? Not that close unfortunately!

Dan:
Yeah that’s right!

Frankie:
So, yeah. So like, we couldn’t get a van and I said to eight, like maybe we can just borrow someone’s car. And she was like and it was like the night before and I said, you know, worst case scenario we’ll just like hitchhike and sleep in bushes. And she was like, I like that idea. It was like me too. And so I starting thinking about hitchhiking. And the worst thing about hitchhiking isn’t being murdered. It’s the hideous typography on the signs, where people run out of space and the kernings like fucked.

Dan:
New Zealand, I’m from New Zealand, but it’s got some pretty light challenging spelling on some of the locations.

Frankie:
I actually spelt one of the wrong and we picked out all day.

Frankie:
Anyway, so we had 10000 Instagram followers at a time and we decided to run a competition and we get them to design our hitchhiking signs. Let’s go. And yeah, we had like 500 people designing our way around New Zealand. It was awesome.

Dan:
That’s so cool.

Frankie:
So that worked.

Frankie:
So then we went to America for two years and that was really challenging. I bought a 1974 Dodge. I’ll be it slept seven people. It was ridiculous. I got Will Brian. My favorite illustrator to paint it for me. And I’ve paid him in tacos because I didn’t have any money.

Frankie:
And then the van broke down every day for sixty six days and I just lived at mechanics’ houses with their wives. And I wanted that. I’ve had three messages this week from them. Checking if I’m ok.

Dan:
Really? Oh so nice.

Frankie:
Yeah! Like this is a real bonding.

Dan:
What was that van called?

Frankie:
Funny. It was yellow. I love that you ask me that Dan, you must name your car, that’s really important.

Frankie:
I’m currently sitting in mag’s if you’re interested.

Dan:
Max is a man!

Frankie:
No Mag’s! Mag’s is very much a vehicle.

Frankie:
So yeah so America was I pretty much drove halfway. So I went basic round the circumference of America. 18 months and Canada. And then I went to Europe and did the same thing. And then the sixth year of the road trip I flew because it was impossible. So I went to Central and South America, Africa, Middle East and Asia.

Frankie:
And then I finished and I was fucking done by the end of it. Let me tell you, because I was spending like anywhere between five days and five months in each city. So I went to seventy three cities, 133 countries. And when you’re on the five day version. Oh my God. You just literally imagined you rocking up in Estonia right now. You’re so tired, delirious. You’ve got a million emails and then you’re like, right. I have to meet everyone in this country in the next five days. Yeah. It’s like it’s pretty intense. By the time I got to Singapore, which is a lot city, I was sleeping in a hostel and it had a curtain. My hostel bed. So grateful that I had curtain. And I had a massive bookshelf and I basically lay in bed reading. I read maybe eight books that week and my alarm would go off for me. And because I was meeting five studios. Two schools, two workshops every week, my alarm would go off. I’d. Over there, give the. Took a bit back. Get back into bed.

Frankie:
I literally all I did in Singapore was meetings and lying in bed like I didn’t. I was so done like I was. I don’t want to see anything. I want to eat anything. I don’t want to go out for dinner. Like, please go away. I’ve got nothing left.

Dan:
The other people in your hostel must’ve thought you were so weird. She is.

Frankie:
No that’s what most people do in hotel, in hostel sorry. People are just on their phone now.

Frankie:
I mean, I traveled, I said driving like 2002 so, like, you know, when you used to sit with people and talk to them and like, you know. Right. And now it’s like silence a hostel and everyone’s on their phone. And it’s like, why are you here? Like, you could be at home. It would be a way cheaper. So, yeah, that was some road trip anyway. So yeah, that was how I built Design Kids.

Dan:
So it went from a shop at the front of your house in Sydney to like a global community with close to half a million.

Frankie:
Shitty blog.

Dan:
Shitty blog sorry.

Frankie:
Shitty road trip to a hitchhiking adventure.

Dan:
But today I mean like over half a million in the community across like Instagram and Facebook and things like that? Is that right?

Frankie:
Actually, a quarter of a million but I’m not allowed to say.

Dan:
Oh really? I rounded up.

Frankie:
I love that, isn’t six million?

Dan:
Six million yeah!

Dan:
So, I mean, I have I have a lot to thank you for in terms of like most of the designers that we’ve worked with in the past who’ve come through the Brisbane Design Group pages or sites. Yeah, I mean, it’s clearly a great community of of talented young people.

Frankie:
That’s awesome. Thank you Dan. You made my day, all my road trips was worth it.

Dan:
Yeah, that’s right. So Dan could employ some good people.

Frankie:
You could have just called me and save me 6 years.

Frankie:
It really has been a journey. And I think just reflecting on that it’s very weird being back in Australia because now people like Wow, Design Kids is so great and like they kind of like weirdly fan go me. And I’m like, what? Like I’ve been sleeping in like broken bands with no showers, like hostels, like just it has not been a glamorous ride. I think also just not being in Australia. It’s like you’re removed from that reality. So, like, so much changed in six years and I couldn’t see it because it was just me in another ship. Also another shitty read, like just like, oh, my God, is anyone even looking at this website like me? And then you get home and you’re like, wow, people are actually looking at it. And it actually does help people. And. It was quite a shock, actually, to come home to that. So, yeah, it’s been quite a journey.

Dan:
Yeah literally. So, Frankie, how do you get and stay inspired?

Frankie:
That’s a great question. So, I’m a massive fan of the 4-hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss , like read it in 2010 when I was there for us. And it pretty much sparked everything. My parents are both a self-employed, so I’ve never been like. I remember going on holidays kids with another family and that dad couldn’t come. And I was like, why is your dad coming? And they’re like, he doesn’t have any holiday left. And I was like, What? What does that mean? And they’re like, oh, you get set amount of holiday every year. I was like, wow. Always completely mind blowing because I grew up like, jump in the car. Let’s go camping. Let’s jump over to France like, you know, just like little road trips that when you’re in Europe, it’s like kind of normal.

Frankie:
But here France is pretty fancy. But like I grew up with that environment, so I just like I never had, like, a normal. I’ve only had one normal job in my life.

Frankie:
My goal in life is to be made redundant because I just think that’s awesome. Is your freedom and lives of money. Yeah, but I don’t really care about job security. Like, I just love my freedom so much and being my own boss. So say reading the 4-hour Workweek in 2010 really changed my life. And it’s less about working four hours a week and it’s more about deliberately.

Frankie:
How do you want to spend your time on this planet? And my whole thing is I want to help people and I want to be in the design industry. And he talks about like, how do you design your life? How do you actually do that? And the whole thing, it’s not about happiness. And like, what makes you happy? It’s because happiness and sadness is two sides of the same coin. You can cry of happiness and sadness and then very related. But I think what we want to avoid isn’t sadness. It’s boredom. And so the opposite of boredom is actually excitement. So the way I stay inspired is chasing excitement. So like I was saying about the project, if you offered me a major project and it was zero dollars. I was so excited about that, I would 100 percent do it. Like, that’s how I want to spend my time. And I think we care too much about money and not enough about time. And that’s why if you gave me a million dollars for a project I was not interested in. That’s such a waste of my time. So you couldn’t pay me enough money. So the way I say inspired, it’s less about inspiration and blogs and more about designing my life and chasing what I find exciting. But I really give way to this and this is gonna sound super weird.

Frankie:
But if you go on Instagram and you see so on and you get that real pang of jealousy, you’re like, Oh, I wish I’d done that. Or like I used to get it with like tiny houses and cabins and road trips and like good design work and families and like, you know, this beautiful you’ve got like this smorgasbord of like what you actually want in the world. And that jealousy reaction is just like igniting. That’s what you want. Say then you just add that to your goals and then you go and do that and then you’re not jealous of it. Well, it’s so easy.

Dan:
That’s great.

Frankie:
So, yeah. So that’s how I get inspired, I think, about what excites me.

Dan:
That’s cool. And you’ve said that before. You said they like time. Obviously your time is very important to you and been able to have control over that. And it’s something you said before, you know, Frankie Fridays. Is that something that you still use today or is there.

Frankie:
I try to. It’s definitely diluted. But I’m a lot kinder to myself. I think when you’re a designer and you’re sitting down, you have a blog. The more you try and push it, the worse it gets. And the best you can do is kind of just take the day off and go for a walk and see some nature and not push against it, because the next day it will just flow naturally and you’ll work eight times faster. So Frankie Fris is just more about an attitude. So my friend Henry and Bob Knight, I made it up in 2010. I remember lying on the beach and all night and he was running some remote project with his phone would ring all the time.

Frankie:
But that’s all they had to do is to Seltzer’s for him and answer questions. They just made millions of dollars every month. Wow. And his Freaky Friday. Let’s get for us. For those like. Yeah, I love that. So I’ve kind of just kept it since then. But yeah, I’d say more of a state of mind.

Dan:
And you said, like being kinder to yourself. What are some things that you do around self care and mental health?

Frankie:
Mm hmm. Let’s go. Go. I’m not very good at that. Such I’m very unbalanced. I’m not sure you can tell. I’m like 100 percent on nothing. And like, my house is like I’m not very good at exercising. I have to, like, find an exercise body to do exercise, I’m also not really good at cooking.

Frankie:
But actually isolation’s really good for me. I’m like really like pushing myself. But self care.

Frankie:
Yeah, I would say I’m getting better in this space that I’m not amazing. I think it’s about joy and just keeping your life topped up with joy. And so things that bring me joy, not wearing shoes, jumping on my bike and just cycling around the block, going to the beach, having the sun on my skin, reading a book like little little things that are so easy today that just like fill my tank back up. So I’m like happy.

Frankie:
Also calling a friend, I think like I’ve had depression twice in my life and I was really overwhelmed. I used to think depression was like, you were sad.

Frankie:
And I’m like, don’t be sad. Be happy. Well, that’s great. Yeah. And I never. I just really didn’t get it.

Frankie:
And then I got it. Yeah. Two thousand eight. I had it really badly. And two thousand and sixteen. I went through a really big breakup and I’d say both times is like really bad. And I felt like I was like sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool and the surface of the water was normality. And there’s no way I could get to that like it was so much weight on top of me.

Frankie:
And I think the way I got out of that was just like goal setting. So the first time I just I kind of set this goal of a trip and eight months time, like a really big trip. And I just worked towards that. And that kind of gave me something to focus on. So it’s it doesn’t feel like the tunnel is just like a dark hole, is like a tiny pinprick of light. And then just getting closer to that, like, go figure. So I think, yeah, goal setting, but I totally appreciate it. So gnarly. And I’ve been getting anxiety as well this year, which again I’ve never had.

Frankie:
And I’m yeah, I don’t really know how to fix it either, but I just try and do things that bring you joy because I feel like that is like the sunshine in your life to get rid of everything else. And even if it’s just like the tiniest bit, it makes such a difference. Yeah, I’m not sure if it helps. Have I answered the question?

Dan:
Yeah, definitely. Now, Frankie, it’s something you’ve brought up a few times now is your love of reading. What are some of your favorite books?

Frankie:
Oh, my God. Favorite question Dan!

Frankie:
Ok. Favorite books. I just did a

Dan:
It’s pretty general, but yeah.

Frankie:
So it was 2014 I’ve just done this business course and I realize what I do didn’t I knew nothing about business. And so I decided to write a book a week on business, so 52 that year. And then after that, I just kept going. So I’ve been doing that for. This is a seventh year. So I’ve read like 322 books in the last 7 years. And it’s awesome. Like, I love reading so much. Like you don’t have to charge a book. It doesn’t have a notification battery. No one can contact you on it. My absolute favorite thing is, is to like say it’s a Sunday and I’ve got the whole day is like get snacks, get a hammock set up camp and just not move for like 10 hours.

Frankie:
And just I can read a 600 page book in ten hours.

Dan:
Wow.

Frankie:
Like, I can finish that oficial. Yeah. It’s like it’s so enjoyable. So yeah. I love reading my favorite books would be. Oh that’s hard. I just. Yeah I gave it to a few weeks ago and I did my top six books on lifestyle design because I always get off the top six books on money, the lifestyle design. This is off the top of my head. I can’t remember was four hour workweek the art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. So good. So good. It’s about getting permission to do your life.

Frankie:
And actually I reread it this year and I look back through my hashtag because I document every book I read on Instagram and I looked at them. I read it last time and I read it the week before I bought my shack in Tasi and before I started the New Zealand trip, before I went round America and before and like I it had such an impact on my thinking and it was so great to look at the exact date when I read it and things changed. So that’s what I love so much about reading other lifestyle ones. The Multi Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon. So good. Almost second to Temperance. I think it talks about like how we live and work with the Internet in 2019. So it’s less about having like an impressive job title. Like I’m a lawyer and people go, Oh cool, you’re a lawyer and like they have something to talk about, a dinner party. It’s more about your personal relationship with the world and how you earn money through those things. So you could be a mechanic at primary school teacher and a cake maker and say, you know, your full time job is like you’re a teacher. And then like Saturdays, you volunteer at the mechanic’s shop because you’re super interesting cause and you also have this side hustle baking wedding cakes for your friends and like, that’s okay, that’s great, because all of those things fill your soul and bring you joy and you can earn money from them. And it’s like I think it’s a much better way of looking the world than like you have to get this proper job. It has to pay this much. Bah bah bah bah. It’s just too regulated. So yeah I love that book. Other lifestyle design books. Oh, You’re a Badass by Jen Sincero. That one’s just celebrating you and why you’re amazing. Yes. Dan, you.

Dan:
That’s weird. I’ve never heard about this book.

Frankie:
It’s really good. It’s got Dan in the plot. No I’m kidding.

Frankie:
Anyway, the money books. I should have them in front of me. One is The Rules of Wealth by Richard Templar.

Frankie:
One of them is Robert Kiyosaki, who wrote Rich Dad, Poor Dad. His wife wrote a book about buying houses. Kim Kiyosaki. And it’s really good. It’s like the 80s. I found it in shop and I actually I’ve bought three properties based off that book. It’s good.

Frankie:
It’s basically a conversation with her friends like they’re 50. And I have a reunion in Hawaii. And one’s like a poor artist. And one of them, like, just lost a job at one of them has like she’s like a mid-level like manager. And they’ve all got these jobs and lives. And she took through like how to buy property for all of them.

Frankie:
And it’s really good. It’s surprisingly good. But it’s not that terrible. Yeah.

Frankie:
And what are the other ones? You’re a Badass is a money one. So you’re about us about money.

Frankie:
I can’t remember the other ones. I’m sorry.

Dan:
That’s alright. You can send the list and would put it in the show notes.

Frankie:
OK, sound good.

Dan:
Do you read fiction as well?

Frankie:
Yes. I started reading fiction just to kind of give my brain a break. Yeah. Because I was getting a bit like if things are really stressful at work and then trying to read a book about business. I have the brain space to kind of take those learnings on. And I found I was just like reading and I wasn’t absorbing any so.

Dan:
And it kind of feels like work sometimes as well. And like when you’re doing these like self-help books or business books, like I’m the same, I’ll go through periods where I’ll be really into it and listening to heaps or raising hopes and then like on it, like a complete escape from that sort of stuff.

Frankie:
Yeah. Your brain needs to. Yeah. It’s almost like watching a movie, but you’re reading it now. But I love fiction because you switch off light when you’re watching. You just let the movie do its thing and you’re just kind of like a vegetable watching reading fiction. It feels like it kind of washes over you. And you don’t have to think he just like like just saying what’s happening.

Frankie:
So I love that. So, yeah, I definitely I’m reading a book at the moment. I went to my friend’s house because we’re all in isolation. We got rained out and I’ll run and then we end up at her house with her boyfriend. He’s got loads of sick books. So I had a complete freak out because the library shut environment and I don’t want to keep buying books. When I read them sacred, they say I stole a lot of his books. Yeah, I’m reading like trash. So it’s not that trashy. It’s about the war, actually, but it’s fiction. That’s really nice to just have that break. And then I’m reading The Rules of Work again by Richard Templer. He’s written that the rules of work business money, love the law. It’s really good. You always see them at the airport, but I highly recommend them. They’re really good.

Dan:
So Frankie, thanks for being so generous with your time. One of the things we always like to ask is who someone remarkable in your life that we should know or speak to?

Frankie:
Ben Johnson in Brisbane. He runs Joseph Mark.

Dan:
Yeah.

Frankie:
Yeah. Ben is really my idol in life. He’s 3 months older than me. And I said to him, I’m so glad that your older than me, not younger than me, because I feel like I’ve always got three months to catch up with you, which I’ll never catch.

Frankie:
But, yeah, Ben is one of those people that has, like, the biggest heart. And he just every decision he makes is shows like it’s really based on like empathy and humans. But he’s a very successful business person and he’s really good at design. And I just yeah, I think he’s just got his head screwed on. Right. And I think if we could all be more like Ben, then the world would be a great place.

Dan:
It’s pretty glowing endorsement. We’ll have to chat to Ben.

Frankie:
Yeah, definitely.

Dan:
And what’s your favourite quote or the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?

Frankie:
Bite off more than you can chew and chew like fuck.

Dan:
I think you’ve really embody that one with some of the decisions and some of the risks and sort of leaps that you’ve taken.

Frankie:
Yeah, because I think that, like, that excitement I was talking about comes through growth and living on the edge. And really like pushing yourself, say, taking like tiny risks where it’s not really a risk. There’s not really any growthy. So you might, like, go to town and do it properly. So. Yeah.

Dan:
Yeah. And finally, where can people learn more about you?

Frankie:
Probably Instagram. I think my whole life is on Instagram. Frankie Ratford is my handle. And then The Design Kids is the design kids and designers boot camp. So those are the three Instagram accounts and then that feeds to our websites and all that kind of stuff.

Dan:
Cool. Well, thanks so much Frankie, it’s awesome to have you on. I really appreciate your time.

Frankie:
Thanks for having me Dan!

Dan:
Cheers, see you!

Frankie:
Bye!

Dan:
Thank you for listening to this episode of Discover Someone Remarkable. If you enjoyed it, please share it with your network. To support us, please subscribe and leave a five star review. To learn more about us or the guests on this show, visit dsrb.com.au/podcast. DSR Branding exists to inspire people to love what their work represents. We hope that this episode has inspired you to think differently.