12 Questions: Meet Catherine Faletanoai (New Zealand)

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice.

We’re very proud to feature Catherine Faletanoai (crowdSPRING username: Catalyst) today. Catherine lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand


 1. Please tell us about yourself.

Ok, sure, or should I say ‘surrrrre’… I grew up in Wyndham, Southland, New Zealand – and we Southlanders are know to roll our ‘rrrs’ I live at the other end of the country now, Auckland, New Zealand and often get asked with questioning looks… “where ARE you from??!” So apart from rolling rrrs Southland is a beautiful piece of New Zealand, perhaps the most beautiful….yes. I was raised on a sheep farm with my 3 sisters, Mum and Dad. Great times, great childhood. I completed high school at Menzies College with Dux in my final year and went on to study at Otago University. I completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Design with my main focus being on Design and Communication. Fast forward a few years of working for Woodworx Design Agency, Chipmunks NZ Ltd, Kiwi Mortgage Market…. and we arrive in Auckland. I moved to the other end of the country to be with my Prince (Dwaine) and we now live here with 2 young children, (Mia, 4 and Mason, 1). Oh yea – I nearly forgot – work now?…I don’t have a lot of time for a whole lot of designing – kids have that affect on us stay at home mums! But I wouldn’t have it any other way, love being home with the kids every day and fit my work around that – when they’re sleeping, glued to the TV (I mean books) and in the evenings with a tall glass of Coke to keep me awake!


2. How did you become interested in design?
I remember knowing logos – from a very young age I could remember a whole street of shop signage, logos, colours, fonts – I’m a very observant person by nature, and I see it in my daughter too. I’m also a visual person, and have always been interested in art and anything design. That’s why I love my job as I don’t really see it as a ‘job’, it’s more an outlet, a relaxing thing, entertainment for me. I look forward to evenings where I can sit down and just design, no pressing deadlines, just let the creativity happen. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t, and I think that’s the key to a good designer is knowing when to stop and when to go for it when you’re on a roll!
I’ve learnt to trust my instincts – if something moves me, it must have value…so I strive to design with that in mind.

3. Which of your designs are your favorites and why?
It’s not a graphic piece – but it’s something I did in design school that I’m very proud of. A scale replica or Alvar Aalto’s 406 Armchair, made completely from paper (see picture). It’s about the size of a matchbox, and took me many painstaking hours to weave the paper and get it just right. It’s perfect and still sits by my computer and reminds me that anything can be done with a bit of persistence!

4. Who/what are some of the biggest influences on your design work?
I used to be a complete minimalist – influenced by my study of it at Design school. Lately this has changed though, after designing a logo for an interior design company I fell in love with all things beautiful, decorative and a bit ‘fancy’!

5. Please tell us about your creative process.
I used to keep a pen and paper by my bed. Best ever ideas seemed to come to me during the night, so I needed to get them down before I forgot! I don’t wake during the night anymore unless I hear my kids crying, so I think on things through the day. I read and re-read the brief and get a really good understanding of what the client wants to convey. Then I just let ideas come to me when they will. Sometimes it’s straight away, sometimes it takes a bit more work. Most of the time I will go straight to the computer and draw it up once I have a good idea, if it’s taking a bit longer I’ll put pen to paper and scribble out some concepts. Each time is different, depending on the project.

6. Mac or PC?
Mac. Nothing other. I work on an Imac, using Macromedia Freehand. I learnt it in Uni and thus have always found it second nature. I do plan to learn Illy more in-depth once the kids have grown up a bit and I have some more time. But for now Freehand does everything I need it to do, and well, so I stick with that.

7. How do you promote your work?
I don’t. By word of mouth and referrals I get plenty to do as it is! Again, once the kids are a little older and I feel like putting some more hours in, I will get my website up and running. But for now there is enough 2ams as it is – (the best hours to work by the way!)

8. What is your dream design project?
I’ve always wanted to work for Pixar or Dreamworks! Ever since I started illustrating, I’ve loved the style of Pixar films – clean, bold and clever animation. I worked on a lot of digital wall art for Chipmunks NZ early on in my career – sketching out scenes, vectorizing and adding colour and loved it. New Zealand doesn’t have an equivalent to these studios, so for now I will just admire the movies when my kids are watching!

9. Please describe your typical work day.
This is a tricky one – each day is so different!
Wake up, run, swim, shower, breakfast with kids, kids dressed, drop Mia (my daughter) to preschool, housework, pick up Mia, lunch with kids, play with kids, afternoon nap (for kids), get dinner prepared, FIT IN SOME DESIGN TIME, kids wake, pre-dinner madness/kids complaining they’re hungry, dinner time, family time/or meetings out etc, kids to bed, hang out with my husband/relax/TV/movie/MEET DESIGN DEADLINES.
This is very general, and obviously always changes, but this is a very basic outline of what a day entails…there are many many more details mostly due to the nature of looking after preschoolers that all Mums and Dads out there will understand! The time I have for design work is in the afternoon while the kid sleep or in the evenings.

10. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being a
graphic designer?
Challenging: creative blocks and getting in a rut where nothing you design seems new/fresh or even good!
Rewarding: seeing your work out there, on billboards, websites etc – I still remember seeing my first work out in the real world for the first time – a poster design I’d done for ‘Taste Otago’ a food and wine show in Dunedin. It was pasted along the walls of a sidewalk, at first glance I thought, ‘hmm that looks familiar’, then realised ‘that’s right..it’s mine!’ I smiled all the way home.

11. What advice would you offer to someone considering graphic design
as a career?
Do you love it? Then go for it. If you don’t have a passion for design, for type, for kerning, for image and colour, then you’re going to run out of steam. It’s an awesome career path, but you have to be able to accept criticism and sometimes ‘design’ against your personal visual preference.

12. What do you do with your free time?
I don’t know what you’re talking about. What is this ‘free time’ you speak of? Just kidding, I love going on holidays with my family, swimming, beaches. I like to run, it gives me energy. I love watching movies with my husband. I like to shop, yea I like that a lot actually. Time with family and friends, my faith, everything good that can’t be bought really.


Thanks so much, Catherine!