Junior Designer, Ārepa
Bachelor of Design in Communication Design
Ashleigh Sun may only be at the start of her design career, but the communication design alumna has already won a coveted Gold pin at the prestigious Best Design Awards.
“I’m so proud of my recent win at the 2021 Best Design Awards ceremony – which is pretty much the Oscars of New Zealand design – where I was awarded Gold in the student graphics category for one of my third-year student projects.
“My project, Dot Dot Dot, was all about opening up conversations about mental health through storytelling and type design. It was actually an unexpected win for me because I wasn’t going to submit my project until some of friends encouraged me to, so I was super excited to be a finalist, let alone getting the Gold pin.”
She loves the impact she can have as a designer, says Ashleigh who now works as a junior designer at Ārepa.
“There’s something so satisfying when basic elements like colour, shape, type and image all come together to form a cohesive design that not only communicates its intended message effectively, but also looks good while doing it.”
Becoming a designer
She has always had an affinity for anything within the realm of creativity.
“When I took design in high school, it naturally became my favourite subject and something I wanted to seriously pursue. I researched some design schools in New Zealand and overseas, but studying communication design at AUT seemed like the obvious thing to do, especially after attending the AUT open day. I was particularly drawn to the studio spaces, facilities, teaching and, of course, the reputation AUT communication design holds.”
Looking back, she is amazed by how much she learned over the three years of her degree.
“When I first started the design degree, I had no idea how much I didn’t know about design, but over the course of three years, my lecturers and peers alike guided me to where I am today. Most notably, I was introduced to the world of type design which I immediately fell in love with, so much so that I based my final-year projects around it.
“I’ve also significantly built up my arsenal of knowledge in regard to different facets of design, technical skills, creative processes, design systems and more, all of which has made me excited for what lies ahead.”
Finding a second home
Working in the studio spaces was one of the highlights of Ashleigh’s time at AUT.
“I remember arriving on campus in the early hours of the morning and only leaving late at night, even on the days I didn’t have class. The common room became like a second home to me. Being in an environment where I was surrounded by likeminded people and incredibly supportive lecturers certainly helped me feel more connected to everyone around me, especially when emotions ran high during the weeks before handing in assignments.”
Her advice for other art and design students is simple: use the facilities.
“As an art and design student, you get access to so many amazing labs, so make the most of it while you’re there and learn some new skills. Having an understanding of the processes needed – like bookbinding, screen-printing, laser cutting etc – to produce your design outputs is well worth the time and effort. Plus, all the technicians are incredibly generous with their time and are more than happy to help out.”
*The Bachelor of Design is now known as Te Tohu Paetahi mō te Hoahoa - Bachelor of Design.