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Sydney-based designer publishes her first children's book

– Nicole, a senior media designer in our Sydney Design Studio recently published her first children’s book: “What time do elephants go to work?” We sat down with her to learn more about the creations process behind this picture book that helps children learn to tell time.

Nicole W inline

Interviewer: Where did you get the inspiration to create a children’s book?

Nicole: From my son, Liam. The book title is actually a question he asked me when he was three years old. I thought it was a great question.

The 12-hour day is a fun way for kids to learn how to tell time. The text is simple and repetitive, using basic sight words, and the illustrations are full of detail. The publishers pushed hard on this out of sympathy for parents who often read the same book more times than they’d care to, at the behest of their kids.

Interviewer: How long did it take to produce?

Nicole: Four years – four busy years, which also included an international relocation for my family and my completion of a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Interviewer: What were the major challenges and highlights?

Nicole: The illustrations were a quantum leap in style. The biggest thing I had to learn was to be vulnerable. So much of our work life is about conveying confidence and mastery. Actually saying, “I don’t know” was huge for me. My publishers met my struggles with unconditional love and support; they saw what I was capable of producing and believed in me. It was a delicate balance. At times, they soothed my concerns; at other points, they pushed me to achieve more.

I still remember the wave of immense relief that rushed over me when I uploaded the final PDF to Dropbox. Making a promise to your kid that you’ll make a children’s book is like promising a day at Luna Park times 1000.

The biggest highlight was finally holding the book. As a print designer, I was quietly relieved the quality was top-notch. The launch was wonderful, beyond my wildest imaginings. The publishers flew out from the UK. A friend from art school flew out from Jakarta. My current manager, Val, graciously drove my whole team to the venue north of Sydney so they could celebrate with me.

Interviewer: Tell us about your role at McKinsey.

Nicole: I provide design support on projects that require Adobe programs. I’ve worked on hard-cover compendiums and books, branded reports, infographics and event materials. I’ve known most of my team for 16 years. It’s a long time to be with a great group of people. I love when a consultant comes to me with a new project – perhaps a one-off type of thing – and it goes so well that the consultant and the team come back again and again for new projects. Seeing how design works to add to the value of our client teams and getting to work with people over time is rewarding.

Interviewer: What else have you done in your career?

Nicole: I came to McKinsey from the University of Sydney where I worked as a designer. I later graduated with a double-major in English Literature and International Political Economy from Griffith University.

I spent more than two years in Cambridge, UK, training homeless people to use Adobe design programs. The magazine we produced, FLACK, brought together my design background and tertiary studies. More recently, I was a freelance designer for the Australian Academy of the Humanities in Canberra.

*Photos courtesy of Daniel Giffney.