2019 sees Michael Hearne, founder of Blackfish Graphic Design, celebrate his 11th year of self-employment in Newcastle. A member of The Roost since 2016, Michael has seen his business grow in leaps and bounds since starting.
Originally offering traditional design services, Michael’s business offerings have developed over the past decade to meet the needs of the market. Starting out designing print ads, he soon added digital design and brand consultancy into his arsenal.
He said, “At first, I was just doing print design, branding and business collateral. Then I was starting to hit a wall with more and more people asking me to do websites, so I thought, ‘Well, I better learn how to do websites’”
“I did a TAFE course – just an introductory one to learn a bit of CSS and HTML – and I built a couple just in HTML. Then a friend of mine told me about WordPress so I started exploring what WordPress could do and, from then on, I started using that as another selling point: I could do the branding as well as the website stuff.”
However, it’s not just the execution of the design work that Michael enjoys, but coming up with strategies and working with clients to find something that best suits them.
He said, “I would describe myself as a designer/creative problem solver. I don’t just limit myself to design stuff. I like to come up with concepts and ideas – business names and taglines and stuff like that.”
“I’ve enjoyed working with people who are starting their brands and working out strategies and directions, who need advice on how to communicate with clients.”
Before starting alone, Michael held a variety of positions with agencies and companies around Newcastle, but it wasn’t until he found an office space through Renew Newcastle that he began focussing on his own freelance work.
After a quiet first year, Blackfish has experienced year-on-year growth, though Michael has no plans to grow his business into an agency. While his own agency experience had its benefits, it’s not a direction he wants to go down, preferring to partner with a suitable business in order to meet growing demand.
He said, “I would like to work with others, but I’d want to do that as a partnership-type set up rather than a boss set up. Collaboration, not hierarchy. ”
“I want to focus more on community-based projects, and working with people that are starting a small business that they’re passionate about – rather than people that are just purely about profit –.”
Michael joined The Roost in 2016 when his Renew space expired and he needed to find a new home for his business, but that wasn’t his first interaction with the community, having had his artwork appear in The Roost’s Versus 2012 exhibition.
He said, “I’d heard about The Roost through a competition. It was a red and blue competition, I must’ve seen it on Facebook or something like that. Anyway, I entered the competition and I got in. I was like ‘Man, this place is cool, they do some cool shit’.”
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“Then my place at Renew got leased, I was looking at some other options. I looked at another Renew space but it was pretty shabby and I thought it’s probably time that I have a place where I could take clients.”
“The longer you stay, the more the community develops. Now I think it’s the best thing that I’ve ever done workwise, to be involved in this place is awesome.”
“I haven’t really enjoyed any other of my workplaces as I have here. I actually look forward to coming in here, which is nice. I come in even if I don’t have stuff on sometimes just so I can have lunch with everybody. That’s a good sign, right?”