2016 marks the 5th Birthday of My Design Group (MDG), the Melbourne based design agency who specialise in licensed product design and art. The Bugg Report spoke to Stephanie Mystek, founder of MDG, to discuss her journey so far and what the future holds for her business and the design industry.
Steph, for those who don’t know, can you give me an overview of your background and history in design?
I graduated from RMIT Visual Communication and then went travelling to explore the big wide world. I remember the first Apple Macs in my final year and thinking pfft – we won’t need to use them! On my return they were everywhere! So back to uni I went to learn the ins-and-outs of computer-aided design. My first job was in a St Kilda road agency and after gaining experience in the world of advertising decided it wasn’t for me. My second job was in a studio specialising in licensing. I had no idea what licensing even meant but I landed the job and have never looked back. I’ve had the pleasure of working in the licensing industry and with children’s product design for the last 20 years. I worked alongside some amazing mentors/business partners for many years then in 2011, decided to go out on my own. I now lead a small tight-knit team with a huge network of talent. We work with some fantastic clients and are excited to tackle fun and creative challenges each day.
Having worked in the licensing business for over 20 years; what are the biggest changes that you have seen?
The biggest changes would have to be the reduction in design budgets from publishers/manufacturers. Whilst components such as freight, royalty rates, printing and manufacturing costs have increased, the Recommended Retail Price of the book/toy at retail remains basically the same as before and is no way in proportion to Consumer Price Increases. Most sales these days are to the larger accounts – Discount Department Stores – and their buying price adds to the tight margins. Gone are the days of flamboyant licensor parties with helicopter rides and animal petting farms just for fun! Even simple things like Xmas cards or a free movie ticket to thank clients are very rare. Big spending has diminished due to tighter budgets which makes people have to call on their creativity at a more intense level. We need to ask ourselves more and more often how can we set ourselves apart and attract new buyers with fewer dollars to spend.
You founded MDG in 2011; can you provide some background on your business and where you are today, five years later?
We have built relationships with our clients over many years, starting well before I decided to start my own independent design company. We have been lucky enough to gain quite a few new clients and have enjoyed helping them grow and prosper! Because we specialise in children’s publishing and licensed character merchandise, we’ve had the joy of creating some really fun style-guides and developed quite a few brands in the baby, toy and craft categories. Five years on we are still loving what we do and no two days are ever the same.
Working on many brands and licenses over the past five years at MDG; what are some of the highlights?
My passion has always been working with all of the licensed brands and my favourite would have to be Barbie. I think the highlight of my career would be participating in Mattel’s creative workshops in El Segundo each year. While we no longer look after the local approvals we feel honoured to have been a big part of this for so long. Being surrounded by some of the most creative and like-minded global designers was amazing and luckily for social media, they have remained great friends. Having the honour of contributing to taking the Barbie publishing sales at The Five Mile Press to massive heights is also a major highlight. To see our clients have such successful sales and playing a significant part in helping them achieve this is extremely rewarding. We are always excited to be working on major entertainment properties and to work with the beautiful guides to create product is a privilege.
What is your focus for the future of MDG and what is next for the business?
Our focus is to continue providing the best possible service to our clients. We love our established relationships because we understand how each other work and what the priorities for each brand are. We are also stimulated by new clients with fresh challenges and needs to address. We don’t have plans to become a multinational company – we are happy to create great art, which in turn sells loads of products for our clients. We are fortunate enough to have a lot of input into the projects we work on which is really rewarding. Our goal for the next five years is to broaden our client base. We are specialists in licensing and character development, but we are capable of a plethora of other genres. This is an industry where staying ahead of the game in terms of artistic design and technique is what sets you apart from the crowd. We are committed to continual learning and growth.
In regards to the services you offer; what opportunities are available for any businesses looking for design services?
We could be described as a “one-stop-shop” for all things graphic design. Our services include illustrative design, style-guides, websites, digital media, catalogues and all print media, publishing, brand development, packaging, and this is by no means an exhaustive list! More so we provide passion and commitment to the client and their projects. Our goal is to consistently produce design work with wow. We provide the opportunity for any business to collaborate with us and create graphics that pop and most of all products that sell.
Website – mydesigngroup.com.au
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Linkedin – www.linkedin.com/
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Instagram – www.instagram.com/mydesigngroup270/