We're so pleased to have been able to sit down with design superstar Nancy Bugeja recently and interview her about balancing work, life, and all the other amazing things she's got going on in her career - and thrilled to be able to share that chat with you now! Enjoy!
Tell us a little bit about your background.
Hi I’m Nancy! I’m a WOD and very proudly, co-founder of HM. Proud because I employ people and together we do amazing things.
HM. (or housemouse to some) is an award winning design studio, formed in 1996. I co-founded HM. with creative director Miguel Valenzuela with whom I studied design. We have diversified over the years. HM. is our core business - we also co-own fluoro and wrapped, both design-related brands within our group (HM Group).
In the beginning, there was one Mac (an LC575), a desk, a fax machine and two chairs in a poky office on Gore St, Fitzroy. We had a part-time night job each to pay our rent. A super slow start! One small project led to another and before we knew it, we were making a name for ourselves.
Today, so much has changed, but the fundamentals haven’t. We still embrace every single opportunity as though it might be the last. The result is really good consistent work and I’m loving it, still.
Is there anyone in particular who has inspired your success?
Miguel Valenzuela – my partner in crime. He’s this Chilean, laid back passionate creative director and part-time DJ, who is fantastic to work with. He’s also my life partner. Miguel is my sounding board, and is excellent at helping me maintain perspective. When you can live life, not sweating the small stuff, you can focus on the great things that lead to success.
Mary Bugeja – my sister. She inspired my journey into design. I was 18 years old and had miserably accepted a place at Uni where I would go onto complete a Visual Merchandising Degree. Swinburne, Monash, RMIT - they all loved my fine art folio, but there wasn’t a place for me so I gave up. She took me to Readings in Carlton, bought me an art book, handed it to me and said, “what the f*** are you doing?”. That lead to me deferring Uni, enrolling into a folio prep course at TAFE where I was introduced to ‘commercial art’ and 25 years later, here I am.
What is a typical day for you?
I have two kinds of days. Work days and non-work days.
Catch me on a work day and I am on, right after school-drop off. There’s the kiss and hug “bye” and I’m one of those mum’s with my head in my phone before I’m even out of the school gates, checking emails, social media notifications, slack. My three days on are usually pretty fast-paced. Meetings with my team, clients, industry friends. Workshops, lunches. I allocate ‘deep work’ time into days/weeks to allow me to fulfil major tasks or projects. This is a learned process which allows me to tick off the big things, so I can then switch off on my non-work days.
My non-work days I have company. My three year old daughter. These days are typically nice and slow. We take my eldest to school by walk, and hit our local cafe for a babychino and a latte. As we sip, we draw together. She likes watching me draw. From there we walk home, cook, clean, play, make popcorn, that kind of thing. I resist phone calls and try to keep off emails.
Limiting my work time has helped me a achieve a balance I am content with.
What are the biggest challenges you think women face when starting their careers?
I was approached by a young female designer after a talk I did last year. She was so curious. How is it possible? I have a successful career AND a family? She was such a passionate designer, longing for a family but too scared to follow her heart at the risk of losing her place in the industry. This is a very real challenge for many women today. It shouldn’t be.
If you could give one piece of advice to young female designers, what would it be?
Many of us women, we have this gift, and it’s called intuition. Trust it.
What’s your favourite project you’ve ever worked on?
I don’t actually have a favourite project. There are seriously so many, too many to mention like, the Aussie Broadband re-brand; Victoria University’s Centenary branding and that massive two year long roll out; Barazza La Famiglia campaign for Abey Australia! There have been underwater artistic shoots, fashion shoots, and then there are our self-initiated projects like fluoro, wrapped, and our stunning digital art. More recently we have been exploring how augmented reality (AR) can enhance print and change the way we consume content. Bringing AR into some commercial projects has been incredibly rewarding as we finally have a way to measure print. I love print. Measurable print is super exciting.
What’s your greatest achievement?
Personally: Raising daughters.
Professionally: Providing employment to people.
What’s your next big goal?
Relaunching fluoro is my next thing I believe. fluoro is an online platform which evolved over a number of years into something that wasn’t authentic to me anymore. Although that journey was wonderful and unforgettable, I placed a hold on any publishing during a [long] period of reflection :) My goal is to relaunch, taking on a tone that is more relevant to the communication/graphic design industry which is where my passion lies. It will hopefully also be a place where some quiet brilliant people out there can shine.
Artisan Recruitment would like to thank Nancy Bugeja for taking the time to chat to us about her impressive work and for giving us an insight into how all the magic happens!