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Making Bathroom Dreams A Reality

Dream Job

Maria Dawson works her dream job at bathroom and kitchen fixtures firm, Phoenix Tapware.

Their Senior Graphic Designer and 3D Artist since 2011 (!), Maria’s found her calling at the Melbourne-based company, and has even seen her sisters join the ranks!

The 30-year-old delves into her transition from university to full-time employment, and how quickly-evolving industries provide scope for young creatives to excel.

2nd August, 2019

Maria Dawson works her dream job at Phoenix Tapware. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The 30-year-old has been at the bathroom and kitchen fixtures firm since graduation in 2011. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Maria is the Senior Graphic Designer and 3D Artist. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Inside the Bayswater HQ. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Maria studied Industrial Design and a Diploma of Education. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Throughout her studies, Maria focussed on technical thinking, problem-solving, 3D modelling and innovation, through she really honed these skills on-the-job. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Workshopping elements ahead of creating a visualisation. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

HQ details. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Dedicated to life-long learning Maria makes time each week for online tutorials and short courses. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Elle Murrell
Friday 2nd August 2019

‘We’re always pushing ourselves and looking at ways of developing and improving our processes.’ – Maria Dawson.

The Design Files team will unashamedly admit we get pretty excited about beautiful bathrooms… and if the TDF Instagram account is anything to go by, it seems you guys do too!

But meeting Maria Dawson has catapulted my intrigue and appreciation to new-found heights. The Senior Graphic Designer and 3D Artist has been at Phoenix Tapware for the past eight years ­– first huge tick of approval in the dream-job criteria! What’s more, her rave reviews working for this Melbourne-based tapware, showers and bathroom accessories company convinced two of her siblings to also take up jobs at the firm. Could there be a more positive feedback?

Maria studied Industrial Design at Monash University, where there was a focus on technical thinking, problem-solving, 3D modelling and innovation, which gave her a unique approach to design work. After graduating, she added on a Diploma of Education, as she considered applying her skills to teaching, but after securing a role at Phoenix Tapware, she hasn’t looked back!

Here Maria shares her path to top-tier job satisfaction, from acing The Sims as a kid (!) to asking the right networking questions in uni, and evolving within a rapidly advancing industry.

The most important verb in the get-your-dream-job lexicon is…

… diversify!

It is so important to keep your current skills up to date whilst also developing new ones.

I used to think that once you finish your degree that is what you have to do for the rest of your life. But it’s not the case! Learning new skills along the way can really help you recognise what you’re good at, what you enjoy, and which skills are most valuable for you to achieve your goals.

Phoenix Tapware has been particularly supportive when it comes to professional development. From allocating time each week for online tutorials to attending short courses, I have been able to diversify my skillset and enjoy a varied job role as a result.

I landed this job by…

…developing into it. After finishing my Industrial Design degree at Monash (and feeling a little inexperienced), I approached one of my lecturers to see if he knew of any available positions out in the real world! As it happened, he knew Phoenix Tapware was looking for a casual Junior Designer, so I applied.

I started working two days a week in the Research & Development Team, 3D modelling internal components and creating technical drawings on the coffee table. This progressed to concept creation of tapware and shower designs (at a desk!) five days a week, with an occasional graphic design job thrown my way. It was during this time that I started developing a real love for 3D visualisation and graphic design. As the need for a full-time graphic designer and 3D artist became more apparent, I said farewell to the R&D Department, and hello to the new Marketing Department!

A typical day for me involves…

After snoozing the alarm multiple times, I try to get up around 6am for a walk or Pilates (‘try’ being the operative word!). Breakfast is a must – as I have been known to get rather hangry and the team at work don’t deserve to deal with that!

At work, I’ll make myself a cup of tea, go through my emails, gawk at the latest design featured in the TDF newsletter (and I’m not just saying that!), then review my to-do list.

If I’m working on a 3D visualisation scene, I will start with inspirational imagery research and create a mood board (basically play interior designer), then map out a design and build the bathroom or kitchen scene in our 3D software. Magic is added with lighting, camera angles and materials. Photoshopping raw render outputs is inevitable – however enhancing textures, lighting, reflective surfaces etc. to make everything sing is really satisfying! Waiting for a render to process can take a while, so my day is generally full of other tasks too. Whether it be creating artwork for a catalogue, advertisement, packaging or product displays, photoshopping another render, researching market trends or designing another bathroom/kitchen environment for my next 3D visualisation, there’s always something keeping me busy.

The most rewarding part of my job is…

Well, I can’t go past the moment I spotted my 3D rendering in Diane Keaton’s hard-cover book ‘The House Pinterest Built’. Diane had converted her personal Pinterest board into a curated collection of inspirational imagery, and I was thrilled to see she had selected a Phoenix bathroom scene that I created for the cover of the ‘Shower’ chapter!

But in terms of a recurring reward, I would have to say working in a team of supportive, talented, hard-working individuals, and watching all our efforts transform into a successful launch. I have also been able to work alongside two of my sisters at Phoenix, which is awesome! It is such a pleasure to bounce ideas around with like-minded and creative people such as them.

On the other hand, the most challenging aspect is…

Staying on top of things with ever-changing launch dates and deadlines.

The culture of my workplace is…

It’s a supportive and professional environment. We’re having a bit of fun, bouncing ideas off each other and food sharing is huge! There’s a pretty heavy focus on the bottom line though, so we’re always pushing ourselves and looking at ways of developing and improving our processes.

I’m always…

I’m known for snacking to be honest! It’s not a reputation I’m ashamed of – I love a good snack! Hand me a bickie and I’m a happy-chappy!

On Job Day at school, I dressed up as…

The equivalent of Job Day at our school was to draw a portrait of yourself in your envisaged uniform. Coming from a creative family, I drew myself as an artist, beret and all! So, I guess I have simply replaced the paintbrush with a computer mouse!

My idea of the perfect workplace is…

A collaborative and friendly environment, set to the perfect temperature (there have been countless arguments over the thermostat in this office) with loads of natural lighting, plants, plants and more plants!

The best piece of advice I’ve received is…

Move on and come back to it later – with fresh eyes. It’s well-known, but certainly advice I haven’t gone a day without using.

When I find myself stuck on a particular design or have been staring at a layout for too long, it’s always best to take a break, make a cup of tea or move on to another task. It’s amazing what even half-an-hour does to your perspective and often a solution just presents itself!

Over the years, my workplace has…

…grown dramatically – and it’s been exciting to watch and be a part of!

Phoenix Tapware started out in a shed 30 years ago, and throughout time, has grown to become one of the industry leaders in design and innovation, winning multiple international design awards.

However, as of five years ago, we didn’t have a Marketing Team! Ad campaigns were developed in R&D meetings and it was a group effort to keep the website updated. It’s amazing to look back on old catalogues and advertisements and see how far we’ve come.

Since establishing a Marketing Department, we have really been able to enhance and refine our brand identity, and in doing so, develop a stronger presence in the industry.

In the next five years, I’d like to…

Continue to improve my design skills and extend my knowledge in various computer programs.

I’d also love to keep exploring other creative outlets on the side – I’ve recently had a go at pottery, photography, painting and woodwork – so I’m excited to see where that leads!

For more information on Phoenix Tapware’s range of tapware, showers and bathroom accessories visit Phoenixtapware.com.au.

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.