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Beatrice Preston Zly, Product Packaging Designer at Aēsop

Dream Job

Beatrice Preston Zly has always loved beautiful objects. But it’s not just aesthetics that attract her – a zealous passion for understanding how things work, and a natural interest in the environment have underscored her exploration of design since embarking upon her creative career.

Equipped with an Industrial Design degree from RMIT, earlier this year, Beatrice landed her dream job as Product Packaging Designer at Aēsop – here’s how she did it!

6th December, 2019

Australian skin and hair care brand Aēsop are renowned for their thoughtful packaging. Product Packaging Designer Beatrice Preston Zly has been working on the 2020 gift packs. Pictured here are the 2019 Gift Kits. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Beatrice Preston Zly, Product Packaging Designer at Aēsop. Beatrice initially studied Industrial Design at RMIT Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

The window of the Aēsop Fitzroy store heroes packaging in their display. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Beautiful packaging from Aēsop. Here Beatrice holds a tray designed by her manager, Senior Product Engineer Kate Wardley. These will be used as a benchmark for next year’s designs. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Aēsop stores are renowned for using product as a major design feature in their spaces around the world. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Beatrice working on sketches. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Beatrice credits her experience at RMIT for equipping her with the skills necessary to make it in the world of packaging design! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Sketches, textures and product at the Aēsop head office. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Much of Beatrice’s job involves experimentation to assess the quality and practicality of Aēsop packing. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Beatrice in a meeting at Aēsop head office in Fitzroy. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

‘Above all though, I was given the space to apply critical thinking, to realise that design transcends the creation of beautiful objects. The profession has great power and responsibility; we consider not just what we design, but the impacts that we design indirectly’, says Beatrice. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Sally Tabart
Friday 6th December 2019

‘Above all though, [at RMIT] I was given the space to apply critical thinking, to realise that design transcends the creation of beautiful objects.’ – Beatrice Preston Zly.

When Beatrice Preston Zly was coming to the end of her VCE year, she admits that she wasn’t too concerned about researching universities. ‘When it came down to it, I knew I wanted to study design and that RMIT is world-renowned for it’, she reflects. With her sights set on Industrial Design, Beatrice embarked upon an undergraduate degree with an honours year that supported her fascination with how things are made. ‘RMIT taught me the practical skills to become a good designer’, she says. ‘Above all though, [at RMIT] I was given the space to apply critical thinking, to realise that design transcends the creation of beautiful objects. The profession has great power and responsibility; we consider not just what we design, but the impacts that we design indirectly’.

When entering her honours year, a compulsory component of her undergraduate degree, Beatrice’s desire for critical thought and understanding in the product design space was further nurtured. This was an opportunity to deeply investigate theories of how design interacts with the environment and society. Along with internships at AlterFact, a ceramics studio who specialise in making 3D pieces, as well as in the Research & Development team at digital agency AKQA, these skills ultimately led her to the coveted position of Product Packaging Designer at Aēsop.

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

Passion. Of course, it’s important to have technical skills relevant for your career goals, but showing true passion and enthusiasm got me in the door. I could honestly talk about the environment and packaging for hours, and I displayed that in my interviews. Passion drove me to put every ounce of energy into gaining this opportunity, and means I’ll be happy and inspired to grow at Aēsop for a long time.

I landed this job by…

Putting in lots of hard work and preparation. I had a number of interviews for this role, including a couple of design tasks, and I threw everything into it. Putting in the time and effort gave me the ability to be confident in my answers, as I had a purpose behind every perspective I offered or design choice I made. I showed that I could work well under pressure, and because I was calm I could allow my personality and passion to show through.

RMIT taught me the practical skills to become a good designer. How to follow the design process, rapidly generate concepts, prototype, test, research and gain an understanding of materials and manufacturing. My professors taught me new methods of thinking to push projects further but also to refine and strip back to a level of intelligent simplicity.

A typical day for me involves…

I have a pretty typical morning; of course, a skincare routine is included. I cycle or take the tram to Fitzroy where our head offices are, and settle in, checking my emails and to-do lists.

I sit alongside Kate Wardley, Senior Product Engineer, so we spend a lot of the day discussing projects, bouncing ideas off each other and making decisions.

I usually have around five projects on the go at once, and they’ll all be at different stages so it’s a bit of a juggling act. For some I’ll be in the research phase, looking at interesting materials, processes or suppliers. For others I’ll work on concepts and make prototypes to present to the team. Often I’ll be liaising with suppliers; holding meetings, conducting site visits, checking over 3D CAD models or samples and giving notes for adjustments. I also undertake a lot of testing, which can involve sending packages across the world to see how they respond in transit, but you can also find me behaving strangely at my desk, shaking cases, dripping water on things or rubbing balmy hands on samples.

The most rewarding part of my job is…

It’s incredibly rewarding to know that I’m able to create real positive impact through my design work at Aēsop, both for our customers and the environment. I’m very thankful that this role aligns so closely to my passions and allows me to put the theories I learnt at university into practice and see the outcomes on such a large scale.

There’s also something pretty surreal about seeing your designs on the shelf, especially at such an iconic company. I don’t know if or when I’ll get over that.

On the other hand, the most challenging aspect is…

Communication is the most difficult aspect of design for me. While design feels natural, presenting it requires a lot of work. Design is a balancing act of so many elements, so making sure you communicate all your considerations while remaining clear and relevant to your audience is a challenge. It’s also a mix of advocating for your ideas, while maintaining a level of detachedness to allow for the right decisions to be made.

The culture of my workplace is…

One that fosters kindness, generosity and learning. I feel that I’m valued and trusted here at Aēsop; I’m empowered to ask questions and pose new ideas. It’s a safe and supportive environment and I never feel that because I’m young or new to the industry that my perspectives are not worthy.

The best piece of advice I’ve received is…

I remember one class, where after we generated concepts, the lecturer asked us to write down our favourite idea on a post-it. She then made us to scrunch it up and throw it in the bin. This was a huge lesson in separating ego from ideas and being willing to adjust for the requirements of a project. It’s a mistake to settle for your first idea, as it limits your thinking and cuts off all other possibilities. Design should respond to fact and research, and I try to make sure my only goal is the best solution for the situation.

In the next five years, I’d like to…

Build up a strong foundation of experience by staying curious, seeking out learning and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve already learnt so much here, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’d like to get to a point where I can take on more responsibility and perhaps move into a leadership role. I’m seriously inspired by the other packaging designers and engineers in my team and know that to achieve their level of knowledge and proficiency takes time, so I have patience.

My favourite part of the job is…

The conceptual phase of design. It’s a time where things are a bit ambiguous which can feel uncomfortable, but I’m also not confined to limits and can think big picture. I also relish in the prototyping phase of developing concepts. When I get to tune out and make things with my hands is when I’m most happy and peaceful.

What’s next?

Aside from my goals here at Aesop, I’m motivated to invest my spare time and money into all the personal creative projects I have bubbling around in my mind. I never want to confine myself to just one thing – I have broad interests and want to explore them.

Visualise what’s next… and bring your vision for the future of design to life in Australia’s #1 Art and Design university. Discover the courses at RMIT where you’ll gain practical skills training from day one in dedicated, state-of-the-art design studios through hands-on experience with real-world projects.

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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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net