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Defining Trends With Country Road's Head Of Homewares Design, Ty Symonds

Dream Job

Before he worked there, Ty Symonds was OB-SESSED with Country Road. So openly obsessed in fact, four people sent him the job ad for head of homewares design at the iconic retailer when it came up. The world knew he was destined for this job, and he got it!

This gig is the culmination of a long and dedicated career in Australian design: from freelancing at Peter Alexander fresh out of uni to designing costumes for Beyonce’s On The Run II world tour on 48 hours notice (!) while working for Brisbane retailer BlackMilk.

Now heading up his own team of six at Country Road, his fantasy job is just as good as he imagined.

2nd July, 2021

Ty says the team at Country Road are like a family of obsessed customers! To land the job, he created his own Country Road specific design project to present at the interview and prepared a mini strategy highlighting the opportunities for the business. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

A lot of the job is forecasting coming trends and translating them to products built for Country Road customers. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Ty starts each day by reviewing sales to see how products are performing and reading as many product reviews as possible. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Ty checks in regularly with the planning team who are integral in ensuring Country Road have the best product range available. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Country Road design all their products in-house, so there is always a lot of work in product development going on. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

When it comes to launching a range, the design team work closely with the marketing and visual merchandising teams to bring the products to life via campaign imagery and in-store experiences. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The company has industrial designers, textile designers and technical designers. Ty checks in regularly with these teams to discuss and review design briefs, samples and testing requirements. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘I find the biggest challenge to creativity is creating quiet moments away from a deluge of information,’ says Ty. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

This is one epic workplace building! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Ty Symonds, head of homewares design at Country Road HQ. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Sasha Gattermayr
Friday 2nd July 2021

‘I find the biggest challenge to creativity is creating quiet moments away from a deluge of information.’ – Ty Symonds

Ty Symonds grew up in Far North Queensland in a small farming community along the coast of the Great Barrier Reef. He used to spend his summers volunteering at local architecture firms, building up a knowledge of the working world, and developing a curiosity for built environments.

Built environments seemed to marry his twin talents for creativity and maths, so Ty left for university to pursue civil engineering, but soon switched to a bachelor of visual art followed by communication design. After just a few months, the yearning for a creative life could not be ignored! It is this creativity that has carried him through years of working in some of the biggest brands in the Australian retail landscape.

During stints at Peter Alexander as a freelancer fresh out of uni, Target and BlackMilk (where he designed costumes for Beyonce’s On The Run II tour!) Ty became exposed to the business side of things, and learned about commercial product development and nation-wide strategy. All this experience, big and small, was priming him for his dream position: head of homewares design at Country Road, where he now leads a team of six. Who said manifesting isn’t real?!

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

Believe. Believing in yourself, your values, your vision and your talents will take you where you need to go. Your dream job will always align to this, otherwise it’s not your dream job!

I landed this job by… 

Being insanely obsessed with Country Road Homewares. I always knew throughout my career that I wanted to work for Country Road when the time was right and it certainly was never a secret. EVERYONE knew I was obsessed with Country Road.

Unsurprisingly, I was contacted by more than four different people when the role of Head of Design was advertised. There was no way I was going to miss this opportunity, so without prompting I created my own Country Road specific design project to present at the interview and prepared a mini strategy highlighting the opportunities for the business. When I met Elle Roseby, our Managing Director, I could see a real care for the brand and I instantly felt aligned.

A typical day for me involves…

I start each day by reviewing sales to see how products are performing and I also read as many product reviews as possible… Yes, we do read our product reviews and we love the feedback! We take regular ‘learn and actions’ to always improve what we do and this forms part of our day as a team.

We design all of our products in-house with a super talented design team so there is always a lot of work in product development going on. We have industrial designers, textile designers and technical designers so we cover a lot of ground. I check in regularly with the design team to discuss and review design briefs, samples and testing requirements etc.

I also check in regularly with our planning team, they are super talented and are integral in ensuring we have the best product range available.

When it comes to launching our ranges, we work incredibly closely with our marketing and visual merchandising teams to bring our products to life. Every detail is considered—from how a product shows up in store, to how it’s captured on epic campaign shoots. It’s so rewarding seeing it all come together.

the most challenging part of my job is…

Creating space to focus on what is important and what will make a difference. With competing demands on your time, it can be easy to simply deal with the issues at hand, so checking in on yourself and your team is key in ensuring we lead in being proactive.

The culture of my workplace is…

Like a family of obsessed Country Road customers! We know that we are just guardians for a moment in time for this iconic Australian brand. We have a culture of thought leaders, open and honest feedback loops, test and learn initiatives and a spirit of continual learning and sharing.

The best piece of advice I’ve received is…

Be inquisitive, ask questions, constantly let go of what you think you know to make room for new knowledge and new perspectives. Read that article that doesn’t interest you, learn something completely new and unexpected.

In the next five years, I’d like to…

In the next five years I would like to see us evolve from a sustainable local brand into a truly responsible global brand. Sustainability is just one aspect of being responsible and there is always so much more we can be doing. I’d like to see a pendulum shift in local manufacturing, circular economy and an increased momentum in the support of local talent.

My favourite part of the job is…

My favourite part of the role is planning the seasonal trends and creating the design road map. This involves interpreting macro trends and business strategy into seasonal product trends. Seeing this come to life through our products, our campaigns and our visual merchandising execution is also a highlight not only for me but for the entire team, and is a true testament of all the hard work different teams put in across the business.

Country Road is a proud supporter of The Design Files + Laminex Design Awards 2021, and is presenting the Sustainable Design award for the second year.

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