How Frankie Ratford is Building a Global Student Organization on the Go

Dreaming of traveling the world is a wide spread goal, actually doing it is a totally different effort. Frankie Ratford is one of these people that are constantly on the go. While exploring the world, Frankie is building “The Design Kids Global” – a global student organization now active in more then 20 countries, with over 145,000 students and counting, focusing on empowering young creatives finding their way into the professional work force. The Design Kids are teaching students how to prepare their portfolios, how to communicate professionally and building networks to land a job. Frankie and her teams are setting up work shops, online courses and get togethers across the globe. Read how Frankie combines her passion for traveling and meeting people, while building the TDK.

Frankie’s roadtrip RV Sunny, designed by @willbryantplz
Frankie’s roadtrip RV Sunny, designed by @willbryantplz
#TDKeurope promo postcards by @moo and @omglord
#TDKeurope promo postcards by @moo and @omglord

Why is travel such an important aspect of your life?

Right now I’m on a train gunning across Morocco, wind in my hair and Canned Heat in my ears. I find travel inspiring – it makes my brain tick, ideas flow and good vibes all round. It gives you perspective on your life and how you live, and you get to learn about how others live in this world.

#TDKusa 18 month United States of America Tour Map
#TDKusa 18 month United States of America Tour Map

What’s the secret to being a world traveler, while also sustaining a successful business?

There’s no secret! I think people glamorize traveling – it’s pretty hard sometimes! Get a job (or make a job) that pays you enough money to live, get rid of your possessions, if you have a house – rent it, and book a plane ticket. Co working spaces are a great starting point for a new life; great for work but also for meeting people. Get a cheap hotel for 3 days and give yourself 72 hours to find a home. It’s pretty simple really!

 

“I love humans and problem solving and I think design combines both”

TDK Studio Visit @the_barkas Copenhagen
TDK Studio Visit @the_barkas Copenhagen
TDK Workshop with @kitiyapalakas shot by @missmoulin, Melbourne
TDK Workshop with @kitiyapalakas shot by @missmoulin, Melbourne

Why are you drawn to design? Is there any aspect of design that you love most?

I’m a very visual person — so I love the aesthetic side. But I love humans and problem solving and I think design combines both.

What principles are at the core of The Design Kids? How do you make sure that the company is always living up to those principles?

Our values are inclusive, fun, educational and inspiring. Inclusive — TDK is a free resource to help graphic designers find their way globally into the design industry, we want to make it as inviting as possible.

Fun — for the last six years we’ve been road tripping across the globe, sleeping in RV’s, tents, by lakes or on couches. This is not your regular design blog! By physically traveling where our audience is means we have a great good grip on what they need.

Educational — we don’t produce content for the sake of it (there’s already too much!), we produce content to help educate designers about the industry so they can have successful careers. That might be interviews with famous people, latest events, a list of conferences to go to, a list of internships, latest work coming out of your city, our meet up… it goes on and on!

Inspiring — we only feature the top 5% of designers in each city, the award winning and world class ones. It’s important to help the students aim as high as possible and you can’t do that with average work.

TDK Workshop with @willbryantplz, Florida in USA
TDK Workshop with @willbryantplz, Florida in USA
#TDKtuesdays meet-up, Newcastle in Australia
#TDKtuesdays meet-up, Newcastle in Australia

What is your favorite part of the work that you do right now? Why is this your favorite?

My job involves traveling around the world for six years and meeting with universities, studios and other creatives, running talks and workshops for students, running the company, coming up new ideas moving forward, organizing exhibitions, speaking at conferences and just generally designing my life so it gets better and better! I’ve also just started a coaching arm for design studios over on frankieratford.com. with everything I’ve learn from other Creative Directors this trip. On top of that I run a Design Residency program in Tasmania, the @tassiedesignshack. All of this I love — that’s why I do it! I try to combine my strongest skill sets — talking, traveling on a budget, humans, high energy and anything Graphic Design related to make my life as fun as possible!

What kinds of challenges have you faced in your line of work? Have you faced any challenges that were tied to your gender, and if so, how did you overcome them?

We always have money challenges — I think up until this point my goal with starting this company was never about money — it was about helping fill a gap in the industry I love and really making a difference. Because I’m not driven by money, it’s always just enough to keep going, so that’s a challenge with actually trying to build communities and do the bits I want to do! As for my gender, I’ve heard a few comments and situations that I would say are not that cool, but the best way to get over it is prove them wrong. Each year my company goes from strength to strength I feel proud of our little all female team! (shout out to my girls Chloe, Corrie and Casey!)

TDK Studio Visit @hmmmcreative, Tallinn in Estonia
TDK Studio Visit @hmmmcreative, Tallinn in Estonia
TDK Studio Visit @jgspdx, Portland in USA
TDK Studio Visit @jgspdx, Portland in USA
TDK Studio Visit @risottostudio, Glasgow in Scotland
TDK Studio Visit @risottostudio, Glasgow in Scotland

How is the professional landscape shifting for women today? How do you/Design Kids factor into that shift?

I think it’s changing. All the universities I visit I’m seeing way more females than males and also a lot more females speaking at conferences. Being a successful graphic designer relies a lot on your personal hustle and getting out there, and it’s great seeing so many confident successful women in our industry! All our awards judges are always fairly split and if anything we’re too weighted the other way.

#TDKeurope road trip outside Barcelona
#TDKeurope road trip outside Barcelona
Frankie’s van office, Europe
Frankie’s van office, Europe

You are also holding job workshops #TDKgetmeajob. What is your angle and biggest emphasis for the students?

Right now I’m running a bunch of #TDKgetmeajob workshops around the globe. It’s really sad how unprepared students are for industry and I want to help! The workshops are super fun and a great way to really listen to what our audience wants. The students energy is so great and it always gets really emotional at the end, I’m so proud of them. The idea is to start at the beginning — what are their unique skills and interests and what are they bringing to the industry? Then match that with how the design industry works and what is expected of them. It’s simple but it works.

What is your favorite location you’ve traveled to? Why? Tell us about a memory that you had while there.

So many!!! Here’s a random few; drinking beers on the hill over looking Portland, speaking with Will Bryant at a conference in Florida, Gemma O’Brien and I sitting on the back of a 1950’s car in Cuba driving across a giant bridge, helping the students in Cape Town and them making me cry with gratitude, sleeping in an abandoned hotel whilst hitching around NZ with Yve Johnson, seeing a giraffe for the first time for #TDKafrica, completing the 28-city-20-country road trip around Europe in a giant bus, speaking in Dubai at ING conference with some of the biggest companies on the planet, eating delicious Turkish food for #TDKmiddleeast… it goes and on! Generally; meeting the best humans, most talented designers and seeing the world. Pretty amazing really — I’m very lucky!

Hitch hiking around NZ for 3 months, Mount Maunganui New Zealand
Hitch hiking around NZ for 3 months, Mount Maunganui New Zealand

What do you imagine the future has in store for you in the next ten years, both professionally and personally?

Definitely more travel, more crazy ideas, I’d like to have a family, I’m really interested in spaces, writing a few books, slowing down maybe?! Not sure!

How do you hope to change the world? Please elaborate 🙂

I hope to inspire and directly educate hundreds of thousands of people to follow their paths, goals and dreams for a more positive, happier future.

Frankie’s travel gear at @helsinkithinkco, Helsinki in Finland
Frankie’s travel gear at @helsinkithinkco, Helsinki in Finland

 

You can follow Frankie @frankieratford and The Design Kids on Instagram @thedesignkids 

Make sure to check out our shop to get yourself a cute new pair of shoes for your next travel!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Main