Category Archives: Reviews

Design Is A Job – A book by Mike Monteiro

Graphic Design in Australia is a strange industry.

Generally, graphic design courses are populated with students who decided it was the right choice for people who were good at art in high school. The courses are very often taught by designers with fewer than ten years’ industry experience. The low barriers to entry mean that it’s very easy for young designers to save up enough money to start their own ‘firm’, but the design courses themselves teach students very little about the hard graft required to run a successful firm or, for that matter, to be a good, solid, working designer.

This chain of events has led to what I think of as the ‘cottagisation’ of the graphic design profession in Melbourne. We have a city of four million people studded with tiny design firms, often run by people with little to no business experience. Add to this the all-pervasive ‘everyone gets a medal’ attitude with which most young designers came of age, and we have a generation of designers who have little to no idea how to handle the real hard work of design.

I like to think of it this way – we have a cohort of young designers who have never worked under an uncompromising bastard.

Well, Mike Monteiro from Mule Design in San Francisco is an uncompromising bastard. And he’s my kind of uncompromising bastard. He’s the kind of guy who’s grumpy because he knows you could do better. We all could.

Mike’s new book, Design Is A Job, is a career’s worth of advice distilled into 140-odd concise and damned entertaining pages.

Mike’s unrelenting aim is to make you take your work (and yourself) seriously. Why? Because only by doing so can you be in the position of strength that will afford you the opportunity to do great work and, more importantly, get paid for it.

Reading through Design Is A Job, I found myself actually yelling “YES!” at parts, because Mike had perfectly encapsulated an idea that I’d tried to explain before. In a lot of ways, this is the book I wish I could have written. The difference is that I would have prevaricated and been polite. Mike doesn’t pull any punches and that makes his advice resonate.

Design Is A Job covers a lot of ground, from finding clients to negotiating contracts to actually getting paid. The advice is solid and consistently comes back to a core idea – design is work so treat it with that level of respect and then you’ll command that respect in return.

The best praise I can give the book is to say that I’ll be buying copies for everyone in my studio and it will be compulsory reading for all new hires.

Hopefully they’ll get the hint and buy a decent suit.


Design Is A Job will be available from A Book Apart on April 10. Buy it.