Q&A: Shalee Fitzsimmons

Ever wondered who it is that makes Capital look so good?

Shalee Fitzsimmons will tell you it’s a team effort, but she’s the person with the over arching artistic vision for Capital magazine and website.

Shalee, who is the Art Director for both Capital and ArtZone, has just taken out the top design award for magazines – she’s been named Best Designer in the 2020 Webstar Magazine Media Awards.

Originally from Taupō, Shalee is a true-blue Wellingtonian: creative, quirky, and proud to be and support local. She tells us how she got here.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I was born being certain about everything so when I stopped wanting to be a pharmacist at 10 my parents thought I was ill.

I imagined being a pharmacist to be like a modern-day witch, mixing concoctions and delivering them in amber bottles. After a few enlightening conversations with my Aunt, turns out it’s nothing like that and she suggested design, which stuck.

I was never good enough at art to be an artist and too creative for much else (and thankfully, too bad at chemistry to be a pharmacist).

What were you like at 15?

Deeply annoying, just ask my brother.

What book is beside your bed?         

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. It’s a fantastic explanation of why the future belongs to right brain thinkers. The book was written over fifteen years ago and was ground breaking at the time but the ideas discussed are more obvious now. In saying that, it’s still a great way for creative-minded people to feel smug about themselves.

Who is your favourite famous Wellingtonian and why?

My aunt and actress Nancy Brunning, who passed away this year. Growing up, she’d come back to Taupō with tales of her life in Wellington and it always seemed better and more exciting than what I saw around me.  

And she’d be very annoyed at me for choosing her as a famous Wellingtonian. Because she was like that.

What advice would you give design students starting out?

1. Worry less about your marks and more about your portfolio. It’s your business card once you hit the industry.

2. Don’t be a sheep. A lot of grads come out of Uni with similar aesthetics – I’m pretty good at picking which Uni someone has studied at from their portfolio.

3. Get experience. Even if you have to do it for free, you really should have “live” or commissioned work in your portfolio.

4. Get fast and efficient. Your skills should be on par with your creativity, so treat it like a trade.

6. Make sure you’re easy to work with.

7. It’s a journey. You might not be designing your dream campaign or photographing couture fashion in the first few years. It takes loads of small steps.

8. Be multi-talented. Have many strings to your bow – you’ll limit your options otherwise.

9. You don’t have to be the best designer/photographer/animator/illustrator, you just have to want it the most.

10. Make opportunities for yourself. Whether it’s focusing on your social media or sending an email.

Read more Q&As here.


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