Tom Graham, graduate of Media Design School, now works as the Creative Lead for Front Room

Bachelor of Media Design

Tom Graham studied the Bachelor of Media Design, focusing on Graphic Design, at Media Design School, where he then secured a role at Barker's. Thanks to his projects, he was highlighted as one of Design Assembly's 'Hot New Things' in 2021.


A few years ago when I hadn’t even considered design as a career, I was working in an administrative role in Wellington. I had some basic skills from school and previous study, so I managed to pick up some small design jobs for the office. While in this role I discovered that the design process, working with printers and creating printed collateral gave me a real buzz.

My graduation project started as a study about the relationship between brand and sustainability. The project eventually became about equipping the next generation with the skills and habits needed to live sustainable and ethical lives, and grow into conscious consumers.I designed a toolkit called Good Things, which came in the form of two activity books, both consisting of 5 days worth of content; one for smaller, simple habits such as conserving water and energy, and one for larger, more time-consuming habits such as composting and growing  your own food. The toolkit also contained stickers and posters which helped children track their progress.

I pushed my skillset a bit further in this project. I’ve never been one for illustration or collage, so I was really pleased to see that all come together. I also learnt that printing in white ink is expensive!

Good Things, a project created by Tom Graham while studying at Media Design School
Good Things

One of Tom's projects, created while studying at MDS

While studying at MDS I loved that we were allowed enough freedom in our briefs to explore different ideas, and use mediums that suited us most. Of course it didn’t always suit the project, but personally I loved when I could create printed, tactile work, as I’d always push myself to learn new techniques in areas like packaging and bookbinding.

I definitely felt pretty burnt out at times, especially as lockdowns coincided with our final year and graduation projects. Looking back now, I missed the collaboration and energy that comes with being on campus and amongst other designers. Falling back on my strengths in design was often my go-to; the aspects of design where I felt most confident and happy working in. Jumping on a video call with a designer friend always helped too!

In the first couple of years I played things pretty safe, often working with a similar medium, for a similar target audience but I became more confident with subject matter. I’m really pleased I was able to turn this around in my final year, designing for some younger audiences and utilising different skills.

"Back to Nature" is an excerpt from 'Good Things', a project created by Tom Graham while studying at Media Design School
Back to Nature

This section focuses on composting, one of the many habits people are encouraged to get into for a more sustainable lifestyle from Tom Graham's MDS project 'Good Things'

I mostly follow the different phases of Design Thinking, but my personality definitely comes into play here. I tend to spend a large part of my time in the earlier phases of the process, as I like to be as sure as possible that I’m designing the right ‘thing’ – although this can sometimes lead to tighter deadlines towards the end of the process.

In the production phases of the process, I turn my attention and focus towards the details – sometimes to my detriment. Working on the New Zealand Lager conceptual rebrand, I nearly lost a whole weekend simply looking for the perfect shaped glass bottle!

In saying that, it's the project I'm most proud of [the New Zealand Lager conceptual rebrand project], even though it was pretty early on in our degree. The brief was to rebrand any regular supermarket item as a high-class, luxury product. It was the project I enjoyed the most in my time at MDS, as a result of how much I was able to focus on packaging details such as the bottle type, closure and the style of handwriting. I was really sure of my target audience and design style, which just helped everything click into place.

NZ Lager was a rebrand project created by Tom Graham while studying at Media Design School
NZ Lager Rebrand

This was Tom Graham's favourite project that entailed the rebranding of any regular supermarket item as a high-class, luxury product.

After some previous study at Massey University in Wellington and a year or so of work experience, I was looking for a course that would be hands-on, industry-led and fast-paced. I found the Bachelor of Media Design ticked these boxes, and also provided the opportunity to explore the different mediums the course is structured around – Graphic, Interactive and Motion Design.

I’m feeling really good about the future right now. I’m grateful that I’ve managed to secure some full-time work as an in-house designer with Barker’s of Geraldine. I’m surrounded by some great people, helping launch great products and learning so much about brand and packaging!

I’d love to be a part of a small, collaborative team bringing innovative products to life through brand and packaging design. I’m constantly inspired by the work of Red Antler in New York, who have worked with some of the biggest start-ups in the world. Helping launch products like they do would be pretty cool!

Custom Gin, a project created by Tom Graham while studying at Media Design School