As you would expect Shaun was born in 1961 in Te Kinga, New Zealand. He was drawn to art, design, calligraphy, printmaking, music and sports as a kid. The American Field Service programme, the underlying principles of cultural exchange and study abroad seized him as a teenager, which eventually saw him an AFS scholar graduating with honours from a high school in Dallas Texas in 1978.
After a couple of years of graft in Penrose as a skilled factory labourer and attending night classes to get his entry portfolio up to scratch, he went on to the Graphic Design course at Auckland Technical Institute for 3 years full time study. After graduating he was drawn to the Advertising business working in Auckland, Christchurch, Hong Kong and Reykjavik as an art director, typographer and studio production artist. A fantastic career grounding with people with brains enough to create great ads that sell, who don’t diminish them with poor layout, typography or pictures. Professionals from whom he learned design can look great but still not sell anything. In advertising he learned what you say is as important as how you say it.
While in advertising the message must sell or all creativity is wasted, Shaun saw that in screenprinting, the medium of the workingmans’ artist, was a platform from which a designer can become successful without the need for a big budget, a corporate job, or the backing of business clientele as a freelancer. In 1986, with his wife, design pARTner Chrissie Terpstra, they set about screenprinting T-shirts on the kitchen table in their flat, then selling them direct from a stall on summer weekends at the Christchurch Arts Centre Market.
Screenprinting had been a passion since he had taken it up as a hobby as a teen. The response to their Surface Active designs at the market affirmed that screenprinting is the people’s art, and they saw that in an era of mass production and consumption, the handmade and precious are symbols of rebellion.
Returning to Christchurch after their O.E. in the spring of ‘88 he and Chrissie launched their graphic design and screenprinting firm called Surface Active. Summer weekends were retailing at the Market and winters were for designing new T-shirts and touring countrywide to sell at The Great New Zealand Craft Shows.
Shaun enjoyed collaboration with design pARTner Chrissie, and drawing wildlife art in various natural media; charcoal pencil, pen and ink, cut and paste collage, woodcuts… progressively, beginning in 1990, he developed a bespoke workflow mixing drawing board manual separation illustrative methods with digital design.
Shaun saw the digital design writing on the wall when he wrote his thesis “Computers and Design” in 1983, so in 1991 he leapt at the chance of learning to use a friend’s PowerMac and was thrilled to become the proud owner of his first Mac in 1995. It was clear the only career advice his visualising tutor, Ray Downham, ever gave “the key asset of your design career is going to be adaptability” was spot on. A decade later to continue developing his career he needed to educate himself in Adobe Creative Suite, digital pre-press, colour management and typography. Designing good art in-house and freelance work developed his digital design disciplines and skills.
He had learned how it was, then had to leave it behind. Can’t get to the moon and back on a horse.
In 1998 he became a shareholder and in-house designer for the Christchurch dotcom Digital Proofing and colour management hub startup company, which he named, AbsoluteProof, a part-time role he worked in until 2009. This led him to freelance for several Christchurch technology startups involved in the local small business “incubator programme” also known as the technology barbecue, creating logos, advertising, capabilities brochures, websites and packaging.
2002 saw Shaun & Chrissie wind up their T-shirt screenprinting firm and Shaun took up a position as Creative Director/Mac production artist at a start-up Christchurch Brand Management studio. Then, having helped grow Tattoo from a 2 to a 6 person studio, at the end of 2004 he took up a position as inhouse designer for the Trans-Tasman Private Aviation and Affluent Travel firm Pionair. He enjoyed working inhouse for a diversified growing company tremendously. His role included digital photography. This demand for pro photos reignited Shaun’s enthusiasm and his adept photography has become one of the services that contributes most to the distinction of MagentaDot Brands’ work today.
It was a bad day for Pionair in October 2008 when their Private Air Charter operations in Australia was hit hard by the Global Financial Collapse. All their contracts with the mining industry were scrapped in one fell swoop and the firm he joined was wound up less than 12 months later as a consequence. Out of that crisis, and with the support of Pionair and a set of loyal clients, sprang the original idea for establishing MagentaDot Brands which he has been developing since May 2009.
Shaun never brags but he has won a few awards and competitions over the years, including a bronze Axis award for typography and a brace of coveted Pride in Print Golds for design, print finishing and print production.
His career is a creative and skill driven journey sparked by human curiosity, continuous development and adaptation. Design is a classic discipline of endless potential, the air in the studio is thick with ideas, where he shows more and talks less.