10 Using Design Thinking to Create a Professional Artist’s Career Plan

The work below is a copy of Skye’s final report (and some of her artwork) on designing a career strategy as a writer, graphic designer and illustrator.

During covid, artists have struggled to stay actively employed, due to the public nature of a lot of opportunities and associated cuts to funding. Female artists in particular have experienced additional pressures, especially in remote locations such as Darwin, Australia, where this work was done.

Students in this unit were encouraged to understand the many facets of their professional identities and the cultures of the sectors they work in. As part of the final assignment, students built on a range of their online profiles that targeted  sectors they were interested in working in. This work also developed a skills inventory of identified employbility skills which mapped to their professional identities, the various sectors they forsee working in, and related opportunities.

Assessment 3 – Major Report


The report aims to identify the professional identities, skill and expectations for career opportunities by utilising a 3 sector strategy. My professional identity will be evaluated to create strategies for a successful professional practice. In order to develop effective strategies for each job opportunity, research will be conducted to identify workplace considerations and expectations within each sector. The report will create a professional landscape that analyses career development goals by utilising the design thinking process.



As a passionate person I have several career goals and aspirations, however, with a desire to learn and grow in every aspect, it often becomes challenging to identify the correct path to take after university. While I experience pressure from family to succeed and have a stable career, I aim to find passion and love in what I do regardless of the nature of my career. I also want to create within my practice, through any medium or style. As an artist without much workplace experience, it is challenging to conceive of realistic ways to apply myself to a traditional work environment. Understanding my strengths and limitations both as a person and employee is crucial to applying strategies to my career paths.


Professional Identity

Professional identity is defined as “the concept which describes how we perceive ourselves within our occupational context and how we communicate this to others” (Neary, 2014). In order to build and strengthen a successful professional identity, identifying the skills and demands of a shifting workforce environment will enable you to advance your career (Chatham University, 2017).

I identify my professional identity as independent emerging artist, a term defined as someone at the early stages of their career aiming to secure funding, recognition, or commercial success (Clifford, 2016). From my experiences as a freelance artist and university student, I am familiar with designing independent creative projects that strengthen my time management, concept development, problem solving and communication skills. When identifying my personality within a professional practice, I always strive to find passion in every aspect of my academic and creative work. Alongside my love for learning and improvement, I aim to seek satisfaction in the work I create. Being a young female artist in Darwin can often mean career opportunities are quite limited. Regional states, however, have the opportunity to connect with Australia’s vibrant arts sector through various resources. Through the increasing accessibility of digital media, online engagement with the arts sector provides the opportunity to reach and connect with new audiences. Living in such a rural part of Australia also provides the prospect to connect with local communities and organisations that are tailored to our unique environment in Darwin (Australia Council for the Arts, 2021).


Personal Learning Network

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is considered a flexible, personalised and multifaceted support network and approach to enhance professional knowledge. Formulated around one’s professional interests and personal learning goals, a PLN is a social learning space that is supported and extended through social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs and LinkedIn (Oddone, 2019).


Professional Interest
Kill Your Darlings One of Australia’s leading culture and art magazines that feature essays, fiction, interviews and commentary.


ArtsHub Australian online resource dedicated to the art sector by providing the platform, tools, content and connections to cultivate curiosity in the arts community.


Emerging Writers’ Festival One of Australia’s most established literary festivals, focused on developing Australia’s new writing talent and creating platforms for connecting writing communities.


NT Writers Centre Collaborative program which aims to support Territory writers through workshops and festivals.


Behance Social media platform and creative network owned by Adobe designed to showcase and discover work.


Riot Games American video game developer, publisher and esports tournament organizer, based in various international offices.


ArtStation Portfolio platform for artists to showcase their artwork, oriented towards the games, film and entertainment industry.


Favourite Artists:

Jason Chan, Jennifer Wuestling, Oscar Vega, Bo Chen, Nancy Kim, Jenny Brozek, Tina Wei, Thomas Randby, Natalia Trykowska and Viktoria Gavrilenko.


Favourite Art Studios:

Grafit Studio, West Studio, Kudos Productions, MOONCOLONY, Wild Blue Studios and SIXMOREVODKA Studio.



Professional Connections
Josiah ‘Elam’ Lind Owner of Elam Graphics, specialising in graphic design for streamers and esports organisations.


As the main client of my freelance work, Lind often helps organises my esports related commissions. With his guidance, I have learnt the negotiate processes essential to commission-based work.


Michael ‘Squirepug’ Carmody CEO of Mindfreak, an Australian professional esports organisation.


As the financial lead in many of my esports commissions, Carmody has been involved in my early creative process, often as a source for alterations and changes to fit the brief.


ANZ/SEA Starcraft II Pro League Online esports team tournament in the Australia/New Zealand region organized by Blizzard ANZ.


Legacy Esports (OCE)


Australian professional esports organization known as a top Oceanic Pro League of Legends team, participating in various League of Legends and VALORANT competitions.


ANZ Parents and Teachers Videogames Information Hub Freelance


Organisation aiming to convey fun and learning through esports/gaming to high school students.



Alishiera Twitch streamer affiliated with Legacy Esports.


 Jake “Hysterics” Osypenko Esports shoutcaster for LPL, the League of Legends Pro League for China.


Hoshizora Twitch streamer affiliated with Legacy Esports.




  1. Examine and critique skills and knowledge for successful professional practice.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) defines a professional practice framework as a resource to reflect on one’s practice and identify areas of strength and opportunities for professional development. Applicable traits to my practice include communication, research, cultural competence, ethics, decision making, leadership, management, and teamwork (RACP, 2020). To become a successful professional, one must always strive to continuously learn throughout your career, as not only can it strengthen you as a person but create new opportunities and pathways (SkillsYouNeed, 2021). Where hard skills are teachable and measurable abilities, soft skills are intangible core professional skills that help you interact and communicate with others (Doyle, 2020).

Communication skills  are essential for any profession as the foundations to how one strives to build strong relationships and articulate your thoughts and ideas. As challenges arise in every occupation, problem solving skills are necessary to analyse issues and overcome problems. Teamwork requires you to work respectfully and effectively with others, strengthened by networking and forming intrapersonal relationships with colleagues and clients. Adaptability is also important to show employers that you can be flexible and reliable in adjusting to new situations and concepts (University of Colorado, 2019). 

  1. Apply skills to develop a professional profile.

What is my professional profile?

  • Digital Artist – specialising in art influenced by anime culture and design. Proficient in Procreate (iOS) and Clip Studio Paint (Multiplatform) software.
  •  Esports Focus – working alongside Oceania organisations placed within a competitive and community orientated videogame environment. Able to understand a client’s demographic and audience due to my knowledgeable of esports and videogame culture.
  •  Independent Artistic Practice – adept in designing creative projects that fuse academic research and artistic concepts. Familiar with organising and efficiently managing project development within short timeframes.
  •  Freelance Experience – comfortable with negotiating and discussing commission illustrations with clients. Able to understand the project brief by delivering works that appeal to a client’s concept through accuracy and consistency.

How do my skills develop my professional profile?

Professional Profile Characteristics Current Applicable Skills
Digital Artist

Understanding the medium and how to develop artworks that compliment my creative style is essential to my practice as an artist.


·         Digital Art

·         Concept Development

·         Project Management


Esports Focus


As many of my commissions have been within an Esports oriented space, it is vital to understand the brief and communicate clearly with clients on deadlines, fees and concepts.


·         Problem Solving

·         Communication and Collaboration

·         Adaptability


Independent Artistic Practice


Alongside my familiarity with independently managing projects, I strive to interweave research with my creative artworks. This allows me to strengthen my understanding of concepts and ideas I aim to express in my art.


·         Academic Research

·         Creative Writing

·         Critical Thinking

·         Concept Development

·         Project Management

·         Time Management


Freelance Experience


As a freelance artist, I often need to learn and experiment with new techniques and mediums. It has become a core part to my practice as I approach each commission with the desire to learn something new.


·         Communication and Collaboration

·         Budgeting

·         Versatility


What do other artists and writers do to successfully strengthen their creative practice?

  • Connect and collaborate with artists and followers through social media
  • Actively post or promote new works
  • Share and highlight other artist’s work
  • Utilise online presence to engage with communities
  • Develop a network of links and resources that allow others to directly connect to your work


  1. Evaluate current personal and professional skills and knowledge and develop strategies for improvement and/or diversification.
Sector 1 – Professional Art Space

Concept Lead at Riot Games

Required Skills ·         Ability to create high quality concept art

·         Proficiency in art fundamentals, design principles and colour theory

·         Experience leading or mentoring teams and individuals

·         Able to convey abstract and sophisticated ideas

·         Providing timely and clear feedback

·         Experience with Adobe Creative Suite

·         Familiarity with League of Legends Characters, IP Universes, etc.


Areas of Growth ·         Gain experience in industry standard software

·         Improve knowledge of art theory and fundamentals

·         Work with other artists in a collaborative manner

·         Develop digital art skills


Strategies for Improvement #1 – Digital Art Skills

Improve my knowledge of art techniques by learning new digital software and programs.

How can this be achieved?

·         Investing in learning Adobe Creative Cloud software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign

·         Become familiarised with workplace standards and expectations in art-based companies


#2 – Collaborative Practice

Form connections with other artists about the creative practice and process within the videogame industry.

How can this be achieved?

·         Communicate with local and global artists through social media

·         Participate in workshops and festivals that showcase or promote industry art


Sector 2 – Independent Arts Program

Northern Territory Arts and Culture Grants Program: NXT Gen ARTS


Required Skills ·         Managing as a professional artist

·         Develop a professional resume, biography and professional social media profile

·         Managing finances, budgeting and invoicing

·         Understanding how to apply, manage and acquit a grant or seek scholarship sponsorship support

·         Understand copyright, intellectual property, professional indemnity and insurances

·         Network to connect, collaborate and learn


Areas of Growth ·         Refine professional resume and profile as an artist

·         Learn how to apply for grants and sponsorships

·         Participate in local creative industries

·         Form connections and professional learning network (PLN)

Develop awareness of creative business practices


Strategies for Improvement #1 –Art Skills

Strengthen my art skills within a contemporary art space.

How can this be achieved?

·         Participate in figure drawing classes and local workshops

·         Experiment with traditional mediums such as acrylic and oil painting.


#2 – Community Networking

Create philanthropy relationships within Darwin’s art sector.

How can this be achieved?

·         Engage in art events, exhibitions and festivals to understand the Darwin community

·         Collaborate with local artists and learn their creative process


Sector 3 – Independent Writing Program

Varuna Writing Fellowships via Arts NT


Required Skills ·         Determination and commitment to developing creative work

·         Submit the beginning of the manuscript as well as a synopsis of the work

·         Able to communicate effectively with Varuna writing consultant and other NT authors through online sessions

·         Able to participate in professional networking opportunities by sharing work, discussing creative process, and receiving feedback

·         Dedication to writing time each day


Areas of Growth ·         Develop competent creative work

·         Continue learning techniques and methods of writing

·         Refine creative writing practice

·         Work with other writers to strengthen workshop and feedback collaboration


Strategies for Improvement #1 – Writing Skills

Improve my writing techniques by studying creative and non-fiction works.

How can this be achieved?

·         Continue reading journalistic work from The Guardian, The New Yorker, The Sydney Morning Herald, etc.

·         Collect resources that seek to educate writers on how to write effectively


#2 Language and Experience

Develop my language skills through experience with other writers.

How can this be achieved?

·         Participate in NT Writer’s Centre writing workshops

·         Partake in various national writing competitions to strengthen my language



The strategies for improvement in Step 2: Define are revisited in Step 4: Prototype as each sector was further researched and evaluated. With a developed understanding of the chosen career paths, the developed strategies more effectively consider workplace standards and expectations.




After defining myself as a passionate but inexperienced artist in Step 1: Empathise, identifying potential career paths in Step 3: Ideation, and examining a successful professional framework in Step 2: Define, Step 4: Prototype will develop a 3 sector strategy to create a potential professional landscape.

Sector 1 – Professional Art Space: Concept Lead at Riot Games

Riot Games identifies as a player-focused game company. As online gaming experiences evolve, the international company has always expanded its brand and IPs into new mediums, creating a vast array of potential careers in Riot Games with separate departments and crafts (Wambua, 2021). Riot Games also emphasises that artistic skills and concept design are only one element to the job. The role requires the applicant to partner closely with product teams and other artists by giving clear direction and support (Riot Games, 2021). When employing design thinking to career development, creative thinking models are necessary to develop a range of innovative solutions to a given problem (GlobaliseIT LTD, 2019).

Workplace Considerations

Understanding The Application

Before applying to any career application, it is crucial to develop an understanding of the job description’s requirements, skillset and desired outcomes. In the recruitment process, the person who reviews your applications and scouts your online presence is not the same in all companies. Large companies such as Riot Games may only utilise recruiters who possess little artistic sensibility (Chevalier, 2020). As a global company, prioritizing a resume that effectively demonstrates your qualifications as an artist and employee is more beneficial to a recruiter than relying solely on your artistic skills (Wambua, 2021).

Working as an Artist

Each employee plays an essential role in designing, creating and maintaining Riot Games’ products and services. Working alongside others in different sectors is essential in the company and it is expected to collaborate with your colleagues to succeed (Wambua, 2021). Although a game artist’s role may change vastly depending on the size of the studio, all companies require a specific set of skills and abilities. Learning traditional and technical skills are highly recommended, as understanding the latest industry standard tools as well as perspective, light, colour theory and anatomy are essential regardless of a company’s preferred software (Dealessandri, 2021).

Artists such as Horace Hsu and Thomas Randby engage regularly through their social media presence. As Riot Games artists, both Hsu and Randby are known for their contribution to the League of Legends Twitter community. The artworks and posts from the artists balance both their professional talents and personal artworks into a unique portfolio. Identifying my online presence and how to engage with audiences early in my career will define how assessors and recruiters view my practice.

Sector Strategies

Developing a Successful Portfolio

Refining Digital Skills

As an emerging artist, learning the fundamentals and foundations of art provide the opportunity to quickly master any required outcome, regardless of a change in software or medium. This could be achieved by honing my artistic practice through strengthening my knowledge and understanding of new software or programs. Grasping not only the workplace and industry standards of art but how traditional art is successfully created is an important aspect to an artist’s practice.

I should aim to gain insight in composition, colour theory, lighting fundamentals by participating in art competitions, workshops, tutorials and lessons. Forming connections with other artists about the creative practice and process within the videogame industry would also provide insight into potential career opportunities. Moreover, by investing in learning Adobe Creative Cloud software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, I would become familiarised with the workplace standards and expectations of art-based work within global companies. By utilising the relationships developed from my freelance work and reaching out to my PLN connections such as Josiah Lind and Legacy Esports, I also would be able to gain insight into the requirements and expectations of Australian esports companies for future project and commission work.


Sector 2 – Independent Arts Program: Northern Territory Arts and Culture Grants Program: NXT Gen ARTS

ArtsNT defines the goal for the Northern Territory Arts and Culture Grants Program as promoting a strong and vibrant arts and cultural sector that seeks to encourage opportunities to grow the creative and cultural economy within the Territory. ArtsNT supports the sector by funding for projects that benefit industry development, community access and participation in arts and culture. The organisation is also responsible for the Arts and Culture Grants Program (ACGP) which offers artists support for initiatives that explore and develop NT arts, culture and creative industries (ArtsNT, 2021). As there is often incomplete information or unknown results to a grants program application, design thinking process is valuable tool that evaluates and considers career decisions through a comprehensive lens (GlobalizeIT LTD, 2019).

Workplace Considerations

Project Vision

At the centre of your proposal, the quality of the artistic and cultural activities of the project should clearly state the benefit and impact on your career development, as well as show how your artistic and cultural practice contributes to a diverse cultural expression. A level of innovation and experimentation should be clear within a relevant area of practice that possesses realistic and achievable planning and resource use. The project should also strive to create engaging cultural experiences with Australians by providing opportunities for communities to collaborate and connect. By enhancing and celebrating community, the project should support artistic and creative work that reflects the diversity of contemporary Australia (Australia Council for the Arts, 2021).

Career Development Orientated

To be chosen for the grant program, forming strong relationships with other artists, organisations and businesses is a core element of the creative process. As the grant is considered a career development pathway, designing a project and body of work that aligns with the goals of the ArtsNT is vital for success. The grant placement aims to develop finance and project management skills as a professional artist, focusing on the business of the arts industry and contributing to creative industries. The three month placement is expected to assist in strengthening and building philanthropic relationships by taking networking opportunities to connect, collaborate and learn with artists and organisations in the NT arts sector (Northern Territory Government of Australia, 2021).

Sector Strategies

Developing Local Creative Space

The NXT Gen Arts program emphasises a community-based arts project design that facilitate a creative process and allows community participants to express their desires, aspirations, identity or sense of place (Making Art With Communities a Work Guide, 2018). In order to strengthen my artistic skills within a contemporary art environment, it is important to develop an understanding of the local art space in the NT. Creative spaces contribute to strengthening communities that provide resources and assistance in ways of self-expression and empowerment through artistic activities and projects (Flightdec, 2019). Due to our remote location within Australia, gathering insight on local art groups and organisations could offer a unique approach to community-based art. As the NXT Gen Arts grant is a new program, it is still in an experimental and trial stage, based on previous grants, designing a creative project that heavily emphasises benefits and impact on the Territory is essential (Northern Territory Government of Australia, 2021).

Community Networking

Networking can create fruitful connections and generate new opportunities for your art career. Emerging creatives should aim to meet other artists and offer support networks by creating relationships based on positive interactions (Artwork Archive, 2016). This can achieved by engaging Darwin’s art sector through philanthropy relationships and participating in art events, exhibitions and festivals that develop a strong community orientated practice. ArtsHub is a valuable resource that provides a platform that cultivate cultivates opportunities and connections in the Australian arts community. By becoming familiar with the site and frequently searching for new opportunities, grants and events, I can develop a stronger network and community perspective.

Sector 3 – Independent Writing Program: Varuna Writing Fellowships via Arts NT

The Varuna Writing Fellowship requires writers to have a work of creative or non-fiction work ready for the next stage of development. As a space to refine and polish a manuscript for publication, the week-long residency at the Varuna National Writers’ House will also provide a manuscript assessment and guidance. Varuna evaluate manuscripts for effective sound structure, compelling themes, a distinctive and engaging voice, and social and cultural relevance (Writing NSW, 2021). Assessors also consider the potential of the manuscript, based on the experience and work plan of the writer. In order to strengthen the skillset required for the application, the design thinking process should be utilised as creative problem solving method to develop practical solutions for the writing fellowship (GlobalizeIT LTD, 2019).

Workplace Considerations


The fellowship requires the applicant to effectively communicate with Varuna writing consultants and other NT authors through online sessions. A crucial component to the program is participating in professional networking opportunities (Varuna Fellowships, 2021). The collaborative writing process involves working cooperatively with authors and allowing for brainstorming, discussion, and diverse opinions from each member. To develop an effective collaborative space, a writer should be aware that every participant’s thoughts and values will differ. Criticism directed towards the story is not necessarily a critique of you as a writer or person (Black, 2020). By utilising the voices and opinions of others, the collaborative process can produce cogent and compelling writing (The Writing Center, 2021).

Feedback and Criticism

Constructive criticism aims to improve your skills, work, productivity, relationships. Learning how to provide feedback is also vital to learn how to interpret and receive criticism within a professional environment. The goal of a critique is to help the writer expand on their potential and leaves them with the guidance to create the needed revisions to their work. Rather than sandwiching harsh criticism between empty positives, share your perspectives and be honest. Feedback is about the quality not quantity of the suggestions. Sharing a positive mindset towards criticism allows us to create a productive and efficient environment to learn and improve (Lindsay, 2021).

Sector Strategies

Writing Skills

In order to improve my writing techniques, gaining experience and familiarity with published successful works is an important process. This can be achieved by collecting resources that seek to educate writers on how to write effectively. These include journalistic work from sources such as The Guardian, The New Yorker, The Sydney Morning Herald. Additionally, taking inspiration from authors I aspire towards can develop a stronger writing voice and successful creative process. Gothic fiction author Anne Rice and thriller fiction author Gillian Flynn are writers whose work has influenced my short stories in recent years. Understanding their process and work ethic could improve my knowledge on the publication environment and strengthen my creative genre writing.

In 2021, one of the Varuna Residential Fellowships was awarded to Amy Lovat for her novellla Halfway to Nowhere, a coming-of-awareness detailing the “liminal female journey” in contemporary Australian fiction (Lovat, 2016). Reading the previous winners works will also gain insight on the stories Varuna is interested in for the fellowship. As an Australian organisation, developing a story that reinvents Australian fiction would appeal to their assessors.

Language and Experience

As an emerging writer, participating in collaborative writing exercises such as the NT Writer’s Centre writing workshops, Kill Your Darlings writing prizes, and Writer’s Studio competitions will provide me the opportunities to develop my language skills through experiences that encourage feedback and reflection (Vincent, 2015).  To gain an insight on the fellowship and the creatives involved, it is also important to research previously published content and identify whether my creative piece has been approached in the past (Shulman, 2019). Understanding what has been created before in the fellowship provides me with the opportunity to recontextualise and reinvent familiar genres and narratives.

Sector Overlap

Strategies and Development

While developing the sector strategies for the report, I decided to apply to the NXT Gen Arts program. Contacting organisations and supervisors gave me an invaluable insight on the process of applying to arts sector programs. Engaging in the application process of the grant made the requirements and expectations of early career artists in the Territory much clearer to me.

Despite their unique characteristics, each of my career pathways shared the same fundamental goals, expectations and standards for the art sector. Learning how to improve my portfolio for one career path provided the stepping stones for another. The application for the NXT Gen Arts placement also allowed me to identify myself in both the independent artistic and collaborative organisation space.

I decided to work with the NT Writer’s Centre after seeing the potential in pushing myself of my comfortable and familiar art space. I believe strengthening my adaptability and organisational skills in a collaborative management environment would be a valuable experience. Through my placement, I have formed connections with Acting Executive Director Fiona Dorrell, Program & Festival Manager Rita Horanyi and my grant supervisor Sandra Thibodeaux. I hope that regardless of the results of the grant, I can continue to develop relationships with the NT Writers’ Centre. The application process also made me understand how to strengthen my creative arts and writing skills in a professional space. Learning how to identify the strengths and limitations of my professional identity through the design thinking process has encouraged me to seek new pathways for my career development.


Through the design thinking module, I have identified the various aspects of my personal learning network and skills inventory, evaluating my professional identity as an independent creative practice. The strategies and career opportunities explored in the report serve as the fundamental to my growth as an emerging artist. Utilising my skills in project management, problem solving, and communication skills will help  develop an online portfolio that connects to local organisations for future career opportunities. 

Profile Links

Artist Links

Thomas Randby



Horace Hsu – Hozure




Jason Chan




Jennifer Wuestling




Oscar Vega




Bo Chen




Tina Wei




Jenny Brozek




Nancy Kim


Natalia Trykowska – Verauko




Viktoria Gavrilenko




Grafit Studio



West Studio





Kudos Productions







Wild Blue Studios








Hyuna Lee














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