Meet the woman who’s galvanising the next generation of designers: Frankie Ratford

Meet the woman who’s galvanising the next generation of designers: Frankie Ratford

As our studio is full of clever, passionate and hilarious (self-proclaimed) women, we feel it’s vital to celebrate and promote the great work of International Women’s Day. 

Over the course of this week, leading up to IWD, we will be featuring empowering businesswomen from a range of fields, including finance, education, health, and social enterprise. We’ve curated a list of five incredible female role models and brands who put their values at the heart of their business and share them all in a blog series, just for you. So, put those feet up, pour yourself that overdue glass of red and get ready to be inspired.


No intro can quite do justice to Frankie Ratford‘s force of nature. As founder and front-woman of global creative community, The Design Kids, she serves as a kind of remote fairy godmother to over 180,000 graphic design students, graduates and juniors around the world who use the platform to learn, collaborate, job hunt and showcase their work.

Having travelled the planet for the past six years, collecting and sharing an unbelievable array of experiences, insights and contacts across countless schools and studios, there’s no one better to talk to about the future of women – and men – in design.


Elevator pitch please! What’s The Design Kids all about?

TDK (The Design Kids) bridges the gap between studying and working in graphic design, a global online resource and local offline communities around the world. We aim to educate, inspire and connect you to the design industry.

Why do you feel it’s important to guide young people through this stage of life?

I think in any industry that jump is hard. There’s so much emphasis on the skills for that industry rather than on community or understanding different roles that most students leave with no confidence feeling confused and lost. I guess we scoop them up and get them across the other side!

I’ve just spent six years visiting 73 cities and researching the design industry myself, for a realistic overview of what is happening in each place. I’d say confidence is the biggest challenge for graduates – which is a shame as I’ve met some incredibly talented designers.

I’m always amazed when people attend my workshops or bootcamps to kick start their design career and need permission to be themselves. They already have the skills, but they’re waiting for someone to tell them its okay.

What changes would you like to see / hear in the way we approach gender in the workplace?

I would like to normalise women bosses. The #girlboss hashtag is almost too far the other way, there is no #manboss. It’s just assumed if you’re not a girlboss you’re a dude. I sometimes feel like instead of celebrating it is belittling us – yes I’m a woman and I run my own business. Let’s all move on 🙂

What advice would you give to anyone about to embark on the start of their career?

Your gender is completely irrelevant – your talent and drive is everything. Be the best at what you do, follow your heart, do things for the right reasons and when you run out of stream the passion will carry you through. Be nice. But this is advice I would give everyone!

The other would be – be you. It’s very cheesy and it probably falls into the same hashtag category as #lifegoals but it’s so true. What are you bringing to the industry that is unique to you? Be the best at something. Once you have that confidence you are unstoppable and inspire others to do the same – it has a great a knock-on effect.

And if you were standing in front of 21-year-old Frankie, what would you tell her?

You’re great – keep going. Don’t waste energy on worrying about small stuff. Be honest. Do things with integrity and kindness.

If you could sit down for dinner with any three women in the world. Who would it be and why?

I would choose my Byron Biz Babes (we’ve really got to come up with a better name haha!). I’m more inspired by my community doing epic stuff than someone famous that gets all the credit. Everyday heroes are my thing and my girls are epic.

Who’s been your greatest (professional) hero / inspiration?

My grandad was a huge inspiration to me – he worked from 13 to 65, was a partner at KPMG in London in the 70s, had an amazing ‘head down’ work ethic and would never ask something of someone he was not willing to do himself. He’s taught me about money, work, people and life. I got to live with him for the last six months of his life in 2017, it was beautiful.

Can you share a few of your own major career milestones and highlights so far?

Age 18, getting on a plane to Australia from the UK alone to start a new life. Aged 23 graduating with first class honours from Swinburne University in Melbourne and promptly packing up and moving to Sydney. Age 24 working for one of my design heroes Vince Frost. Age 26 launching TDK and simultaneously started lecturing in design. Age 28 taking off on a six year road trip around the globe. Age 34 finishing said road trip. Age 35 getting a business coach (shout out to Pru Chapman!) and switching my focus from nine years of community building to developing a new sustainable business model. The best is yet to come!

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