Abra Remphrey’s (’87) passion for all things design and her professional career journey as co-director and founder of Detour Design Studio

LOSA would like to recognise Abra for her professional career journey in Visual Communications and Design, which has led her to becoming the co-director and founder of Detour Design Studio. Abra shares with us how she has approached her career in an innovative and creative manner, allowing her to tackle the many challenges faced along the way. Abra also shares with us her connections to Loreto through the SpringArt show and Federation.

We have asked Abra to share with us her professional journey so far.

Abra in her own words:

I graduated from Loreto College in 1987 and went on to study a Bachelors Degree in Visual Communications at UniSA’s Underdale Campus – which at the time was one of the most highly regarded graphic design courses in Australia.  Growing up in a creative environment (my Dad is an architect) I always loved design, architecture and visual arts. I was immediately drawn to studying Art at school and the Loreto Art Department certainly helped nurture and hone my artistic skills and portfolio.

Today, I am co-creative director and founder of Detour Design Studio that I established in Adelaide almost 27 years ago with my business partner Cathy Bell.

The road has not been without its challenges and at the time of graduating, South Australia experienced a major recession. Only one student out of 38 graduates managed employment in a design studio. Faced with an uncertain future, no funds and limited business knowledge, we boldly decided to start our own design studio (in a living room!). We both kept our part-time uni jobs to fund our minuscule wage. We were young and naive BUT passionate about design. We worked hard, we worked long hours and whatever money we made went back into the business. Little by little we built a solid business and achieved our number one goal – to produce compelling and strategic visual communication solutions for our clients, which we still do today. We had some lucky breaks along the way and were fortunate to find a co-working space within an established interior design studio based in the heart of Adelaide from which we grew the business.

I work in all areas of design including branding, packaging, signage, publication and print. I work collaboratively with clients across a broad range of industry sectors including corporate, retail, wine and not-for-profit.

I love forming long term partnerships with my clients and I make sure I take time to listen, ask questions, and involve them in every step of the design process. This approach fuels the creative process and helps me deliver intelligent and provocative solutions. Even with the changes in technology, if you don’t have an idea or clear vision you won’t resonate with your audience or stand out from the crowd.

Professionally, I’ve been an active member of AGDA (Australian Graphic Design Association) for over 25 years and I’ve judged the national AGDA Awards. I’ve presented master classes at UniSA, been involved in the UniSA Advisory Group for the Communication Design Program, and I’m looking forward to being Jury Chair for Communications in the upcoming DIA Awards.

I was honoured to be invited to participate in Invisible in Australia – a national research project exploring the visibility of women who’ve made significant contribution to the history of graphic design in Australia. I’ve been a mentor with AGDA for many years and was invited to be a mentor for the International Womentor program.

I’ve continued my ties with Loreto through my involvement in Loreto springART as both convenor and curator. I re-branded springART in 2014 to help communicate and elevate the extraordinary calibre of the event and provide it with the contemporary edge it deserved.

Most recently I collaborated with Simone Anderson on 2020 Loreto Federation – with the theme of Inspire…watch this space!