Icon Agency’s Chris Dodds reflects on his “wild ride” of a career as he looks forward to the milestones ahead

Chris Dodds Icon Agency

This article was originally published in Mediaweek.

Plus: Dodds shares his advise to those early in their career or launching their business

Icon Agency was founded in 2002 by Joanne Painter and Chris Dodds.

The agency works across creative, digital, web, content, PR, and communications to deliver positive outcomes and change behaviours.

Dodds, managing director and head of growth and innovation, spoke to Mediaweek about his career journey, being part of Icon Agency and his outlook for the year ahead.

Dodds reflects on his career journey

Dodds started as a graphic designer when I was an 18-year-old, hoping to make a living while creating art. During that time, a group of Melbourne University students had set up Express Australia (which evolved into Express Media), which taught young people about media, communications, and graphic design.

“Their first publication was called ‘Stop. Press. Play’, and it was there that I learned how magazine layouts, bromide cameras, and paste-up worked— there were no computers back then!” he shared.

Dodds shared that his first paid gigs were with music publications Beat Magazine and InPress.

“It was a wild ride helping design and layout weekly magazines over 48-hour sprints. There’s a wonderful article from founding publisher Andrew Watt as he remembers the incredible contribution Rowena Sladdin (Webber) made to the industry. She was a beautiful and talented person who gave me endless encouragement,” he recalled.

From there, he worked at a small pre-press business before the digital publishing revolution, where he learned how to use graphic layout software. He then progressed to postscript printers, typography and grid systems, and hardware problem-solving.

“It was a perfect mix of art and technology, which I quickly realised would be my life’s work,” he said.

Dodds said he was 24 when he started his business with a Mac, printer and fax machine.

“I started Icon in a small apartment in Swan Street, Richmond. My first real client was Cato Design which was located opposite. They were resisting the jump to digital publishing, and for a period, they hit me up for most of their finished art needs. I learnt so much from their incredibly talented team,” he shared.

Over the next ten years, Dodds partnered with different designers, typographers and artists to deliver projects and used those opportunities to learn everything he could.

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