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Member Spotlight: Tara McCombie

Graphic designer Tara McCombie owns Red Dot Design Studio based in Leith, Edinburgh.

We were excited to catch up with Tara about her creative background and some very exciting projects – including a statue of suffragette Elsie Inglis (did you know there are more statues of animals than women in Edinburgh?). Read the full interview below.

Tell us about yourself and your creative background?

I graduated in 2012 with a degree in Visual Communication from Grays School of Art. Soon after I was hired by an oil and gas services company as an in-house graphic designer, which was only marginally soul destroying. After two years there I moved onto working for a small marketing and technology company that had a range of big-name clients. I initially loved working with well-established brands in a fast-paced environment. I gained loads of experience in particular with design for print as we had an in-house press and finishing department. After 5 years I moved on as I was feeling the call to work with smaller businesses, thinking I could make the most impact there. I worked at a few smaller agencies while freelancing on the side, before deciding to go freelance full-time in April of 2021.

Can you give us an insight into your practice and what you do?

I’m a graphic designer specialising in brand and website design. I mostly work with small businesses and fellow creatives but also do work for activist and tech organisations.

When I start a branding project, I speak with the client about their goals for the project; what difference they’d like to see in their business once it’s completed, who their target audience is, what personality they’d like to convey, what sets them apart from competitors, etc. The answers to these questions really inform how the design takes shape.

After this discussion I’ll go away for a few weeks and then share moodboards and initial thoughts and ideas on routes we could take for the identity. The client will likely pick a few ideas they like (hopefully) and we will refine it from there. I’m collaborative by nature, I don’t like to present options with no client thought or input as it feels a little too like an echo chamber to me.

Do you have any exciting projects or events you’re proud of on the horizon?

I was very proud to be the design arm of an Edinburgh-based campaign to build Elsie Inglis a statue. Elsie was an incredible woman - a surgeon, suffragette, campaigner and just generally someone who did a huge amount of good in the world. Currently there are only 3 female statues in the whole of Edinburgh which I found shocking but (sadly) unsurprising so I felt like this campaign aligned with my feminist values very nicely!

What makes Edinburgh a good base for creatives?

Edinburgh is a multi-cultural, beautiful and bustling city, with such a rich history to boot! There is so much going on here and something for everyone. I walk around Edinburgh and feel like I’m on a film set – if that doesn’t make you feel creative, I don’t know what would.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing a career in the creative industries?

Pursue what you do in your free time, when you aren’t worrying about money or recognition. Follow that path as that’s what you’re truly passionate about. The money and opportunities will come with time. Also, don’t be afraid to be shit. Post your work regardless of the fact that you see someone else posting much better work. Everyone starts somewhere and you need to get use to creative critiques to grow and improve.

What made you want to join Creative Edinburgh as a member?

I think community is important in every area of life. For me as a freelancer especially, it’s been particularly helpful for networking and meeting like-minded people.

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