Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wtg Acacia and the team


“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken
joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

-          Albert Einstein

Today I am writing unashamedly as a proud father.  I will tell you why a little later.

There have been previous posts about my daughter, Acacia, including a couple on her being part of the team that launched Cosmopolitan Middle East in April 2011.  Those posts can be read by clicking on the following links:

From the days that Acacia was 8 years old she showed an interest in design.  At that age and later she sometimes spent time with me in my office, invariable annoying the secretarial staff by decorating telephones, shorthand pads, calendars and the mail book with flowers, scroll work and other graphic design elements.

From early high school years she had decided on what she wanted to do with her life:  become a graphic designer for a magazine such as Harper’s Bazaar or Cosmopolitan.

Regrettably her dreams and aspirations were not shared by some of her teachers.  In her final year she was told by the school careers and guidance counsellor and her art teacher to consider an alternative choice; another teacher suggested that she aim for something realistic.

She ignored them and won a partial scholarship for a graphic design course at KVB College in North Sydney.  Importantly she also wrote to various magazines offering to work voluntarily as a work experience student.  For those two years Acacia assisted and worked one day each week, without pay, for a variety of magazines, acquiring experience and knowledge and being given increasing responsibility.  Ultimately she was assisting with photoshoots, production and design.

At college graduation she applied for a full time position as a graphic designer with various magazines in Sydney.  Although Acacia made it to the short list for Vogue, her lack of experience meant that those who had already been in the industry for some years were preferred.  It’s a similar conumdrum in every industry and occupation:  employers prefer to engage people with experience but you can't get experience if you're not hired.

Then Cosmopolitan called.  Having interviewed various persons and not being satisfied they went through past applications and saw Acacia’s again.  She was called in, interviewed and hired.  From there she worked her way up, worked for Cosmo, Cleo and various other mags in the ACP stable, as well as some stints freelancing in Sydney and in England.

Last year Cosmo called again and recruited Acacia and a team of other girls from various parts of the world – England, Ireland, the US – to start up Cosmopolitan Middle East.  Acacia has been living in Dubai and is the art director for the mag.

I recall that a year or so after Acacia had finished high school and after she had started with Cosmo, I had accompanied her to her old high school for a function.  She pointed out to me the teacher who had told her to select a more realistic career choice, at which point I said “I might have a few words with that teacher” and began to move towards him.  Acacia stopped me and asked me not to, telling me that there was nothing to be gained by it.  She was right, if he didn’t have it within him to encourage students to follow their dreams, to make their lives extraordinary as Mr Keating put it in Dead Poets Society, then nothing I could say or do would make a difference.  A little bit later the headmistress approached Acacia and introduced her to a young student, saying that the student wanted to be a graphic designer and work with magazines, that perhaps Acacia could give her some advice in that she had achieved it.

“That guy impressed me
and I am not easily impressed.
Wow. A blue car.”

-       Homer Simpson

Which brings me to the reason for this post.

Cosmopolitan, first published in 1886 as a family magazine, is now published in 66 international editions distributed in over 100 countries.

Every 2 years the editors and publishers from all 66 Cosmos gather at the International Cosmic Conference to discuss all things Cosmo.  This year’s conference, being held in Madrid now, for the first time featured the Design & Photography Awards, with gold, silver and bronze awards in the following categories.

·         Best cover design, Original photography (this means a cover that was shot by the local magazine itself)
·         Best cover design, Pick up photography (this means using an image from US Cosmo)
·         Best typography
·         Best feature/celeb layout
·         Issue of the year
·         Best celebrity shoot
·         Best beauty shoot
·         Best fashion shoot

Cosmo Middle East, a small team of 5 women and in existence for only 12 months, won gold for Best Typography and for Best Cover Design, pick up, and silver for Best Cover Design, original photography and for Issue of the Year.  Two firsts and two seconds out of eight categories aaginst 65 international editions, including the US, England etc.
In addition, the following night, Cosmopolitan Middle East was awarded the honour for overall Magazine of the Year.

Well done Acacia and the girls:  editor in chief Kerrie; fashion and beauty director Chee; deputy editor Aoife and photo editor Christina.

Here are the winning layouts:

(Click on the images to enlarge)
Gold, Best Cover (Pick Up Photography)

Gold, Design Typography

Silver, Cover (Original Photography)
Silver, Design,Iissue of the Year

“I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. ...
I feel it, and I can't deny the fact
that you like me,
right now, you like me!"

-       Sally Field,
acceptance speech for 
the Best Actress Oscar, Places in the Heart (1985)

The following is Acacia's message that was posted on the Facebook page for the Cosmo awards.  What impresses me and makes me even prouder is the empahasis in Cosmo Middle East by Acacia and the team on educating women in the region about women's issues and rights, health, protection and wellbeing, and  on increasing the awareness of those issues

Hey there Fun, Fearless, creative people!!

I was (and still am) hugely honoured to work on the launch of Cosmopolitan Middle East. Having worked on Cosmopolitan Australia (in my home town of Sydney) for eight years and also art directing the launch of Cosmo Bride and Cosmo Hair & Beauty, the thought of launching Cosmo into a region where women are still learning to claim their independence in all facets of their lives was not only a slightly terrifying challenge, but a massive milestone to be part of.

As part of a tiny editorial team (four and a half of us!) I’m proud that I am able to design every page of the magazine in a style that is unique to our edition. I’ve also directed shoots (including our Kourtney Kardashian double-cover shoot) and our 50 Hottest Bachelors (another big turning point for the region!).

When I was offered the job of Art Director on Cosmo Middle East, I was at a stage of my life where I was looking for a challenge, something I could sink my teeth into while feeling that I was offering a service to women. What I got was a massive adventure that has allowed me to work on the brand that I’ve always loved, in a region that I have fallen head-over-heels for.

It’s so rewarding to hear that local women are loving our magazine, and that we’re the highest-selling magazine in the region.

It’s a year since I made the move to Dubai, and when I think of how much I’ve learned, discovered and achieved in those short 12 months, it only makes me more determined to see in the next 12.

“The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. Oh Otto! You made me cry!!! It is so lovely to read such beautiful words. I am so proud of Acacia myself. She has worked so hard to get where she is. I have always been proud to call your amazing and kind hearted daughter my friend, and I am now the proud friend of an award winning art director. She has finally got the recognition that she has worked so hard for, and that she so admirably deserves.


  2. She is amazing in every way. I hope she always loves her job, such an amazing position to acheive these days.

  3. What a beautiful dedication to an inspiring and massively talented woman. We're so lucky to be able to work with her every day.

  4. Such lovely words! It's so amazing to hear how proud you are of your extremely talented daughter. We have so much fun all working together, that it really doesn't feel like work! Chee x

  5. Thanks for sharing - very inspiring. I'm passing this to the young women (and men!) I mentor.

  6. Thank you to all of the above for your comments. Spreading feel-good moments warms those who share in them.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.