28-year-old Lee McConnell is the envy of every aspiring graphic artist as he takes the creative reigns at Mambo next year, after winning the role of Artistic Director of the iconic brand.
Originally from Forster, Lee completed a Certificate IV in Graphic Design at Hunter TAFE’s Newcastle campus, before travelling, working in hospitality and painting houses and eventually working as an intern for Mambo. Lee puts his rise from intern to artistic director down to his versatility as a graphic artist.
“It’s important to be strong across the board and not just focus on one area,” he said. “As a graphic designer you need to be adaptable and adjust to different aesthetics and be open to learning.”
“Graphic design is great because you can work in a variety of industries, such as fashion and advertising. You need to be able to work across different areas too, such as branding, events and visual communications.”
Always interested in creative pursuits, Lee was first interested in animation as a career when he left school and even contemplated studying acting at NIDA before starting at Mambo.
Lee says his TAFE training has stayed with him. “The teachers were really lovely and every subject was really practical,” he said. “We learnt all the design programs and it really motivated me to keep practising after class. Then I started doing album covers and posters for friends.”
Inspired by Mambo artists Reg Mombassa and Jeff Raglus as a child, Lee never dreamt that he would one day work alongside his idols. “My favourite book as a kid was illustrated by Jeff Raglus and it really made me want to draw,” he said. “I grew up wearing Mambo and it’s amazing to think I work there now.”
The beach and surfing are still important aspects of the artist’s lifestyle and are the reason behind his decision to base himself in the Northern Beaches when working in Sydney. Currently back home in Forster for the holiday period, Lee is recharging before starting the new role at Mambo in the new year. “It’s great to just hang with all my mates up here.”