Frankie Ratford from The Design Kids


Frankie is one of those people that just seem to make anything happen, whether it be a creative event, an awesome business idea or an epic adventure, she simply dreams it up and makes it happen.

Frankie has two great loves in life, travel and design. Beginning her career as a Graphic Designer in Sydney, she thought she was set for life with her dream job. Not long after however, she found her feet had that familiar itching feeling and found herself dreaming of the next travel adventure. Being the courageous woman she is, she wasn’t going to let her job hold her back, managing to mould these two loves into one; Frankie created The Design Kids and hasn’t stopped working and travelling since.

The Design Kids is an online community that helps connect design students with the design industries and vice versa. Offering workshops meet and greets, showcasing emerging designers, resources to help students bridge into the professional environment. Frankie is out there doing the groundwork, meeting, connecting and inspiring designers around the world. Only someone like Frankie, with her love of meeting new people, passion for travel and friendly demeanour could have ever evolved this career into what The Design Kids is today.

Nevertheless, everyone needs a base, and lucky for us when she’s not out travelling the world you can find her under the beautiful mango tree that shades her humble caravan abode. After spotting Frankie looking oh so sweet in The Bare Road (thank you Instagram) on her travel adventures all over the world we jumped at the chance to get to know her a little better. We met with Frankie one beautiful morning to check out her new home and chat all things work, travel and fashion.

What’s the best thing about what you do?

I get to spend my days surrounded by awesome people. Over the last few years, I’ve interviewed the best people in the Graphic Design industry, and the craziest thing is the more famous they are, the more humble. I’m also surrounded by emerging talent the rest of the time, and that’s equally as fun - these guys have the best energy and enthusiasm for what’s coming next. I’m an energetic person so I love being surrounded by good vibes. I’m also constantly travelling and going to places across the globe with a purpose and meeting locals that way has been really rewarding, and opened doors (literally) that I would never get to see otherwise.  

Tell us how you manage travel with work and how this has benefited your business?

After sitting at a desk in Sydney for 18 months, I redesigned my life around how I wanted to live. I proposed a six-year road trip where we build The Design Kids (an online resource for Graphic Design students to start their careers on from the ground up by physically travelling there. 2013 & 2014 I was road tripping around Australia, 2015 hitchhiking across NZ & driving across the USA, 2016 more driving across the whole circumference of USA and Canada, 2017 I drove across 20 countries and 28 cities in Europe and 2018 flying to Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Central and South America. Then I’m pretty much done!  


You have travelled a lot, what are 3 most memorable places you have travelled and why?

My favourite three places ever? Norfolk Island, in the South Pacific changed my life as an 18 year old. I worked out what matters in life and I met my life mentor, Tim Leroy (who now advises TDK remotely). Life was pre Norfolk Island, and post Norfolk Island for me. Since then, I loved Portland in Oregan and could move back in a flash. We set up USA base camp there in July 2015 to plan our 18 month trip, and I made some life long friends. This year going to Africa was pretty epic, and I’d like to go back for fun not work next year. As always, not enough time.  

Tell us about your home here in Byron, how did you come to live in the caravan under the mango tree?

I have a shack in rural Tasmania, where I run Graphic Design residencies (@tassiedesignshack), and using it as a home base myself there for a few months each year. This year I decided on a sea change, and Byron used to be my home so an easy move back. I actually wanted to live in a treehouse but apparently you need a tree for that (and council approval) so a caravan was the next best thing. I live with my favourite 69-year-old called Cass who owns the land, and I have my little caravan called Mango under the mango tree on her property. It's heaven. I wake up to kookaburras singing and rain on the roof.   

What’s one of the best things about coming back to your little home?

That its mine! I love small spaces, and I love my own space, so its perfect. I’m a simple girl and am a total minimalist - my clothes fit in an IKEA bag, my books in a box and my tools in a bag and that’s it. Actually half the cupboards in the caravan are empty! I hate things. I spend all my money on plane tickets and books! Shout out to my friends Tim, Pru and Nat for helping me turn the dark wooden caravan into a white paradise, and Morgan for the plants and cushions. It's so dreamy : )  

 How would you describe your personal fashion style?

Super simple. I travel so lightly that that always has to be considered and I like super versatile plain or basics that I can mix and match. Black is also good when you’re travelling! I wear a lot of black (designer), white (I live at the beach) and denim. Maybe some pink or green thrown in, or grey if I’m feeling crazy, but basic is best! My only bag for my 2 month Africa & Middle East trip weighed 4kg so you have to get pretty crafty about what to take! Also, hot tip - you can buy toothpaste overseas and clothes you can wash, so once you get past the week mark its just repeated, you don’t need to pack more. Also I get bag rage (!) Carrying too much stuff so I try to keep it to a minimum. Linen is super perfect for travelling!   

Where to next?

I’m off again in 4 weeks; Central and South America and Asia, building The Design Kids platform, and giving talks and workshops as well as interviewing designers, plus New York (I’m running a Wix workshop), Tel Aviv (I’m speaking at OFFF Tel Aviv conference) and maybe India at the end. Who knows!  

Frankie is pictured wearing The Palma Dress, Sicily Shorts and Positano Top

Follow Frankie

Instagram: @frankieratford

Follow TDK

Instagram: @thedesignkids