Design: It all starts with a sketch pad

Much like the athletes from around the world who will chase their dreams of gold at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018), building design graduate Aella MacDonald is chasing a dream of her own at the Games, one sketch at a time.

10 Oct 2017

Nineteen-year-old Aella completed her diploma in 2015 and now has her sights firmly set on the podium. This year she turns her childhood dream into reality as she helps to plan, organise and deliver GC2018 for visitors from all over the world to enjoy.

“I’m one of those annoying people who always knew what they wanted to do when they grew up,” Aella laughs.

“My passion for design came at a really young age. I grew up in a very creative household and my parents gave me a great appreciation for functional and practical design,” she continued.

Aella’s father taught art for more than 20 years and has a particular penchant for piano’s as well as timber and metal sculpture. Her mother also embraced her creative side as a dressmaker with an affinity for Indian and South East Asian influences.

“I grew up around design and have always had a very different perspective to materials and textures to most my age,” Aella said.

“It all started with a sketch pad I had as a six year old. I used to sit and quietly sketch little floor plans and million dollar ideas into it. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been attracted to clean black lines.”

Born in Toowoomba, Aella had her first taste of TAFE at school completing a Certificate III in Graphic Design which gave her an insight into creative visualisation, design concepts and layouts, and reaffirmed her dream of a career in design.

For many, living away from home for the first time can be quite daunting. But not for Aella, nothing was going to stop her from pursuing her childhood dream.

“Once I finished school I immediately enrolled at TAFE Queensland and made the move to Maroochydore to study at the Nambour campus,” Aella said.

“Talk about new beginnings—I knew no one!”

“No family or friends. No car and no license. No matter, I wasn’t going to let that get in the way,” she said.

Two years later and Aella is putting into practice the hands-on experience and practical skills she received studying at TAFE Queensland. She is now turning her dream into a reality as she builds her career in design on the Gold Coast.

“As a Revit Technician in overlay design I am responsible for creating a welcoming environment in every venue by adding temporary elements like extra furniture, seating, marquees and tents to permanent buildings to make the space more functional and enjoyable for everyone,” Aella said.

So if you’re at the Games in 2018, rest assured your visit to the venues has been meticulously planned to ensure it’s an exciting and memorable experience. As you make your way through venues and crowds, just remember that much of where you go, what you see, how you move, and what you feel is all shaped by practical design and started with a sketch pad.


TAFE Queensland is proud to be the official Training Partner for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

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