Alumni Stories - Mary Doherty

'Work hard and never stop challenging your own thinking. Good is never good enough.'

Name:                 Mary Doherty 

Current Career:   Branding and Design 

Graduation Year: 1993

Discipline:            Graphic design 

Location:              Dublin 

What career path did you want to follow as a child?

I can’t remember that far back! I was very ‘typical’, I suppose, as a young girl and wanted to be a nurse or a teacher. It was only when I met ‘art’ in secondary school that I felt a strong connection and knew there was something about the visual world that I felt comfortable in and wanted to be a part of.


Why did you decide to study at National College of Art & Design?

After my foundation year in UU, York Street in Belfast - where I thought I wanted to be a fine art painter but realised I was not good enough - I completed a HND in design (product and graphic) in Magee in Derry. I fell in love with graphic design there and really wanted to continue with it, as I knew I had so much more to learn. I applied to NCAD and Edinburgh but chose Dublin as that was far enough away for me, and more familiar, I guess. Also, it was the best college to go to – I loved the fact that it had its own quirky little campus in the middle of the city. 


How did you develop your career towards your current practice?

I suppose my career path has been an incredibly simple one – myself and a classmate from NCAD set up Red Dog the day after we graduated in 1993 and there I remain. 27 years later – one job, ever, in my life. My career was contained there but has progressed from graphic designer to creative director to managing director of an agency of 18 people.


What is the one experience during your time at NCAD that has informed you most in your work to date?

Work hard and never stop challenging your own thinking. Good is never good enough. 

I think I should add that NCAD also provided me with a wonderful husband! He was in my class and we are happily married with two sons, 27 years later.


If you were chatting with current NCAD students today what is the one piece of advice you would offer?

Never assume anything, be enthusiastic and show hunger for progression. Love and live your work but don’t let it take over entirely – that’s a mistake I made. Trying to rectify that now! 


Given the global turmoil and change accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, what in your opinion are the opportunities for those in creative industries?

The opportunities are in ‘how we work’. I think generally it’s been proven now that we do not need to be in the one space together from 9 to 5 each day. So, the way we work is forever changed and I look forward to seeing how things pan out. Creatives can spend more time at home, less time travelling and have more time to have a life. And of course, it’s a given now that our work will be delivered mostly via digital platforms. However, the principle of the ‘idea’ still being the most important thing will never change.  


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