Home Articles Back Issue Bull-Ant: When Forward Thinking Design (and Vanessa Cullen) came of...

Back Issue Bull-Ant: When Forward Thinking Design (and Vanessa Cullen) came of age


For GenY’er, Cool Company and 30under30 winner Vanessa Cullen, the year gone by marked a coming of age of sorts.

She turned 30 last winter, perhaps dispelling some of her longstanding anxieties that her youth could spook potential clients. After all, she had started her design firm, Forward Thinking Design, when she was a mere 22.

Cullen saw off 2011 with two awards at the Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence, adding to her firm’s growing maturity, and credentials.

“Winning business of the year has always been the aim but it was an unexpected honour to receive it so early in the company’s existence!” said Cullen, who turned an entrepreneur after being disillusioned by a lack of ethics in the design profession.

“We were also shortlisted for the ‘retail design’ category in the Interior Design Excellence Awards (IDEA11), which is a very prestigious national award.  So we’ve had a massively successful year all round. We’re looking forward to 2012 as Forward Thinking Design continues to grow,” she added.

In 2010, Forward Thinking Design, based in Baulkham Hills, received the Excellence in Customer Service award in the Suncorp Western Sydney Business Excellence competition. It was an award that Cullen cherished because she has put customer ahead of everybody else and set high ethical standards. In fact, Cullen left turned an entrepreneur in order to guide her own moral compass.

Cullen has fashioned Forward Thinking Design as a fresh ideas factory inspired by the Gen Y’ers. She believes in “strategy, differentiation and desire,” and has sought to break the traditional boundaries of design.

“I dare to be different. I’ve been a new business owner, just like my clients, and so I service them from the standpoint of acute understanding, honesty and empathy,” Cullen once said.

Cullen was recognised as one of Anthill Magazine’s ‘30 Under 30′ Young Entrepreneurs in 2009 and 2010. Forward Thinking Design also was a runner-up at Anthill’s ‘Cool Company – Commercial Creativity Award’ in 2010 for its design for Sergio’s Cake Shop; and ‘Cool Company – Commercial Creativity Award’ 2009 for Krank Clothing.

What is a back-issue bull-ant? It’s where we follow up on a person or company that we have previously featured. It’s just another way we support Australian entrepreneurs and innovators. Cool, huh?