We get the 101 with our TDK Awards ’17 designer Allison Filice. We chat about finding inspiration when developing you style, volunteering and internships while you’re studying, and walks in the park – oh and Olive the cat.
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started? I fell in love with design before I knew what it was. I used to draw greeting cards, menus, magazines, and other little things when I was a kid. When I was in middle school, I became obsessed with fashion and would draw outfits all the time. I had subscriptions to Vogue, W, and Harper’s Bazaar magazine and would memorize which designers were using which cuts and colors each season, and I would hang magazine cutouts of fashion spreads all over my room. In high school I took a digital design class and learned Photoshop and how to make websites and logos. Then I became yearbook co-editor-in-chief my senior year and designed the layout of the book (it’s pretty embarrassing to look back on the style of it now).
At the time I didn’t know what graphic design was, so I decided to study international business in college. After multiple economics and accounting classes, I realized business wasn’t for me and I needed to do something creative. I finally discovered graphic design through my counselor and switched my major to it, and was also able to learn a little industrial design as a study abroad student in London.
My work experience has mainly been in graphic design and user experience design. I’ve always had a passion for illustration and last year I decided to focus on it. Now I’m a freelance illustrator and designer, mostly doing editorial illustration work.
‘Volunteer, do an internship, make connections, work hard, and always be making the work you want to make’
What does a typical working day include for you right now? Each day is a little different, depending on what needs to be done. Editorial work usually has a quick turnaround time, so if I’m working on a project with a tight deadline, I might wake up early in the morning and work late into the night. Other days might consist of more mellow paced work, with outreach to art directors (trying to find my next job), invoicing clients, or updating my portfolio mixed in. I also try to make time for personal illustrations and collaborations to keep pushing my ideas forward and create the work I want to be creating. Personal development is really important to me and I try to make time to study, whether it’s reading books or learning about topics that interest me. Studying other aspects of life is a good source of inspiration to bring back to my work. I work from my home studio, and I enjoy being able to go for walks in the park during the day and spending time with my cat, Olive.
Who are your top five design crushes right now? Jim Stoten
‘Learning and growing outside of illustration/design will influence your work in amazing ways.’
How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others? I think style is how you translate the world and mirror it back. It’s important to find what’s meaningful to you, and to play with that. What inspires you? What emotions do you want to evoke and what story do you want to tell? All of these things are at the core of developing your style. Find what feels like you, what looks like you.
For me that was done through a lot of exploration in color, art, design, and ideas. I was in the corporate world for so long that I didn’t really know what my style looked like since I had been creating for others and not myself. I had to remove the additional layers I was wearing and get back to the core me. Now when I look at the work I make, I see myself in it. There’s a common thread that has run through my work all the way back to when I was a kid, but it has evolved over time as I’ve grown. Stylistically, I’ve always had a simplistic approach, using bold colors and linework. I think my style is quite friendly and approachable while trying to explore deep ideas.
What advice would you give students starting out? Get as much experience doing what you want to do while you’re still in school. It’s a bit of a catch-22 how the industry wants you to already have experience, when you’re looking to get experience. Volunteer, do an internship, make connections, work hard, and always be making the work you want to make (even if it’s only possible in your spare time) to build up your portfolio. All this will help you stand out when you’re ready to apply to industry gigs.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? 1. Make work that is meaningful to you.
2. You’re ready before you think you’re ready. Put your work out there, what’s the worst that could happen?
3. Networking and promotion are really important. It’s kind of magical how the right person finds your work at the right time. You’ll want to have lots of ways for people to find you.
4. Learning and growing outside of illustration/design will influence your work in amazing ways.
5. Be confident in yourself and your work. No one else in the universe has what makes you, you.
6. If something doesn’t work out the way you had hoped, don’t let it get you down. It probably wasn’t the right opportunity at the moment. The right opportunity will come along if you’re open to it.