Original Interview: June 2015

Kelsey O’Hagan

We are honoured to pick the brains of our NZ intern, Kelsey O’Hagan. Kelsey graduated from Canterbury University, she is now living in Wellington and runs #TDKtuesdays with the wonderful Isaac. Learn about what made Kelsey fall in love with design, why she can’t get enough of collaborating and what her three favourite design books are!

When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?
To be honest I don’t believe I fell in love with Design until University. Before then I had a very vague, naive perception of what art and design was or could be. I was crazily interested with the surf, ski and skate culture in NZ – I think this was more for its’ visual output of graphic material (magazines, boards, blogs) than anything else. The graphics and layouts looked different and interesting; I wanted to make similar material and work for the companies that produced this kind of work.

Nevertheless, in my second year at Canterbury University, our lecturer brought in three screen printed A1 posters (non of which were framed) designed by Wolfgang Weingart, who had briefly taught at the school a couple of decades earlier. I was honestly blown away. I cannot explain the amount of excitement I had for these posters. I had never seen anything so fascinating! The type was so large, there was so much white space, and he hadn’t even used words on the posters it was just an assortment of letters – Weingart became my idol and I was in total awe.

Where do you gather inspiration on and off the web?
I have been moving between different cities for the past couple of months and realised that these spaces have influenced me in different ways – through architecture, artist spaces the fashion – essentially city culture. I think the people in these areas that I have introduced myself to and surrounded myself with have also been a big influence, with an introduction to new music, artists and gallery/artists spaces… I think ‘inspiration’ off the web is a subconscious thing, where I am or whom I am talking to, it all affects my perspective and always brings new ideas to the surface.

While I would love to say that architecture and newly found publications in some forgotten corner store in Wellington are the only things that influence me, I am such a sucker for gathering inspiration from the web. Social media, blogs, websites, (graphic-porn.com, untrustyou.tumblr.com) – I am always finding new work online, sometimes recommended by a friend, but mostly me wasting my time trolling the internet. The material that I look at online and offline are as equally broad – from artists and designers to films, photography and writing – it all plays a part in my creative processes.

KESLEY O'HAGAN - The Design Kids

KESLEY O'HAGAN - The Design Kids

Tell us about any collaborations you have been doing past, present or future?
Strips Club, a New Zealand Graphic Design Journal, has been the largest collaboration I have taken on along with designer Cameron Ralston. Having already published two issues, we are currently starting Issue 3 and are hoping to release it by the end of the year – so watch this space. Alongside Strips Club I am working on some poster and type collaborations with a couple of friends and have also started working on an app, which is definitely a new experience… Collaborations are a big part of design for me, I genuinely love the discussion that surrounds a collaborative project – it is always a different process when working with different people and I think is the best way to continue expanding and pushing the boundaries not only for design, but for myself, is through collaborating.

Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?
It has become apparent to me in recent months, and this is from a combination of both visiting ‘co-working creative spaces’ and attending design talks, that there are many ‘travelling designers’. Hardhat design studio being one group that visited Wellington a couple of months ago to share their story. They are two designers running their own design studio whom travel between Auckland (NZ), Brooklyn and London. It got me thinking about technology and how it has, and is changing the way we work, allowing us, as designers, to keep in contact with clients, send files and video chat. The work that designers’ produce doesn’t have to be for people in their surrounding area anymore, it is now possible to have global cliental and be a small ‘studio’ – And there are spaces being set up for this! The Biz Dojo and In Good Company are two examples in the Wellington area that supply spaces for creatives to work for short amounts of time – this is also a fantastic place to meet other creative individuals in the area or visiting from elsewhere. I think we are going to be seeing a lot more of this, more and more designers are less likely to set up in studio space, and rather, take residency in open creative spaces for short amounts of time to design. I would like to note that this is neither good or bad, simply an interesting observation, and relies solely on the designers’ efforts to maintain their own clients. I can only assume that this will grow as a common practice as technology continues to assist with remote distance’s temporal barriers. I think the best way to adapt is to acknowledge that these changes are happening, and to continue to push the boundaries of design when opportunities arise around your own practice.

KESLEY O'HAGAN - The Design Kids

KESLEY O'HAGAN - The Design Kids

What’s on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
Professionally I would like to make my way into a studio – locally or internationally. I’m looking for a passionate, collaborative and challenging environment that will really push me into some interesting projects, and will essentially help me develop as a designer. As a recent graduate I have a lot to learn and I just want to get involved! Personally, I have just acquired my own studio space in Wellington, which I am SUPER excited about, I want to continue engaging with the design community that surrounds me, help organise projects and shows – essentially to continue collaborating with other passionate designers and artists.

List you top three design books and why?
1. DOT DOT DOT, produced and edited by Stuart Bailey and Peter Bilak
This is almost cheating for a ‘book’ but there is no way I could pick an issue, although I enjoy the earlier editions than the later ones. It’s essentially a design ‘magazine’ that was produced during 2001–2011. It is beautifully summarised by their own definition of what the publication does and is “a jocuserious fanzine-journal-orphanage based on true stories deeply concerned with art-design-music-language-literature-architecture”. Now producing an online bi-annual publication called Bulletins of The Serving Library.

2. Type Only, by Tony Brook, Claudia Klat and Adrian Shaughnessy
I bought Type Only after visiting Catherine Griffiths at her home studio and seeing it on her desk. I was flicking through the pages and thought ‘I have to have this’! A curated selection of work from over 100 designers globally, the work is solely type design (which I adore) – I always refer to this book when having a design block, simply perfect for the bookshelf! Both Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy have continued this as a kind of “series” in their new Type Plus, which will surely be my next online purchase.

3. What is a Designer by Norman Potter
As a student at Ilam we read a lot of Norman Potter, and since then have always admired the book. The book is addressed to students and practitioners of architecture and design, and was written in the 1960’s. It’s age does not effect it’s relevance today, I find that I am always looking back at it when arguing with myself about what a designer is. Definitely a must read!

Website kelseyjean.co
Instagram @unicorn_kels

KESLEY O'HAGAN - The Design Kids

KESLEY O'HAGAN - The Design Kids

KESLEY O'HAGAN - The Design Kids