Featured Awards Winner

Aley Hanson

June 2019

A big congrats to Aley Hanson (@aley.hanson), one of our 30 TDK Awards winners' for 2019. A Rhode Island School of Design graduate from San Francisco, their work was chosen by Jeremy Wortsman from The Jacky Winter Group (@jackywinter) in Melbourne. : “I was immediately drawn to Aley’s work, and not just because it was at the top of my list, Alphabetically! She’s absolutely tapped into something very contemporary in the state of illustration, and while some of the pieces can look a bit crude on the surface, the underlying compositions and use of colour display an underlying mastery at work. While I can already see a wide variety of application for this work but I know if she keeps pushing this aesthetic she’ll end up in some really new and exciting territory!” We asked Aley to answer a few questions for next years TDK Awards hopefuls.

What do you wish you’d known now when you started your design course?

The magic ingredient to creating is believing in yourself and your creative power. It took some time for that to land with me, and once I did my creativity took off. When I start to trash talk myself (as we all do), I stop, look in a mirror and say ‘I have a strong creative voice’. It’s super dorky and it works. Gotta feel your own work for others to feel it too.

What originally lead you in to design, and how has that changed - what do you want to do/are doing now?

I considered studying law because I’m a natural debater, but ended up studying illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. I started drawing before I could talk, and so I made the right choice (phew!). After graduation, I worked at a screen printing shop in San Francisco that prints a max of 7 solid colors, which gave me a deep appreciation for what can be achieved with flat shapes and a limited palette. I then worked as a communication designer at a local food/tech startup, which was highly collaborative and design thinking oriented. It was fun, but adventure beckoned, so in 2016 I quit my job to hitchhike, volunteer and couch surf my way around the world. I wasn’t lost, but certainly wandering, and it wasn’t until last year that I decided to give illustration my all. It took me a while to arrive at illustration because I waited until I had something to say, which solo traveling in 22 countries has given me in spades.

Any hot tips for getting ahead at uni?

If you don’t know what your style is, look beyond other artists, beyond the visual and into yourself. Gather things that bring you joy or are a part of you: where you grew up, music, food, books, films, personal strengths, vulnerabilities, etc. Create a giant mood board, and once you see everything together, identify the patterns and big ideas. Bring these elements into your work and your authentic style will begin to emerge. Even your weaknesses lead you to create in a unique way, and if you’re conscious of them, you can push them to play to your advantage.

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When I start to trash talk myself (as we all do), I stop, look in a mirror and say ‘I have a strong creative voice’

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What do you love about the design scene in your city and what companies are on your dream list to work or collaborate with?

I’m currently a nomad, but I’m from San Francisco and what I love about the Bay Area is the street art. New work on top of old, mismatched squares of cover-up paint, dirt and tattered wheat pastes create unexpected masterpieces. That, and the famous tolerance, that you can literally walk around naked playing an accordion and strangers will join you, are very inspiring to me. My dream is to scale my work, making murals and immersive experiences. I also want to do more editorial work. Dream clients (to name a few): New York Times, Vice, a Google Doodle, NPR, Medium, Nooworks, so many. I try to embody positivity and empowerment in my work, and so I like working with organizations that do the same.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Pushing my craft, collaborating with talented artists and spreading joy through illustration. I would love to have gallery shows to deeply explore a theme through a body of work.

2019 for you in a sentence

Expanding jellyfish dancing towards the light.

Instagram: @aley.hanson

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