Sunday, 24 March 2013

Introducing...Ellie Thomas

It started as a barista/customer relationship which then developed into a barista/favourite customer relationship and has now progressed to regular coffee date and collaborator. Oh the wonders of caffeine! There's also one funny coincidence from our story, while one of my friends worked in vintage emporium Pop Boutique I was wasting an afternoon hanging around the till when he showed me a CV that had been handed in, this business card sized blue item was a girl called Ellie's, and it was remarkably good. We spent a good hour admiring it. It was only when I later knew Ellie and looked at her website that I realised she was the creator of the best CV ever, fate! And so, this post is dedicated to the genius and style of Ellie Thomas. She stood out while waiting for her skinny hazelnut latte because of her consistent style and frankly brilliant hair cut, after a couple of months I knew I had to do a blog post on her. So here we go, the ins and outs of Ellie: 

1)How did you get into graphic design?

Since I was embarrassingly young, Ive been obsessed with letters. I really loved reading and writing stories but I always wanted the beauty of the words to come through in their appearance as well. Although I’m sure I wouldn’t have articulated like that when I was 10. After bubble writing my way through primary school, I started using computers for the first time and I was hooked. Whole parties were constructed around the fact that I’d come up with an invitation design. Every family meal had to have an individual menu. In hindsight, they were all really bad but I knew I’d found the thing I wanted to spend my life doing. 

2) What has been your favourite project so far and why?

Recently, I helped out with branding Beardfest, sort of a facial hair beauty pageant at Camp & Furnace (Liverpool). Being a beard aficionado anyway, it was a really fun project to work on. And it's pretty rare that I get to see things I've designed out in the real world so it was pretty exciting seeing the posters around and thinking 'oh yeah, I did that'. Also, the knowledge that this man now owns one of my prints makes me very happy...

3) What would be your ideal-dream-come-true-job after graduating?

I'm still figuring that one out. I love print design, although (or maybe because) it's a dying breed with everything moving online. For me, it's just so much more satisfying to make something physical, like a book or a poster. I just don't get the same feeling if I'm designing a website. I guess it's similar to the difference between a lovingly compiled vinyl collection and an iTunes library. Or a bookcase full of well-read paperbacks and a Kindle.

But even within print, there are so many options that I'm interested in. Book design is something I'd love to try my hand at - designing covers for Penguin would be incredible. And then there's magazines. As much as I love blogs, nothing really compares to the heft of a really good fashion magazine. I've toyed with the idea of starting a fashion zine with more focus on personal style instead of trends. Very little advertising, matte paper, no celebrities and with a real emphasis on interesting design - kind of an anti-Vogue. Not that I don't love Vogue - but they haven't changed their layouts for 20 years.

I also love the idea of trying some visual merchandising. I work part time in a vintage shop to help with uni costs and I've fallen in love with styling mannequins and doing window displays - but they don't always give the lowly shop girl much of a say in how things look. I'd love to be commissioned by a shop to design their whole identity - store layouts, lookbooks, window displays, clothes tags, bags... That'd be a dream project.

4) Which other artists/designers inspire and influence your work?

Obviously there are lots of artists and designers I admire. I love Olly Moss's sense of humour and distinctive style. Seeing an Ed Ruscha painting at the Tate Liverpool when I was a kid made me realise that letters could be art. But a lot of my inspiration comes from things I encounter day to day. French New Wave film titles, secondhand record sleeves, old books I find in charity shops... I split my time between Manchester and Liverpool and both cities have incredible creative scenes that are really inspiring to be around. The opening of Cow&Co really made my summer. I'm a big magazine hoarder and they stock so many great titles - Little White Lies, Lula, The Gentlewoman and Elephant are some of my favourites. I feel like I'm constantly carrying around a little binder in my head and everything interesting I see goes in and then comes out one way or another in my work.

5) Could you talk me through your design process? How do you approach a project?

Every project falls into one of two camps. If it's a freelance project or a uni set brief, I'm given a problem and have to find a way to solve it. Those always start with hours of research, a lot of a barely intelligible mind maps scribbled in notebooks, random tangents that usually lead to dead ends, lots of 'blue sky thinking' and people sitting around asking 'what if' and saying things that probably sound very stupid and pretentious... but then eventually (hopefully) you hit the right idea. And then it's just a case of refining it until you're happy with it or the deadline arrives, whichever comes first.

Then there's the self-directed work I do which is usually an fully formed idea that comes out of the blue and I just do it. Matchbooks with Woody Allen jokes on them, a flowchart mapping out a Beach Boys song, Christmas cards with Sufjan Stevens lyrics and drawings of unicorns... I suppose these projects are less 'useful' than the rest of my work because no one asked for them; the only problem to be solved is my own boredom. There's less sitting the library doing research because I'm drawing on the things that inspire me everyday - film, music, fashion... 

6) How do you like to work? Is it tucked up in bed/at a clear desk/library/with coffee?

I usually try to get out of the house. As much as I hate being the stereotypical designer sat in a coffee shop with their macbook, it's where I do most of my best work. I feel like I can't procrastinate as much because strangers will judge me for it. And the caffeine definitely helps. I use the studios at uni as much as possible too. It's great being surrounded by people who are all working on different projects; you can bounce ideas off each other and get fresh pair of eyes when you've been looking at something for too long. Plus, there's a real sense of art school excitement and that anything is possible. Bonus: we're pretty high up so you get some amazing views across Manchester.

7) Why do you dislike Nicholas Cage?

I feel like the question should be "why does anyone like Nicholas Cage". Okay, Raising Arizona was amazing. But it's not enough to excuse The Wickerman remake, Ghostrider or National Treasure. Nothing ever could.

8) What are you vices?

It can be hard to take your 'designer hat' off at the end of the day and I do things like point out fonts on pasta packets and critique poster layouts at the cinema, much to my friends' annoyance. I also buy a lot of things I don't need just because I like the packaging. I suppose the caffeine habit is becoming a bit of a problem as well...

9) You would describe your personal style as being...

I wear a lot of vintage. I really like the process of searching through cluttered vintage stalls and charity shops, not knowing what you might find and feeling like the clothes you wear have some kind of history. I'm a big fan of the 60s and 70s (if I could look like some hybrid of Anna Karina in Une femme est une femme and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, I'd be happy) but I try not to stick too closely to a particular period because then it starts to feel like fancy dress. Oh, and I'm a big fan of menswear - particularly when it comes to shoes. I walk everywhere in Manchester and I can't stand shoes that are going to slow me down. It's pretty rare to see me in anything but brogues or loafers.

You may have noticed our recent re brand, this delightful makeover is thanks to the numerous talents of Ellie. Check our Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to see more of our lovely new look. 

To see more of Ellie's work visit her online portfolio, or follow her on Twitter for little, usually very funny, snippets of her days. 

R x

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