The DA team want to support our community through these unprecedented times – something we kept coming back to is a focus on connection and community. So we want to do what we think DA does best, sharing ideas, inspiration and information and profiling our community.
With that in mind, we launched a new series Take 10 with… to do a pulse check on how you’re feeling, how you’re working, what you are missing, and what your hopes are for the future. We invited some of our friends, peers and the DA team to participate and we hope you enjoy these honest and candid profiles of Aotearoa designers today.
Introduce yourself: Nicole Arnett Phillips, DA Editor, Freelance Book Designer, Typographer (@TYPOgraphHer) and Printmaker.
How did you get into design? I have always loved visual language but key early influences were: my Dad working for the New Zealand Herald and my Aunt working for Random House. Publishing and print made an impression from an early age.
What do you love about design? Selfishly: I like to learn and be challenged, design is a terrific vehicle for that. More broadly: As a communications/book designer I really enjoy being able to help others share their ideas and tell their stories with their audience.
What or who inspires you? I listen to a lot of music but am also a book freak… lyrics, words and language is the stuff I draw the most inspiration from and I like to explore visual metaphor in my work. Since returning home to NZ after 14 years living overseas I have a new appreciation for our landscape so I have been using environmental cues a lot in my work lately too. (Some of my recent and work-in-progress prints inspired by our surroundings are at the bottom of this article).
How are you feeling right now? Anxious (mostly) but grateful too. I don’t do well with uncertainty, so my brain is pretty scrambled right now… but in New Zealand, we have good leaders, with integrity looking out for our collective wellbeing so I am optimistic that while everything is not OK right now we will get through this!
Are you working right now, if so what does your work from home day look like? Yes although fewer hours than I typically would… as I write this about 60% of my work is on hold (due to the clients pressing pause). My design/printmaking studio is in Thames about 25 minutes down the coast from where I live (so I am unable to print at home). But I am able to work on DA content, research and write for TYPOgraphHer, plan prints for upcoming exhibitions, I am also taking a close look at my business plan, opportunities for the future, catching up on expenses and bookkeeping for the end of financial year.
What’s your one tip right now?
This is a tough question and I have rewritten this answer a ton of times. Surviving times of uncertainty means different things for different people. Some days I feel energetic, optimistic and productive other days I am emotional and just need to press pause on work, so my best advice is not to expect too much of yourself right now. If you want to learn — learn, if you want to create — create, if you just want to curl up in a duvet and read a book in the afternoon that’s ok too… do whatever makes you feel good about yourself and the world.
If you do have the capacity for development (right now — or when moving forward with your career) try to think like a farmer and improve your dirt… Heidi Grant Halvorson introduced me to the benefits of a “Get Better” Mindset and it revolutionized my creative practice. For a crop to thrive, the farmer improves the soil, he waters, he fertilizers, and loosens the soil, before planting anything in the ground. But as designers we don’t put the mahi into our soil — we expect ourselves to keep producing great crops of work without investing in our own creative development. For those of you with less work right now — this is an opportunity to make learning a priority — find opportunities to improve, create, experiment — and to fertilize your creative soil.
Tell us about your current workspace. My husband (Mike) and I are self-building our home on the coast halfway between Thames and Coromandel townships (we have been living on-site throughout the build). Currently, we have limited indoor space available, so working from my deck is my best option when the weather is good. Alternatively, we do have a small cabin in our garden and I have a makeshift desk in there that I can work from when it’s too cold or wet to be on the deck but the broadband (rural satellite) is a bit slow down in the garden. Despite the very basic facilities at home at the moment I know I am super privileged to live (& currently work!) in such a beautiful landscape.
What do you hope for the Aotearoa design community going forward? I hope for the resilience of our sector and for us as individual practitioners. I hope that this societal pause opens new opportunities and ways of working for us, so we can facilitate better processes, better working environments and ultimately, achieve better work.