What I am Reading: #Girlboss

True inspiration from an industrious, uber cool, Girlboss. Sophia Amoruso, Founder and CEO of fashion empire 'Nasty Gal' tells us how she did it.

Imagery sourced from the Nasty Gal website.

Truth be told, I always judge a book by its cover. This one was no different. I was drawn to the elegant simplicity of bold type against a stage of soft pink, fronted by an impossibly pretty vixen with a bookish haircut reminiscent of a hollywood siren.

A couple of pages in and I was hooked as Sophia, self proclaimed misfit, self deprecatingly notes all the failures that lead to her eventual success. From dumpster diving for food (yes I am being literal) to owning a multi million dollar fashion empire at 30 years of age. It’s an entrepreneurial dream to achieve the amount she has… especially at such a young age.

We all want to find that insane level of success and yearn to discover the secret to doing so. Many believe it is dumb luck or just street smarts and strength of determination. I believe there is a portion of ones success attributed to that, but in this case it is more about art direction than anything else. The business premise is by no means unique. Hunting for vintage clothing to hock on ebay is akin to the 20 something version of a kids lemonade stand. But this story is different. Its all about presentation. Each and every item sold was styled, photographed and re-branded to inhabit an otherwise overlooked worth. All written descriptions were thoughtfully contrived to sell. Rock chic swagger fizzed at the seams of every delivery, but unlike many other youth centric fashion labels, this one felt authentic because of the personality steering the ship. For me, the book became more of a lesson in marketing than anything else.

And now I would like to talk about the Nasty Gal label itself. The success story is cool but the clothes are even cooler. I have always appreciated the mod/rock chic aesthetic. I spent most of my teens rocking a white PVC skirt, bouncing from band to band wanting to be a blonde incarnation of Shirley Manson (Garbage). Nasty Gal nails the spirit with polished ease. I can’t wait to visit my brother in LA (because he is awesome) but also because it would be fun to make a casual stop by Santa Monica to see the newly opened store.

Learning to love Abstraction

Learning to love Abstraction

Abstract art and the basics of visual communication

Visual communication can always be improved by a conscious analysis of the elements and principals of design. It will focus your message and emphasise its power. An appreciation of Abstract art is a perfect exploration of this.

The last 2 slides include a collection of images from my pinterest account.

I have always been interested in aerial photography and wanted to translate the colours and forms into an abstract art work. My first attempt at abstract painting. The whole experience forced me to question my style and ponder my change in attitude towards how I judge art and design.

Until recently, I never really appreciated abstract art (which as a graphic designer is a terrible thing to admit). I use to be one of those stunted individuals who would look on an abstract piece with a critical ‘that’s rubbish because a 4 year old could have done it’ mentality. It was an immature and somewhat snobbish way of looking at the industry because the truth is, a 4 year old could do it, but by no means should this diminish its merit.

No matter how good you are technically, abstract art can be created by anyone, a seasoned professional and/or a young child intent on decorating a roll of butchers paper. I like that abstract art is incredibly subjective and open to interpretation. Some people might love it as others may loathe it. Particularly in regards to interior design, a piece that you may not love on its own can be placed in context with other items that in some cases become the favoured item of the cohesive unit.

A very talented Creative Director I used to work for showed me something his kids had doodled very roughly on his iPad. As a whole image it was okay, you could see the inherited flair, but it wasn’t outlandishly special. However, as soon as he zoomed into the top quarter section of the sketch, I could see a pattern emerge and suddenly its relative banality disappeared to make way for a truly interesting and unique image based on a slight adjustment of scale and framing. It reminds me of the old aesthetic adage ‘Beauty is the point at which adding or subtracting visual elements is no longer an improvement’– not a direct quote, but I do remember my Dad saying something like that.

Most artists are familiar with the concept of the ‘happy accident’ where by experimentation and sometimes spilling of the inks can lead to revered work. An artist can take his or her messy drop sheet, crop a section and suddenly you have intriguing wall worthy imagery. The reality of this can be a hard pill to swallow for those who have been trained at the finest of art institutes spending hour upon hour, year upon year, honing their technical skills. The idea of ‘accidental genius’ used to irritate me which I now realise is stupid because it’s all part of a creative process. What irritates me now is hearing people say ‘I’m not creative’ or ‘I don’t have any talent’. I don’t buy it. If you just have a go, sit down and attempt, you may be surprised at what is achieved. Technical skill can be developed but creative expression is inherit in all of us.

At the end of the day, art and design is a combination of basic elements (Line, Shape, Colour, Texture, Scale, Direction) and principals (Balance, Proximity, Alignment, Repetition, Contrast, Space) to communicate a message or evoke an emotional response. All this tends to go on in the subconscious when immersed deep in the pursuit of technical perfection. Bringing the elements and principals back  into consciousness can help to focus the essential message, emphasising its power. Im no expert, but I do believe that an appreciation and practice of abstract art will bring you back to the basics, a place I believe every good designer should return to from time to time.