Nicole Arnett Phillips tells how love for books led her to love of typography
Handmadefont Studio is proud to say that Nicole Arnett Phillips gave us an interview and shared her thoughts on graphic design, work as an artist and life itself. Here comes our little discussion concerning such important subjects like what is an exciting side of typography, what is more relevant – simple improvement or striving for perfection and why it’s important to get distance sometimes.
— Pleasure to meet you, Nicole, how do you do? How did it happen that you chose typography and graphic design as your career?
— When I was growing up I always loved books, I started making them at a very young age, my dad worked at the New Zealand Herald (the countries largest newspaper), and my aunt worked at Random House. Publishing fascinated me and I knew from this early age I wanted to be involved in the design and production of printed documents.
— And what was so attractive about typography for you that you decided “oh, that’s mine”?
— I like to work in collaboration with authors and readers on the transmission of meaning and hopefully on the creation of lasting and memorable communications and narratives. Typography excites and intrigues me – It will be a lifelong love affair.
— Is your work concentrated exclusively on typography or not? Have you ever tried something else?
— Yes, (sort of) while most of my client work is focused on the design and typesetting of documents – I began my career (and still now occasionally) do more traditional graphic design, public art and also art direction. And since 2009 I have spent a lot of my spare time doing printmaking, collage and sometimes painting. But in all the work I do typography plays a hero role.
— Are you okay with taking a trip down a memory lane? Do you remember the very first serious work of yours?
— This is super hard to answer – I began my career in 1999 and over that time many projects have been firsts – different disciplines, mediums, clients, countries – there are lots of milestones. But the first of those firsts that stands out I suppose was Just after I graduated – the first commercial book where I was asked to design the cover and internal as well as to do the typesetting. Looking back now the book wasn’t anything particularly special, but it was one that at the time I was very proud of, and meant a lot to me.
— Maybe, you have something secrets or tricks that help you during the creative process?
— I don’t have tricks per se – but I do have a number of guiding principles that inform my practice – one of the most important ones to me is the “get-better” mindset. I believe designers too often focus on the outcome of their work – and judge their worth by what they produce – this for me was a fast track to burn out and feeling like nothing I did was good enough – as there is always a difference between your taste and ability. Now I chase improvement rather than perfection in my work. It enables me to take risks and be experimental – but also to be kind to myself when things don’t work – and I think I am a better designer for striving for progress over perfection.
— What fuels your passion for work? What is your personal motivational driving force?
— Making – I believe designers should have their own personal (passionate practice) where they make the work that they are interested in outside of the constraints of client briefs. My self-initiated work inspires me in my client work and builds my confidence as a designer. But also helps me to find a point of view and voice in design that is my own.
— And what may help you in your darkest moments, when the lack of inspiration covers you from head to toe? What is your remedy?
— Get distance – when we are too close to our work it is hard to think abstractly. Also when we are overworked we get burnt out – take some time away from your computer – get outside – go to a beach – go to a park, have a swim, ride a bike – do something totally different and it will help you feel more energised and inspired when you do return to your creative work.
— Aside from work, what else do you love to do? Any hobbies?
— We recently moved overseas and are building a house… while we do that my letterpress machines are all in storage so I haven’t been able to pursue printmaking as my creative antidote to time at the mac – so I have recently started to do some ceramics at a local studio. I have been enjoying my clay play time and working in relief in clay has given me lots of ideas I hope to test with my printmaking gear when I get my new studio set up.
— We talked about the past and present, but what about the nearest future? What are your plans?
— At the moment we are living (camping) on site as we build so my short term goals are all about having a warm, dry, happy, healthy home to live in. I am making handmade tiles for our kitchen, screen printing signs for the house and have plenty of creative projects for the build. But I am looking forward to getting my studio set up before the end of the year and to be printing again – hopefully, I will draw inspiration from my new environment and experiences.