Leading Ladies of Design: Nicole Arnett Phillips
Leading Ladies of Design is a monthly interview series featuring female designers in New Zealand, highlighting their work, hearing their voice & championing their success! This month’s Leading Lady is Nicole Arnett Phillips!
Hi! Thanks for taking the time to chat about being a Leading Lady of Design! Firstly, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your work?
I am a book/communications designer with 19 years experience. I worked in fashion, publishing and architecture before starting my own business (as a freelance designer) about 9 years ago. I am a type geek and am super passionate about letters layout and ink, I also believe designers must engage with self-generated investigations, research and ideation (in addition to their client-focused work) to find a point of view, philosophy or position that is authentically their own. So as my alter ego TYPOgraphHer I curiously explore all things type and print to further my own learning, and build my creative confidence.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My days vary loads! I work long days - usually 6-6, and I split my week between client work (where I am pretty much chained to my mac!) and personal work where I could be sketching, writing, researching, printing letterpress, making collages or book binding. I teach design, typography and printmaking too... So the only constant between my client (digital) days, teaching and personal (analogue) days is plentiful cups of tea!
What piece of work are you the most proud of? Can you tell me a bit about it and why its your fav?
I guess I am most proud of TYPOgraphJournal, because it has helped me connect with other TypoCurious creatives, as well as collaborate, experiment and share my journey with people I admire. The Journal is written for and by designers, the language is accessible and the feedback I have had from community is awesome. There are currently 4 editions published (and 2 more that are works in progress). I am super excited to build the series.
Here’s a challenge! Can you describe your design career journey up until now in three words?
Design, Burnout, Print
Do you think being a woman has impacted your career as a designer in any way, either positively or negatively? If so, how?
When I started out typesetting in publishing environments the teams were very "old-bloke" heavy. I think I got treat differently but for the most part it was because I was a young women learning what was a dying art (that just happened to have been almost exclusively done by men), I was a novelty of sorts and while most of my colleagues treat me in a nurturing way I did get talked down to a lot by the "gate-keepers" of my craft. It happens less now (although I am in my late 30's and have more experience)... I believe most men in my industry are incredibly supportive of their lady-peers... I am fortunate to be a 'woman of type' and a proud member of alphabettes and Creative Women’s Circle as these are organisations that are set up to support our gender and that is hugely positive.
I would love to know how you would define success as a designer? Do you think you’ve found it yet?
Definitely not! When I started out as a designer I had a set of criteria I wanted to achieve for success - when I got there it felt crap, I was earning great money and traveling lots, but felt creatively bankrupt, insecure, burnt out, hardly ever saw my husband and was judging my personal worth by the quality of my work (which is a fast tack to the physiologist office and not at all sustainable as a career!) I think success is about having whatever mix of work-life balance you need to make your creative career viable long term. I am working towards that but dont have the formula right yet!
What do you think that the industry could do to better empower women in design and other creative fields?
This is such a tricky question, and one I really don't feel qualified to answer. There are a lot of problems in industry and we need to better understand the causes behind these systemic biases (much more research required!) But one of the most powerful things every individual person in our industry can do is champion someone else. I believe if you see work, or thinking you admire, tell that person, share their work with others, become their cheerleader. It builds positivity, confidence and community.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
Be brave and take creative risks. Best case scenario it works out and you’ll do something exciting and innovative... if it doesn’t pay off embrace the failure. We learn so much from our mistakes.
Are there any other Leading Ladies of Design who inspire you?
So many! Sarah Hyndman (typetasting). Jess McCarty (MagpiePaperworks and Nicer Type) Martina Flor (whose lettering work is next level) Lou Kellerman (Design Assembly for all her amazing support of community) Myrna Keliher (Expedition press) and Jen Farrell (Starshaped Press) because they both are innovating with type in print. I could go on - I have many lady creative crushes.
What is one piece of advice you would give to other female designers?
Support each other! Build a community of your peers and work in collaboration not competition.