Our Make it in Design Sales and Marketing Manager, Lisa Moncrieff had the pleasure in meeting Kate Dowling from ‘Kate & The Ink’ at Paperfest London earlier this year. Aside from a comedy .gif (see below) they shared, Kate also kindly agreed to an interview. Check it out:
When did your interest in design first start and how did that come about?
I always loved art when I was young and it was my favourite class at school, hands down! I was never happier than muddling about with paint, crayons and pastels and my parents really encouraged us to be creative. Art school was an obvious choice; I studied product design at Glasgow School of Art because the course was a great mix of practical design education, links to industry and we also studied social science methods. Thinking about why people buy what they buy, how they interact with a design and being able to research customer insights helps when you are at the beginning of any design brief.
What do you love about designing?
Having an idea and then being able to translate it into something real is brilliant. Also, spotting what people want and need and then making it happen.
Before I started my stationery and screenprint business, Kate & The Ink, I had been giving my designs to friends and family for years. I figured that if they loved them then other people might too.
How would you describe your business and style?
I like to think that my designs are clean and simple with nothing too ornate or flowery. I hope that my products encourage people to smile through either humour, the messaging or in some way evoking nostalgia.
What’s your biggest design challenge at the moment and how are you overcoming it?
I would say that one of my biggest challenges is quite a common one for small creative businesses; juggling two jobs. I work part time as a service designer for a charitable company called IRISS who do research and innovation in social services. I also occasionally freelance for other design companies, while at the same time running Kate and The Ink.
I have to be quite strict with my time and dedicate time every week to my business. Overall, I love all of the work that I do so don’t see it as a problem – it’s just a balancing act.
Where does the inspiration for your designs come from?
I’m really inspired by mid century design styles and in particular Scandinavian design classics like Catherineholm enamelware, Stig Lindberg crockery and Marimekko prints. I also love Wes Anderson movies and find his eye for detail and style really inspiring!
I’m always inspired by the people and places in my life. When I’m starting a new design and perhaps having a creative block, quite often I’ll design it for a place or a person I know; it’s a lot easier than starting with a blank sheet of paper.
We met at Paperfest London, how did you find the event and what were the best things you took away from it (apart from our free gif!)?
I really enjoyed Paperfest and it was great to meet you Lisa! (click on the image below to see our crazy .gif!)
I did take away a few things which were really valuable for me and my business:
- ‘know your brand limits – if it doesn’t fit into your brand, say no’ Cath Kidston on being true to your brand identity
- ‘people shop online as a window to what they buy in-store’ Geraldine James, Buying Manager, Selfridges on your online positioning
- ‘exclusivity is key’ Geraldine James, Buying Manager, Selfridges on attracting retailers through creating exclusive designs for the store
- ‘focus your brand and get rid of ‘magpie syndrome’’ Fiona Humberstone on the importance of creating a distinctive brand
What would be your dream design gig?
Good question…and a hard one. I think one day I would love to design furniture again, potentially combining my love of 2D and 3D with a range of chairs incorporating screenprinted textile cushions. My dream design gig would have to start with me designing something I would love to have in my own home.
What does the future hold for Kate and the Ink?
I’m planning to show at my first trade fair next year which feels like a big step and is quite terrifying at the moment! In the interim, I have a lot of work to do – new designs, prototyping and testing at local events (craft fairs etc). I have a long to do list!
Kate Dowling is a designer based in Edinburgh. Since graduating in product design from Glasgow School of Art, she has worked in the fields of graphic design, user experience and service design. Kate started her screenprint and stationery business, Kate and The Ink, in 2013 and designs her products to make people smile. It’s all about our relationships in life and Kate creates sentiments and messages that you want to send through incorporating humour and nostalgia. Kate would describe her aesthetic as design-led, clean and simple yet beautiful. Kate currently sells her work through her Etsy shop and through some lovely UK retailers.