Today, we have a designer interview from Nadia Hassan, a surface pattern designer and colour enthusiast living and working in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA. Nadia’s work has been featured in UPPERCASE magazine as well as a number of leading pattern design blogs.
When did your interest in design first start and how did that come about?
I’ve always been drawn to textiles and stationery, so while I was working on my fine arts degree, patterns and prints found their way into a lot of my assignments. Before I knew it, I had a full-blown pattern obsession, which only seems to get stronger with time.
What steps did you take to get to where you are now as a designer?
Perhaps the single biggest contributor has been participating in the weekly design contests hosted by Spoonflower. I entered my first one on a whim in 2010, and just kept going. These design challenges provide the perfect combination of elements to keep me motivated: a theme or “micro-brief,” friendly competition, a supportive community, an audience, and nothing to lose! Not every design was a great one, but as a consequence of consistently producing new work, I was also rapidly expanding and improving my skillset.
How would you describe your style?
For better or worse, I am a design chameleon, adapting my style to suit the needs of a project. I think this tendency comes from my experience as a web and graphic designer, where adhering to one particular style can get in the way. I admit that I sometimes envy designers who have a well-established and distinctive style. Who knows, maybe I’ll eventually have one too. There are certainly common threads throughout my work, such as use of color, a healthy dose of playfulness, and a tendency towards stylization and abstraction. I enjoy the process of distilling an object or an idea down to its essence, but I also like the challenge of working in a style or with a motif that’s way out of my comfort zone – for example, I just finished a hand-lettered and illustrated herb garden design, which is unlike anything else in my repertoire. I try to embrace what I find as I discover and develop my style, while making an effort to expand the definition of what that style is.
What kind of designer do you want to be known as?
I often describe myself as a “color enthusiast” (which sounds nicer than “color junkie”), because love of color is the common thread throughout all of my interests – pattern design, crafting, jewelry design, interior design and styling, marketing and communication design, and photography. I’d like to be known for my color sensibility, rather than being linked to specific style or market. Maybe that’s not realistic, but I’ll enjoy my blissful ignorance for now.
What are you working on currently?
I’m halfway through my second year of Pattern of the Week, a project I started at the beginning of 2013 in order to provide an outlet for my compulsive need to create patterns. When I began, I had just resolved to approach surface design more like a serious career than a hobby, and having this body of work to share with bloggers and potential clients has been more rewarding than I ever imagined it could be. That said, for the most part I was the one to reach out and let people know what I was up to; I imagine that until you become a household name or hire an agent, you’ll always need to be your own cheerleader/PR rep.
Besides that, I’m looking forward to participating in Make It In Design: Summer School, which is coming up very soon!
What advice would you give emerging designers wanting to build their portfolios?
1. Aim for quantity over quality at first; creating new work frequently will help you identify recurring themes and other elements that will define your style. Getting better is inevitable with practice; don’t get hung up comparing your work to industry veterans. Your portfolio should include only your best work, but there won’t be any masterpieces without some mistakes first!
2. Speaking of portfolios, put your work where people can find it – there are too many free blog and portfolio services to count, so use them! Once you get your feet wet, you can move on to more serious venues like the MOYO Directory in order to gain exposure.
3. Enjoy yourself! At this point in your career, you have complete freedom to be self-expressive and experimental – there may come a time when you find yourself missing the days when nobody had any particular expectations for your work.
What would be your dream design gig?
I’d love to collaborate with House Industries, a type foundry whose breathtaking catalogues always demonstrate impeccable use of color and pattern.
Looking ahead what are your major goals for the next couple of years?
My biggest goal is to make it to SURTEX as an exhibitor. In the meantime, I’d love to secure a licensing deal for a collection of bolt fabric and/or stationery, paint some more streets, and really focus on polishing up my online presence, which needs a bit of filling out in some places, and pruning in others.
If you were a pattern what kind of a pattern would you be and why?
I wish I were polka dots – classic, versatile, and utterly irresistible for all time. In truth, however, I suppose I’m more of an Atomic-Age abstract geometric, in some quirky-but-sophisticated colorway, because that just seems to fit my style and personality.
Nadia Hassan is a surface pattern designer and color enthusiast, living and working in Greensboro, NC. She has an undeniable passion for patterns, applying prints to anything that will sit still, from fabric and phone cases, to entire city streets! In 2013, she began Pattern of the Week, a self-directed project allowing her to sharpen her skills, maintain a steady supply of new work, and share her creations with the world; since then, her work has been featured on blogs including Print & Pattern and Pattern Observer, and in magazines such as Cloth, UPPERCASE, and Love Patchwork and Quilting.