Liana is a multi-disciplinary Designer & Artist, currently working at Melhuish & Co and an active member of the AGDA Junior Council.
We sat down to chat about how her art background influences her design, diversity in the industry and veganism.
Let’s start from the beginning. We first met at university where we were both studying a double major degree (Visual Arts & Graphic Design). You now work as a Graphic Designer at Melhuish & Co, however you are also a very talented Artist. Do you find yourself being influenced by your art background in your design work?
Absolutely. They can go hand-in-hand. It can obviously be a little hard trying to maintain similar approaches and rules I’d be applying when painting or drawing, to that of working on more corporate and strict brands at work, though generally speaking I’d say there’s compositional elements which cross over between the two for sure. And when working art stuff on the side, I’d say my design background is being influenced by my art and lately I’ve been merging the two, which has been interesting and super fun.
As designers, we do more than just live in this world, we create experiences that directly impact the lives of others and ourselves. Unfortunately, the design industry still has a long way to go in understanding diversity. Bronwyn Rees reports startling figures in her Medium article ‘Diversity and Design: How can we shape a more inclusive industry?‘ She notes, surveys have revealed that the industry is dominated by men, with only 45% of designers being female, and even fewer in a position of leadership. Beyond this, a survey of the design industry demographics found that almost three quarters of designers are white.
I believe it’s important, when discussing diversity, to listen actively to the lived experiences and opinions of those who encounter these biases. What do you believe our industry can and should do to be more inclusive?
If we look at the stats that you’ve mentioned – we’ve got a male dominated industry that is lacking people of colour and it’s quite a tricky one to discuss when trying to change that, or become more inclusive as a whole. As a woman of colour, I had especially noticed this gap and underrepresentation of POC quite early on in my career.
I believe changing the industry to become more inclusive starts at a grass-roots level. Specifically with the creative industry, if programs were to be implemented in schools, from primary to tertiary levels, giving POC more support, mentoring, guidance toward creative endeavours and opportunities, I believe it would have an affect which would at least encourage POC to seek a career in the creative industry. Planting that seed early on creates the ability for people to perceive things differently and be able to envision themselves within creative positions. Showing POC that others similar to them do exist encourages people from culturally diverse backgrounds to believe they can pursue opportunities for themselves in that space. Similar to women, events like Dames & Dumplings help and encourage young women in the industry to envision themselves in positions of seniority and deal with any qualms they may have as women entering the industry.
"Planting that seed early on creates the ability for people to perceive things differently and be able to envision themselves within creative positions".
Dames and Dumplings was an event created and run by the always amazing Junior ADGA NSW Council. The evening saw a session of debates and discussions with guest dames around the topic Confidence. Speakers included Linda Jukic, Founder and Creative Director at Accompany, Sarah Nguyen, Senior Designer and Co-Founder at Carrots Money, and Ngaio Parr, multidisciplinary designer, artist and curator and founder and director of Make Nice. To top the night off, dumplings were served!
As a group, you produced some beautiful collateral for the event, which featured an illustration you created. Other than dumplings (duh), what else inspired this particular piece?
The illustration was nothing too serious, just a light-hearted fun piece. Dumplings (double “duh”) and a celebratory vibe of badass females was the goal in mind when sketching ideas up. The head was replaced as a dumpling, and obviously the body of the femme figure remained. There were a few little bits and pieces floating around the dumpling-headed lady, which ended up being a cute touch because they were utilised nicely across event collateral – especially the gifs! In rough concept stage, I had originally drawn breasts in place of dumplings on a plate and vice versa as dumplings placed within a womans naked torso, perhaps they were a little too risqué for AGDA. Maybe next time.
Also, how important was it to you and the team to create an event by women for women?
In an industry like design, which is male dominated (especially in senior/directorial roles) it was really important to create an event like Dames & Dumplings. It’s becoming more evident when looking at juniors to see the amount of young women coming through the industry. For example, right now, the junior council consists of three guys in a team of 14, with the rest of us being women. I guess D&D is a testament to that and with discussing topics such as “confidence” we’re able to create a space where we can open up conversations and any doubts young women may have about entering/navigating the industry which is pretty damn cool.
As a junior, it can be incredibly daunting entering the industry. You’ve now worked at two branding agencies. Do you have any advice for graduates starting their first job?
Show up. Work hard. Push yourself. Ask! Ask! Ask! Never be afraid to ask a thousand questions from your work mates, you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from a two minute conversation whether it’s design related or not. And, of course, don’t be too hard on yourself when something isn’t going to plan, especially if you’re a junior, because you’re most likely going to be learning whilst doing, so enjoy and take it all in.
In the past few years you have adopted a vegan lifestyle and diet. What prompted this decision, and how has it changed your life and body since?
I was one of those vegetarians who just happened to stumble across the documentary “Cowspiracy” one day on Netflix and that night I had decided to ditch dairy forever and take things to the next level, which I was really nervous about and didn’t tell many people in fear that I wouldn’t be able to last.
For me, becoming vegan was so much more than a diet. As a vegan I am becoming more aware of everything I consume, from the types of clothing I buy to the cutlery I use. Veganism is helping me understand that everything has a greater cost than what we’re shown on the surface, and (if within your means) we have the power to make more meaningful decisions that impact the lives of others and our planet. Secondary to all of this, one of the biggest benefits is that I physically feel better by being fuelled from a complete plant-based diet and I’ve learnt a lot about the benefits of vegetables and plants at large. inserts every plant emoji ever.
"Veganism is helping me understand that everything has a greater cost than what we’re shown on the surface, and (if within your means) we have the power to make more meaningful decisions that impact the lives of others and our planet".
Do you have a morning routine? How do you like to start your day, and is there any rituals you live by?
After hitting snooze for the fourth or fifth time (not a morning person) I’ll start getting dressed first thing. Usually I’ll do make-up and dress myself in under 10-15 minutes, then I’ll chuck a slice of toast or fruit in my mouth and I’m out of the door by 7:10am to be at the studio by 9:00am. Because I have quite a lengthy commute to work, I like to spend my time as useful as possible on the train, so I’ll read all of my design/creative blog eDMs that are sitting in my email, as well as any interesting articles or build a pinterest moodboard for a project I’m working on and get my head in the game before actually getting to the studio.
Finally, I’d love to know a woman who inspires you.
Sheesh, that’s a hard one. There’s so many! Obviously, apart from the obvious ones – my Mother and two sisters, I would have to say that I think Ngaio Parr, (founder of Make Nice and doer of everything) is so great. I recently met her at the first Dames & Dumplings event and she is super sweet and sounds like she’s up to a lot of cool shit from our brief convo which, the whole time, I was thinking… “goals, goals, goals”. Her insights given on the panel were great and there were a few awesome things she said which really stuck with me. I hope to one day be my own boss and possibly run my own shindig and Ngaio seems like she’s doing that way too well.