For local artist and designer Ali Edmonds, remaining steadfast in the sea of her creative interests was only natural. Ascertaining her strengths over years of study and experience, Ali is a multidisciplinary creative at heart who has worked in practically every field imaginable. From writing, journal publishing, editing and book designing, Ali spends most her time now as a freelance graphic designer, producing works succinct with minimal undertones, bold typeface and a kind of ‘structured meditation’.
In love with relaxed geometry, colour, texture and dogs, Ali’s work often echoes modernist patterns, functioning with balance and experimentation. Working with this drive, Ali also records music under her moniker Ali E; reconnoitering an introspective and gritty side to her writing that’s perceptive in drive, space and complexity. Discussing her design and influences, we spoke with Ali ahead of her showcase at our upcoming Citizens Of The Streets.
Your design work is pleasingly minimal and often uses contrasting colours to create depth, repetition and harmony. When did you begin incorporating these elements into your work?
I’ve had a love for minimalism for as long as I can remember – elegant minimalism. I love getting rid of stuff and just keeping the necessary elements in. I only really started thinking about all that and putting it into perspective for the visual work I create after I finished my graphic design degree last year. I also have a love for the modernist Swiss style of form following function and geometric patterns and how colour, shape and line work together without overtaking one another.
Curating your designs, typography often plays a huge part in transferring meaning and action. How would you describe the creative process when planning and executing a design?
I do a lot of communication design for events like gig posters, event flyers, exhibition signage design in my everyday work which always has to incorporate some sort of typographical element to get the message across. There’s only so much imagery can do! I like working with clean typefaces and fonts and will often counterbalance that with some of my own vectored handwriting, to give it a more human feel. The creative process usually involves some rough sketches in either pencil, pen or paint; then I’ll set up a grid in illustrator and test out some ideas and have play with colour. The imagery usually comes first, then the type (which is kind of the way I write songs as well). And quite often the final result will be from a mistake that I had made along the way which will end up looking better than the original idea!
There’s a distinct creative flexibility present in your work; specifically in the variety of materials and formats you produce. Do you have a favourite project that you’ve created, either physically or digitally?
Yeah, I’ve always tended to dabble in a variety of different things and tend not to stick to one style or project, so I guess that does come across in some of my designs. I always like mixing up the physical and the digital and see how they work together. I actually have an ongoing project that is kind of like a bit of therapy to get away from the internet and the computer where I have an A4 book of gridded sheets of paper and I use pen and ink to create different patterns. I’ll spend an hour each day on this – it’s kind of like meditation; structured meditation. Sometimes I’ll vectorise them and use them for design work, sometimes I won’t. I also really like using everyday life materials – I experimented with painting a bunch of rice grains and used it as someone’s head, and I used candle wax to create a typeface – that one didn’t work, but it was fun nonetheless.
“I don’t really want to be lumped into a category, so I like to have new challenges with what I do.”
Are you constantly challenging your style, character and creativity in your work?
Yeah, definitely. I don’t really want to be lumped into a category, so I like to have new challenges with what I do. It is a bit hard to keep up with so much stuff going on all the time and being involved in the music industry as a musician has helped with this – that is, that I’m more prepared to put myself out there with new things. When it comes to design I’m constantly researching different techniques and styles and try to incorporate them in my work.
To be successful nowadays, creatives often have to have their hands on many different mediums. From editing to web designing, what would you say has been the most satisfying?
Oh, tell me about it. You have to be able to do everything! Haha. I used to work as an editor in the book publishing industry, which then lead me onto publication design, which has now lead me to graphic design, so it has been helpful having all those skills. But now it’s difficult to keep up with a lot of the technological changes going on as it’s so fast paced – web design and interactive media design is cool because the possibilities are kind of endless but it’s a lot of work, as well. I still really like print design, the tactility of it and presenting it as a type of package is really satisfying.
Perusing editing and all-round design as a freelancer has been a long process for you in terms of studying. Who or what have been your biggest inspirations along the way?
My biggest inspiration for design has been all the cool design studios and other designers and artists on Instagram who keep posting amazing work every day! I pick up so many ideas and new inspirations from just doing a quick scroll through. But I also particularly like any work that either has a political message in it, is cross-cultural, and/or is full of colour such as Mash Studio in Adelaide, the work by poster designer by Alejandro Magallanes whose designs are a little bit weird but extremely well thought out, the Aztec design work of Harry Diaz, and all the local designers and artists who keep creating so much great stuff. And before I got into design I wanted to be a book publisher, just like Sylvia Beach who started Shakespeare and Company bookstore and publishers in Paris who first published Ulysses by James Joyce, so she was a big inspiration in that regard.
“For songwriting and music it’s about telling a story; for design it’s grabbing and displaying a scene from a story and letting the viewer write their own interpretation of it, but with a bit of direction.”
Having recently released an EP under your moniker Ali E called ‘Creatures’, would you describe music as a completely unique way of expressing a different side of your artistry?
That’s a good question. Ummm, I think both yes and no. Well, I’ve been playing music pretty much my whole life, and writing consistently for the past 10 years, so it’s I guess it is different because I’ve had that time to develop musically. I’ve only been actively pursuing design for the past 2 years so I am still really learning. In terms of expression, they are kind of similar – they both allow me to be somewhat free and creative, but it is also bound by perceptions from society. For songwriting and music it’s about telling a story; for design it’s grabbing and displaying a scene from a story and letting the viewer write their own interpretation of it, but with a bit of direction.
Has a love for music been present or influenced your visual design in any aspects?
Yes. One of the reasons why I got into design was because it was one of the few occupations that I could work and concentrate on while also listening to music, as opposed to when I was an editor when I had to have complete silence to be able to concentrate! Music plays an extremely large and important role in the majority of things that I do, so it definitely has an influence, usually a subliminal influence, but an influence nonetheless.
The poster for Citizens Of The Street is very textured, loud and bright. What influenced the design and how did you produce it?
I’ve been experimenting with collage of late, I’ve always wanted to work with it because of the texture that it produces. The Citizens Of The Street events are kind of multi-layered so the collage works well for that. Also, have you ever noticed that there is no quiet time on the streets anymore? You used to be able to drive from Brunswick to Fitzroy Officeworks in about 10 minutes in between peak hours during the week. Now it takes at least half an hour each way, even at mid-morning on a Tuesday. What are people doing? What’s going on? I’d like to know. Anyway, it was also another good excuse to get away from the computer, get the Xacto knife out and flick through some old mags and stick stuff together.
And finally, I read (on your Facebook page) that you’re very in love with your dog and dogs in general. Have you ever created anything with your dog in it? Are you a part of ‘Cool Dog Group’ on Facebook?
Yeah, my dog Patti is pretty much the best. She starred in one of my music videos, ‘We Are Strangers‘, which was a single I put out at the start of this year. I’ve never really created any designs with her in it, but it’s bound to happen. And yes, of course I’m a member of Cool Dog Group. Also I saw a show called “Dogs That Make You Laugh Out Loud” on TV last night, and it really did make me LOL. Good times.
You can experience Ali Edmond’s work this Thursday at our upcoming Citizens Of The Streets. For me information, click here. Cover Image by Georgie Silckerodt.