Lauren Bowles has been an AIGA member since 2011 and is a designer/illustrator for Theory House in Charlotte, NC. You can view her personal portfolio here.
What is the best purchase you’ve ever made?
My letterpress, hands down. I’m that designer who was a fine artist first, so that definitely influences my perception of what design can be. I’m not afraid to use my hands, get dirty, and really create something with amazing craftsmanship. I crave that kind of humanity and artfulness in design, so it was easy for me to make a commitment to purchasing a press. I’d been looking for about a year before I made my purchase; partly because I wanted to do my research, study all of the online tutorials, and teach myself as much as I could about the letterpress printing process — but also because it just took that long to find a press to purchase. I’d constantly search Briar Press for listings, scour eBay and Craigslist, and keep my ears open for an opportunity, but because of the rarity of these presses now it took a while to find one I could house, and one I could afford. It turned out that a pressman in Pendleton, SC, who’d been a printer for Clemson University for more than 20 years, had a Honher Pilot Clone he was willing to part with. I found the listing on eBay and got lucky in the bidding war. I jumped right into printing and learn more with every project.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Anywhere and everywhere. I’m certainly a believer in immersing yourself in good work — that is, paying attention to what’s going on the design/art community. There’s a list of about 20 blogs I follow, not all related directly to graphic design, but all relevant to inspiration. Then there are more traditional routes — remember books? Yeah, I’ve got tons of those. I also frequent antique stores, flea markets, and salvage yards. There’s something about the search that gets my creative energy flowing, not to mention the beautiful textures, patterns, and typography you can uncover in those places. Finally, I make an effort to express my creativity in ways outside of design, like music, dance, painting, print making, ceramics, and drawing. I think that having other outlets forces you to experience the world differently and gives you the advantage of multiple perspectives.
What attracted you to the design profession? Did you have particular mentors or experiences that opened the door for you?
I honestly don’t remember a time when “artist” wasn’t a part of my definition. Strangely enough, I had no desire to pursue visual arts as a career path while I was growing up. I was convinced I’d go to Julliard and become a professional ballerina. Even still, my family encouraged me to continue stretching my visual art muscles through summer programs, state fair entries, and art classes at school. It wasn’t until I met Mr. Mason, my high school art teacher, that I realized how vast my options would be if I pursued a profession in visual arts. He really opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities, and truly became a mentor for me.
Falling in love with design was a process. I attended the University of Georgia with an intended major in Digital Media/Film Editing. After two semesters and a peek into the design program, I realized I wanted to shift my pursuit. I was completely taken by the program and couldn’t wait to try my hand. The program was super-competitive, but I was fortunate enough to get in, and after those years of sweat, tears, and crazy hard work, I landed an internship at an agency in Columbia, SC. I have to say, if I wasn’t already in love with design, I fell head over heels once I landed that first job. I worked with some of the coolest and most talented people who pushed me and made me better. I’d say I’m really one of the very fortunate ones to have had the opportunities I did so early in my career.
What are you currently working on?
I’m actually going through a fairly major transition. I came to Charlotte two and a half years ago for a job with an agency in town. My experience there was a great one. I learned so much and grew tremendously over those few years. Recently, the president from that agency and a group of its employees (me included) started out on a new venture, an agency called Theory House. We have the luxury of starting off with some amazing client relationships, but we’re hungry to grow and do smart, beautiful work that inspires and pushes our field forward. One of the biggest (and most exciting) projects on my plate currently is the 2013 ad campaign for Palmetto Bluff, an exquisite community and resort in the Lowcountry of South Carolina (not far from Hilton Head). That’s just a peek, but you’ll be hearing a lot more from us as the year progresses!
What’s one goal (professional or personal) you have for the future?
One of my goals for the future has to do with my letterpress and my dad. I lost my dad to cancer in June of 2011. It was only eight months from the time we found out he was sick to the day he passed away. It’s truly the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through, but in the time I had with him, it was so cool to see how excited he was about my decision to purchase my press. He really got into it. He’d always been mechanically inclined, so I expected he’d find it interesting — but his excitement really stuck with me. When he passed I made the decision that I’d start a project on the side designing and printing paper goods to sell. I’d then donate a portion of those proceeds to a charity in honor and memory of him. As he was John Bowles III, this project will be called JB Three. I think he’d like that.
About AIGA Charlotte’s Member Spotlight
Each month AIGA Charlotte interviews a selected AIGA Charlotte Member. It is a great opportunity for the Charlotte design community to see who AIGA Charlotte is along with all the amazing things our members are doing. If you or someone you know would like to be interviewed and appear on AIGA Charlotte’s Member Spotlight, please contact Patrick Saleeby, Membership Director.