Art Director, Photographer & Designer
Tell us a bit about yourself….
I’m a freelancer designer, photographer and art director. I started off studying graphic design and that was what I really enjoyed doing. I was doing photography on the side and kind of figured its actually quite a good package. I feel like clients value design and photography together. I did photography, and from that ended up doing a lot of styling and building sets and that kind of stuff. And from that, I found my way into art direction, I learned the skills and then I got my first commercial project because of it.
How did you end up here in Bristol?
I studied in Plymouth, but I moved to Bristol because there’s just this amazing creative scene. I was always coming here for talks and following designers that were from Bristol and I was going to workshops here. I was getting amazed at the thought of interacting with all these amazing creatives and I just thought ‘yes I’m just going to go up there’. I did a couple of internships before I started freelancing just to meet some people, learn, network and get some more experience of different places to figure out what I like. I guess I came up here for the culture and the creative hub that’s here, the opportunities, the networking, it just feels like people are excited about designers and creativity.
With there being so many designers here in Bristol is it inspiring or more competitive?
It’s both. I think the key to anything is knowing who you are as designer. When I graduated, I knew my thing was colour, I love working in colour, I love being playful, I love being silly with design and breaking the rules… it was just my expression and I make what I think is good! So, I think because I was really confident in who I was I didn’t find it scary, no one was competition because no one was me. If clients wanted to work with me then great, but if they didn’t then that’s fine because there is someone better suited. I’m glad I learnt that attitude quite quickly. There is definitely a collaborative community here. The community that I’ve experienced is really connected and is on a good vibe and just really encourages each other, even passes work around. Particularly females in design, there’s statistically so few female art directors/creative directors and business owners but there’s a lot of women here that have started their own businesses, whether its design or other things, and it’s really empowering and encouraging. It can be intimidating, especially coming in as a graduate because if you’re not sure who you are there is so much pressure to just get a good job, it’s really easy to fall into that (pressure) and lose the opportunity to find out who you are and what you want to be in the future.
When you moved to Bristol, how did you get your foot in the door in your creative industry?
I got really stuck into talks straight away, I was going to as many talks as I could afford and chatted to as many people as possible. I started doing internships, I probably sent out 20 applications to studios, even if they weren’t taking interns, just to say hi and try and get some attention from the bigwig studios. A surprising number came back but not straight away, they came back in like a month or twos time, saying come in for a day, come in for a week. I ended up meeting so many great creative people. I had interviews that I didn’t get the job from, I had interviews that I then rejected the job offer because it didn’t end up feeling right for me. Then when I started freelancing and getting some more clients, those creatives didn’t see me as a junior anymore, they followed me on social media to see what I was up to and encouraging my journey. So like I said go to talks, meet people online, comment on stuff like Instagram, people are really receptive to chatting to fellow creatives.
I remember when I was studying I tried not to refer to myself as a student to other people, I just called myself a designer because I didn’t like the stigma that came with the idea of being a student. Entering the industry I wanted people to focus on my potential as a creative with no other influencing factors. I exposed myself to a lot of people very quickly and I got taken seriously pretty quickly. I knew that I wanted to progress quite quickly, I knew I was a really hard worker, and I just knew thinking of myself as a student or calling myself a student, being really shy and being really intimidated wasn’t going to get me anywhere as a creative. If you’re confident in yourself, no one’s going to question how old you are, when or where you studied, did you do a degree or not, what grade did you graduate with? If you’re doing great things and you’re happy then that’s what matters.
Any advice or words to live by?
You are the only person who can make things your way. Your creativity and imagination is completely unique, so don’t try and be someone else. Don’t try and just copy trends, things you’ve seen on Behance and Pinterest, or copy what your friend is doing. It’s lazy. Yes it might be nice design, but you could be missing out on discovering something so innovative fresh.
Don’t forget to nurture your creativity. Making is meant to be fun and come from within you. If it’s not fun and isn’t making you happy, question what you’re doing, how and why, and try and reroute yourself. Don’t ever think you’re not capable of something, because you bloody are! If your plans for the future don’t intimidate you then you’re not thinking big enough.
Interview by Imogen Hunter, Phoebe Jones, Olivia Stadden
Allie Wood is a multi-skilled designer who specialises in art direction and photography. Her work is characterised by its playful and colourful style. She graduated from a Graphic Design degree in Plymouth and moved to Bristol and set up as a successful freelancer, working for big clients such as INSTAX.