Our Amy.
Getting to know the A Team

1. Tell us a little bit about your creative self, why did you want to be a designer, where did you study and how did you get started in the industry?

I did VisCom because I didn’t have the patience for painting! It sounds frivolous but it gave me a real clue into what my process would be like years later. I would draw all the time and frequently get into trouble for it during school. I was also interested in seeing how creativity could solve other people’s problems and tell stories. My art teacher (hey, Ms. Kearns!) at Mercy College Coolock saw me doing some posters advertising perfume, and she recommended that I give graphic design a go. It was a big switch at the time because I was still interested in the theory side of things – I had a place deferred at UCD for history in case the portfolio course didn’t work out. I did my portfolio at Coláiste Íde in Finglas and then accepted a place at DIT. I got my start through a Threex3 internship last year, and I just announced my new step into full-time illustration earlier this year.

2 - How do you see yourself as a female in the design world?

It’s funny because I think about this question a lot. I see myself as more of a working-class person who happens to be female, if that makes sense. My difference in class has been at the forefront of my journey into the design world, while I slowly realised over time that my gender could also paint how others see me. I also came out during college, but it’s not ‘obvious’ on a first glance so that hasn’t played as much of a role. From a very young age, I was told that hard work would stand to me more than anything. My parents strongly believed in meritocracy. I still believe in working hard but I also recognise the societal hiccups that can prevent many of us from reaching our full potential. I think it’s important to keep these things in mind while still striving to be your very best; 99% of people have good intentions and don’t want to see you fail! It’s about having an open conversation and recognising that we – all – have unconscious (positive and negative) biases that shape our vibrant creative scene.

3 - When did you first hear about WhyDesign and what was your reaction?

I first heard about WhyDesign through a friend, I believe, during my Threex3 internship. I checked out the website and I liked that Aoife Dooley was interviewed. I had been a spectator for different feminist groups during my college years and I didn’t like that they tended to put the spotlight on only middle to upper-class women with the same kinds of experiences between them. I also liked the positive outlook that Kim had, just through hearing her speak and seeing how she articulates WhyDesign’s philosophy. Language and choice of words is very important, especially for visually-oriented professions. I liked that the platform was open to young, inexperienced creatives, too. Sometimes it can feel too intimidating to take part when everyone already knows everyone. The Irish design scene can feel claustrophobic, sometimes!

4 - How and why did you join Team WhyDesign (hook or crook)?

I sent Kim a fan email!! But really, I just got in touch and told her I liked what she was doing and wanted to help wherever possible. I was starting to come around to the fact that my gender was probably why I had some problematic behaviours; staying quiet, not pushing myself, feeling like my lack of a competitive spirit was an indication of a lack of skill. She was very accommodating when I made the sudden switch to illustration, too. I wished to pursue something that was more compatible with my personality and it took some serious inward searching to realise I was focusing on the wrong thing. It’s scary to make a decision like that at this early stage in your career and Kim was very supportive about it all. What a start it was to get the package design job for 2020’s conference with Bean and Goose – definitely a confidence boost after a few trials figuring out what I really wanted to do. It’s really important that young creatives have someone to reach out to and the whole WhyDesign team has been major for me in that regard.

5 - Where would you like to see WhyDesign in 5 years?

It would be class to see more male participants, I think. A lot of men I’ve spoken with are more up for initiatives like this than before. The positive messaging that Kim put in place has definitely helped to open up the conversation in that regard. I’d love to see more working-class female students get involved because it can feel like you’re a freak when everyone else can afford all the latest design software! It would help to see more conversation around speaking up about what you need, especially with how women are encouraged not to ask questions and to keep the peace. I think students are very lucky nowadays to have an open space that is there for them – use it!!!

6 - What is next for you?

I’m not sure, being honest with you! I’ve gotten a couple of new gigs since putting up my new website last February. Overall, the design community has been very supportive since my new start – I think many of them saw it coming. I’m going to continue to be open to new things and see where the wind takes me. Threex3 showed me how you can change things up and experiment with different ways of working. I think my main interest now is seeing how illustration can reflect collective feelings and changes in culture. Coronavirus has impacted the illustration scene a little and it’s been interesting to see how we reflect on all these sudden changes through visuals. Speaking of gigs, you can find me on my socials…

Contact Details

Amy McGrath is an Illustrator

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