From nabbing top-tier design commissions while still in college to working with the likes of One Direction and MTV, Kate Moross has always made her own luck.

Wheat Field

Design Matters Live: Kate Moross

ILLUSTRATOR / ART DIRECTOR / DESIGNER

2019

DESIGN / ILLUSTRATION / GENDER / TOKENISM / MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK / ONE DIRECTION / MTV / VMAS / REFINERY29 / ZINES / CADBURY / TOPSHOP / VINYL / MUSIC / SPICE GIRLS / LADY GAGA

Unabashedly vibrant. Intensely driven. Honest. Earnest.

In the words of the legendary Neville Brody: “brilliant.”

This is the world of British illustrator and art director Kate Moross—and each of these descriptors is further brought to life by Moross’ own words in this special live episode of Design Matters, and their remarks over the years, as documented here in 22 quotes and quips.

Zachary Petit, Design Matters Media Editor-in-Chief


“My mum recently said to me, ‘Do you remember that time we let you paint your bedroom?’ I was probably about 9 or 10, and she said I could decorate my room however I like. And I bought lime green, magenta, bright blue, bright orange, bright yellow and painted my room a hundred different colors. She’s like, ‘That is exactly the color palette you use now; isn’t it strange that you’ve had it in you for so long?’”

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“It’s not the industrial revolution any more. People can learn new techniques or skills on the internet. They don’t have to go to school and they don’t work in factories where they have to do one thing all the time. We work in a world where you can take a project from conception to end and do every single part of it.”

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“In 2012 I was sharing a studio space, but while I loved the atmosphere, my peers weren’t very open to projects that sat outside their perception of coolness. In contrast, I love working on a brand that’s not so cool—to me, that’s much more of a challenge.”

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“If I wasn’t a designer, I’d probably be a detective. I like solving problems and I like conspiracy theories.”

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“I don’t consider myself ‘creative.’ … I’m a teacher’s pet that happens to draw pictures.”

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“When I first started out, if projects didn’t go well it used to really affect me—you know that feeling when you get bad news and you feel sick, it’s like torture. That’s completely gone now. I have a thicker skin. That’s what’s better about a studio—if you have bad news you have a team around you. There’s a camaraderie in failure. When something goes wrong we all come together.”

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“We have an attitude towards the work that we do. I think our work looks reactive, not necessarily colorful, but bold. We’re not very good at being subtle. Our work will be confident and it will be playful in some way. For us, it’s all about the approach, the brains that are going into the work. We’re not necessarily thinking about what it looks like in the end.”

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“I never really plan it, just sit down in front of a blank page and go for it. I have never really been precious about my drawings, I just think of them as sketches and scraps of paper. That way they don’t intimidate me, and I can’t mess them up. That’s a great skill to learn as an illustrator—how to hide your mistakes, and make them into happy accidents.”

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“I’ve pushed back against this ‘women in design’ thing—I’m not a woman in design, I’m a designer.”

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“I very much don’t conform to what most people think of what a graphic designer would be. First of all, when I started I was very young. I got a lot of backlash online for being young and also probably for being a girl. Now, I identify as being non-binary, so I live in a kind of middle ground between the two master genders. I’m interested in a world from that perspective: looking at design and design interaction through the eyes of different genders.”

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“Although I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community and want to represent them in my work, I’ve turned down campaigns when I haven’t agreed with the approach. I don’t want to be part of a rainbow capitalist movement. And although visibility is important to me, I don’t want to be tokenized, fetishised or positioned by someone else.”

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“I’d go to a modern art museum sometimes but I tend to not spend too much time walking around galleries and art museums. I prefer supermarkets.”

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“Inspiration is a horrible word. It’s not big enough to represent the thousands of visual messages and influences one is bombarded with every day. … For me, it’s things like sweet wrappers, streetwear, shop fronts, packaging, science, theory, television, the internet—all these things are inescapable, and have a subconscious affect on everything I do.”

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“Everyone needs to relax. Stop being ‘inspired,’ and just make things, I don’t like to over-intellectualise too much. I just like to get on with it. Make work, and then make some more.”

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“For me, it’s not about doing lots of things to be successful. It’s just because I like doing lots of things. There is so much out there to be creative with—whether it’s baking a cake at home or a paid job—I just try to do as many things as I can and call them work. I’d like to be a jack of all trades, master of some. I try and get better—and fail and succeed. It’s good to be scared and mess up sometimes. It’s boring being approved of all the time. Failure and experiments keep people interested in what you’re doing.

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“I always say that I don’t have big ideas, I just have lots of little ones that fill the same amount of time. I much prefer to take things a little bit at a time and change things that way. I think change is lots of small steps, not necessarily always the big things.”

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“I never say I would like people to be able pick my work out of a lineup, but I would love it if people saw it all together and know it came from the same place.”

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“I’d like to see my style disappear. It sounds weird, but we’re entering a place where a visual style isn’t necessarily the first and foremost thing for being successful. Think of it like a director or a screenwriter. …[I’d rather] just be involved in great projects and have a body of work I’m proud of. Having an immeasurable or intangible style is way more important to me.”

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“I try and make it a rule in the studio: Never have another piece of work on your screen while you’re making work. If you have an internal memory of references and things you’ve absorbed over time, they will reknit themselves to a slightly distorted version of that concept or that visual thread. And then it will come out in a different way. And that’s you. That’s how you form your identity as a designer. Don’t ever copy one to one.”

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“I don’t believe in selling your soul. I believe very much in commercial creativity. I don’t like the snobbery that surrounds that topic. … That is what design is about. It is about connecting with people and creating something for them, moulding their ideas into a visual. That is what I love about it, and that is why working for a local shop or Google is equally appealing. Both have their individual challenges, pros and cons, but both are design, and that is all that matters to me.”

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“There is no balance, life is work and work is life. I do not even attempt to separate the two. Sometimes I can’t remember whether my friends are clients or my clients are friends; it’s all blended together. My social life and my work blend seamlessly. In fact, most of the time, I forget I am even working.”

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“I admire brands such as Dyson. Dyson is a word that’s synonymous with innovative products. I want my surname, Moross, to be synonymous with design whether or not I’m retired or I am alive. I want it to continue without me.”



 

And remember, we can talk about making a difference, we can make a difference, or we can do both.  — Debbie Millman