For Nieve Walton-O’Brien, welcoming failure as an inherent part of human growth has been a strategy that’s served her well.
“Growth is one of those words that can mean so much,” she elaborates, “I mean, when I was younger I wanted to be a professional moustache grower, whatever that means.
But for me, growing within creativity and within myself isn’t necessarily obvious, it looks different all the time. Whether person to person or job to job, it doesn’t always mean developing and getting better. A lot of the time, failing and getting something wrong or feeling like you’re going backward is actually growth.”
It seems fitting, then, that Nieve’s year 9 nickname, ‘Wob’, is the name of her graphic design studio – Wob Agency, based in Manchester.
While every aspect of her journey, whether that’s learning not to fear mistakes, moving to Manchester to go to uni, or developing her professional practice has ultimately contributed to her growth, Nieve says that the covid lockdowns created their own specific incubator that allowed her to develop more intensely.“
I spent my final summer holiday and final year of uni at home with my parents over lockdown,” she remembers, “And the thing is, what could have been a really depressing and tough time for me, actually turned out to be one of the best and most pivotal points within my career and myself.
I learned not only to appreciate life outside of lockdown and everything we were missing but I also took the time to really work on my graphic design. I made posters and designs every single day and looking back, the growth and development that you can see just over that period of time is crazy.”
“It really does just show how much practice, experimenting, and simply just ‘doing’ can elevate your skills.”Inspiration, Nieve says, comes from everywhere for her. “I’ve always been one of those people that never really switch off – always thinking about my next project or how I would redesign that shopfront,” she laughs, “So I am always soaking up things that end up influencing how I experiment with design and how I explore new ideas.”
This experimental, open and playful nature is hugely important for her ability to grow creatively, and for her personal visual language.“
I love to just go straight in a lot of the time and, I suppose with a level of maximalism, create wild, complex, and crazy designs that I can later edit and fine-tune. Either that or it is completely on the other end; simple, minimal, less is more kind of thing. Whatever it is, I don’t think about rules or right and wrong within design.I don’t actively break the design rules but I definitely don’t aim to follow them either.”
Recently, this is a process Nieve has been enjoying on her graphics tablet, sketching straight into Illustrator to the backdrop of music that matched the vibe of her design. “I swear by the pen tool,” she adds.
Looking at the industry through a wide lens, Nieve says that if there is one thing she’d like to erase, it’s plagiarism. “Design, for a lot of people, can be so personal – it often comes from the heart,” she explains. “
And so for plagiarism and lack of attribution to be so common within the design/type community is so disappointing. I would love to see more people credit their sources of inspiration and acknowledge the hard work of others.”
Nieve’s t-shirt design is titled A Unique Process for Everyone, and the sentiment it shares is this: “I think the important thing is to remember that there isn’t one set path for growth or a particular way it should look.
I think as long as you continue to learn and explore, you’ll grow. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning and exploring.” Lastly, Nieve adds, “If you are creative, have a passion for creativity, or just love creating…use it!”
Thank you, Nieve.