Interview with Dominique Falla

Dominique Falla is a woman known for many talents. You might know her because she is the founder of the Typism conference, or you might have seen some of her string art pieces on Pinterest or maybe you have even seen her speak at TED talks. Whatever you’ve heard, there’s a lot more to discover about her. Dominique has published some books and worked for clients like Google, Penguin Books, and Woolworths. She has given me an insight into her process, inspiration and what she’ll be working on for the rest of the year below.

You have such a wealth of experience – how do you even explain what you do to people who ask?

Haha, that depends on who asks.
My day job is Deputy Director of the Queensland College of Art at Griffith on the Gold Coast. I manage the design and digital media programs offered on the coast, as well as teaching into the Graphic Design, Typography and Creative Entrepreneurship courses.
My research focus is on Tactile Typography, and I have a doctorate on that topic, believe it or not? The study and work I completed for my doctorate have afforded me the opportunity to travel the world and make pieces of tactile typography for clients including Google, Woolworths, Penguin Books and Frost*Design. I’m also planning a tactile typography book next year which showcases the work of the top 20 tactile typography practitioners around the world.
I am also the founder of the Typism book and conference here on the Gold Coast. I’m passionate about helping to inspire and educate people about the craft of lettering and typography. In recent years, Typism has grown into a global community of letter lovers from all over the planet. We have had book submissions from Siberia, Nepal, the Middle East, Europe and all over the Americas. Lettering is huge in South America. I would love to do a tour there one day. We are all united by our love of letterforms.

How did you get started, and what’s your most important piece of advice for people who want to get started in the design industry?

I went to Swinburne University for four years, pre-computer and learnt how to mark-up type, use bromide machines and generally create a design and finished art by hand. The transition to the computer came quickly after that, but I am always grateful for the years spent designing “by hand”. My advice would be to learn those traditional skills because pretty soon a robot with a computer can “design” a page layout or a website, but hand-crafted typography and images will be much harder to outsource. The design industry is always undergoing massive changes. Find a way to stay on top of these changes, but don’t be at the mercy of them.

Can you describe your process when creating a piece of tactile typography?

I work with the client to come up with a concept, and the materials can sometimes suggest a direction. I am a huge advocate of journaling, and I write and draw in my journal every single day. Using the pen and hand makes a different connection with my subconscious than working on a computer, so I always start there. I will write down and sketch ideas for a few hours and let my subconscious do all the work.
Once the client approves, I usually vectorise the lettering in Adobe Illustrator, buy all the materials and make a start. My methods are quite slow and laborious, so it is very meditative when I’m making a piece. I watch a lot of movies on my laptop while I hammer nails or wind string. Then I photograph the piece, clean it up in Photoshop and send it to the client. I don’t suggest digital is better or worse than analogue methods; I am fairly fluent in both and I go between digital and analogue all the time.

How do you find inspiration and stay creative?

My students keep me in touch with the latest and greatest trends, and I am addicted to Instagram and Pinterest. I also like to travel, and so I take a lot of photographs for inspiration as well. I love walking round art materials and craft shops on my regular “artist dates”. I am often inspired by the materials themselves. If I see something I can use I might buy a lot of it and make something from there. I once took thousands of free Dulux swatches from hardware stores, just because I liked them and ended up making a pixel portrait which was shortlisted in a Dulux colour prize.

You have many side projects – which are your favourite? Is there one that takes priority over everything?

Typism is taking priority at the moment, but I also love making Tactile Typography and working with really interesting clients.
I am also writing a book called Creativity Fitness which explains how to juggle all these creative projects, build your creativity fitness and get major things done while being “too busy” for anything. I have taught myself how to be extremely productive and time efficient, so I felt it was time to write down how I do it because people are always asking me “how do you find the time to get some much done?”. Creativity Fitness will be published at the end of the year by Balboa Press.

What are you working on this year?

At the moment, Typism is ramping up to take over the next two years of my time. I am building a membership site where I hope to share lots of resources and lettering courses. The conference is great, but only 300 Australians can attend. Typism is much bigger than that now, so I am developing ways to connect with the 35,000 people who love the work we share with the books all over the world. Over 500 people completed a survey recently telling me all their creative struggles and frustrations so the membership site will hopefully solve those frustrations for a lot of people and help move them from confused beginner all the way through to professional creative.
I’m working on launching the site and a hand lettering challenge in the middle of the year, so if people want to get in the door now, foundation memberships are available right up until the site launches. I’m keeping it very affordable because I know a lot of people at the beginner stage are usually students, so if they sign up now, they can get two-years access from launch day for only $1 a week.

Want to know more about Dominique?

We collected a bit more information about her, including more work, links to her website (including blog) and social channels, as well as a few videos. Check it out.
All images were provided by Dominique Falla and are published with permission.