Friday, September 12, 2014

An Interview with the Woman Behind Monster Free Design

These days everyone has a website, a band that they are trying to promote, a product that they need packaging for, or a flyer that they need designed for a show. A lot of people attempt to do the work themselves and they end up with armature graphics and designs. In a world where everyone has a website, you have to have a page that sticks out. Did you know that the packaging design on an album determines if I go out to buy the record or decide to just settle for the download? These days if you want to visually stick out and be different from the rest, you need to go a professional that doesn't just regurgitate the same kind of work as everyone around them. If you're in Detroit, that person is Allison Graw, also known as Monster Free Design

Allison is one of the most creative people I have ever met. She was painting over thrift store canvases at her "Art Parties" way before it became an internet craze. She has continuously done some of the coolest work that I have ever seen and has always been ahead of the curve. She specializes in hand drawn lettering and has a style that someone could recognize from a mile away. I respect her as a hard working woman and as an artist. So I thought it was time to check in with her.

Allison took her creativity out of the office and went freelance about a year ago and has seen her business grow with each month. She is also the woman behind all the leopard print color changes you may have noticed on the homepage. She has recently relaunched her website and it is one of the most visually pleasing things that I have ever seen. It is a testament to all the amazing projects that she has worked on over the last 10 years. She has established herself as one of the best in the business and is the go to artist in Detroit. The next time you need something done, do not waste your time, just call Monster Free and get it done right the first time. Check out what she has to say and don't forget to take a look at the new website here.

HID- When did you decide to take your skills from the office to freelance? Why?
Monster Free Design- "February of 2013 I put in my notice at the job I’d been at for about 5 years. I wanted a chance to work on different types of projects; I was working on packaging for beverage and food, which was fun, but it started to get old. There are so many different types of design projects out there, and I loved the idea of bouncing around and getting different experiences."

HID- What is the biggest challenge in doing freelance work and what is the biggest reward?
Monster Free Design- "Freelancing is amazing if you can make it work. You get to make your own schedule, and work on lots of different types of projects. Sometimes you work in an office and get to know people you might never have met before, sometimes you work from home in your pajamas at 3AM. It’s liberating. But it is a challenge to make it work when you can go from being on a 4 week contract working regular hours, to not working on anything all month. You have to be good with your finances, keep track of your own taxes, and buy your own insurance. You’re essentially starting a small business, but your only employee is yourself. Sometimes it’s hard to find work, and you have to hustle to get it. Other times, just knowing people and being a nice person will lead you to jobs. It isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t always easy, but when it works it rules."

HID- You specialize in hand drawn lettering and graphics, which is becoming more popular, but you have been doing it for over ten years. What made you decide to focus on this before it was popular?
Monster Free Design- "I was drawing and doodling before I ever learned how to do it on a computer (you should see all the sweet punk band logos drawn on my journal covers from middle school), so it’s just something I've always done. I wouldn't say I made a conscious effort to focus on it, I just started doing it for fun and people started requesting it more and more. I think it’s part of an overall consciousness shift in the public; the more technologically advanced and cleaned up society gets, the more people have been starting to look back at the things that were beautiful to them before. People like looking at hand lettering because they can see that there was a human involved in the process. It speaks to something inside all of us."

HID- Where might we have seen your work and not even know it?
Monster Free Design- "The Ford booth at the 2014 NAIAS... Chevrolet graphics standards manuals... medical training manuals for new drugs... illustrations that have been animated for television... bottles of wine and liquor... freelancing takes me into a lot of different offices with a lot of different clients than you’d think based on what I can show on my website."

HID- You recently updated your website. What made you decide to do the overhaul? Did you do this yourself or work with a company?
Monster Free Design- "I finally admitted to myself that the Dreamweaver/html skills I learned in college in 2003 were just not cutting it as a way to promote my work. I’m not a web designer at all, and I had always insisted on doing my own website until now. I sent the photos of my work taken by Aaron Jones, some hand lettering for links, and my logo over to Chris Elkjar at 20th Century Design Co. and he came up with a beautiful way to display my work on a desktop, as well as an easy to use mobile site. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and also kind of mad at myself for not having someone else do it a long time ago."

HID- Do you have a favorite project or design? What is it and why?
Monster Free Design- "This is constantly changing because the longer a project’s been around I start picking it apart. My favorite gig lately was for the San Francisco Chronicle’s Style section; I did an illustration for the cover and another one for the inside story. They were so easy to work with, and it’s exciting to do something for a Sunday paper because now so many different people have held my work in their hands, and that makes me happy."

HID- Would you say that your work has a specific style? If so what would you call it?
Monster Free Design- "Yeah, some of the hand lettering I’ve done has an obvious style, it’s like my handwriting expanded and fattened up. But that happens when people see one thing you’ve done and ask for that style with a different project. I’m not sure what I’d call it. Flowy hand? Mushy Thicky Flowy? Sort-of-Hippie? But overall I’ve done a lot of different types of design and different styles, some things a lot more corporate, typography based, more modern. So I wouldn’t like to say that’s all I do. I guess my work has an overall aesthetic. I like when things get a little weird. So let’s call my style I know what the F I’m doing here but also sometimes a little weird."

HID- On your website you state that you like to escape to the northern Michigan woods. Where do you like to go and why? Do you think that being out there helps you create?
Monster Free Design- "I love the woods, lakes, rivers, and general wilderness that Michigan has to offer. It’s such an amazing place, and I’m glad I never left. I would go just about anywhere in Michigan. My next goal is to circumnavigate the entire Michigan coast, including the U.P., with my husband and dog in our 1995 conversion van. Being in nature always helps my mind find balance, and I think that’s important to help yourself be creative. Getting away from phones, emails, television and just noticing the world around you. Clear it out, breathe in some good air, enjoy silence peppered with bug songs. Real life."

HID- What kind of projects are you hoping to work on in the future?
Monster Free Design- "I am down for whatever! I always enjoy getting to work illustrations into a design, and anything related to music or art. But I’m happy to do any sort of graphics for any sort of project."

HID- How would someone get in contact with you if they like what they see and what to hire you to do some work?
Monster Free Design- "Email is probably the best. I’m sometimes bad at phones. or just go to my website and hit the “contact” link."


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