Tina Touli is a creative director, graphic communication designer, maker, speaker and educator. She currently runs her own London based, multidisciplinary studio and teaches at Central Saint Martins University of the Arts London. Tina works across a variety of design fields, including print and digital design, with different clients, such as Adobe, HP, Dell, Tate, Converse, Kappa, Ciroc Vodka, Fiorucci and Movement Festival.
She had the great honour to be selected by Print Magazine as one of the 15 best and brightest young designers in the world, aged under 30”.
1. What is your background? How did you approach the world of design?
I always loved communicating and expressing myself through any form of art. Since I was little I was keen on dancing, drawing, playing music, and others. A friend of my parents had a piano and whenever we were visiting her I was always trying to play some kind of a melody. After I implored my parents for a while, they signed me up for piano lessons. That lead me to study on a Music secondary and high school. It was not only about music but also about art, acting classes, drawing classes, etc. Soon, I realised I enjoyed playing the piano and the violin just for me and for expressing myself. However, it was not really my dream to become a musician. I was more thinking of becoming a mathematician, a physicist or an architect. It was only until few months before graduating that I realised what I wanted to do in my life. When a friend told me about design, a field that would allow me to combine everything that I was passionate about, audio, motion, visuals, etc. I got into the BA Graphic Design course and really soon I fall in love with design and creativity.
2. During your studies who were the figures you drew inspiration from?
Concern design, arts and or not
My friends, both designers and non-designers, and my family have always been the biggest influence and inspiration for me. The people that I am connected with are those who defined who I am, both as a designer and as a person, and how has my work been developed.
3. You have worked in several important creative studios. How was that experience for you and when did you understand to start your own studio/career?
On my first job I managed to work there for 10 months. On the second one, for around 7 months. On the last job I handed in my notice just a week after the end of my probation period. And don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed working on those studios, I had some awesome colleagues (that I still enjoy a lot hanging out with!) and I did like the projects that I was working on. It was just me, that routine that was killing me and my creativity. Stagnation is always my greatest fear. What motivates me and keeps me going is the excitement of something new. I did not really have a clear plan, I just knew that I wanted to try my own thing and get out of this “9-5 prison”. I had very few freelance projects with really low budgets, and I a slightly higher budget project which would keep me alive for 2 months by eating perhaps pasta every day and drinking soda on my night out. That was promising enough for me to get started!
4. Creative director, designer, speaker and educator, I imagine you love all these professions. Which one prevails a little more than the others?
I like the potential of design. I am open minded about mediums, processes, interactions and techniques. I enjoy working on different projects and roles that require diverse skills and techniques. What motivates and excites me the most is the challenge of working on a variety of different tasks and roles. For me, it is all about the excitement of doing something different, something “new” every time.
5. Most of your projects combine analogue experiments which are then digitized. Do you remember what was your first time using this process and what was the emotion or the end feeling of the process?
On the first years of studying design at TEI of Athens we were creating almost everything by hand. It was around the middle of the second year were we actually start working more on the computer. And even before uni I was still a “maker”, continuously experimenting, creating sculptures, paintings etc, and at that point solely in an analog way. The analog approach of experimentation is something natural, that we all did at some point more or less. So the question perhaps is more about when was the first time I used digital processes in my work? And yes, that moment was when I was at the university and my teacher introduced me to Adobe Photoshop. I could finally edit digitally my drawings, collages, etc and push them even further.
6. Do you think this type of analog / digital experimentation will continue in 10 years? How do you think the design method will evolve?
Already nowadays more and more creatives tend to follow the same processes, starting and finishing their projects on their computer, working solely digitally, ignoring all the inspiration from our immediate surroundings and all the amazing things that you can do through analog experimentation. I am inclined to believe that by exploring the possibilities of working between the physical and digital worlds, and by jumping back and forth between them, we can discover unexplored areas of design and come up with unique solutions. And that is always what I encourage other creatives to do too. For me it is not necessarily digital vs analog it is more about digital merged with analog. The analog world can do all these amazing things but the digital one makes it possible to make something out of it. Hopefully the next generations of designers will see and understand the value of the analog explorations blended with the digital ones and evolve them as design and technology evolves.
7. A book that you would absolutely recommend to any person or that has been fundamental for you.
I am more of a visual person, but one of my favourite books is the “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.” by Paul Arden.
8. Favorite music when you work? Genre / artist
It really depends on my mood, the project that I am working on, etc. But if I have to pick one genre, it would be rock music.
9. What advice would you give to a designer based on your experiences and career?
Even if you don’t know how to make it happen, get started with what you’ve got, and you will figure it out on your way. And remember every good or bad decision you will make will help you in the end to move forward and develop. All you need is to love, appreciate and get satisfaction from every little thing that you create.