A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since James Brown first announced, via the medium of song, “It’s a man’s world” in 1966. We live and work now, in the Western world at least, in a world full of equal opportunities for men and women of every race, colour and creed – where the concept of political correctness holds sway over more, ahem, outmoded ways of thinking… However, Polish-born Leeds-based graphic designer Nina Hunter feels that the world of design is still one dominated by men and, in an attempt to redress the balance, has set up a new “female-centric” creative agency in Leeds called LoveLife Design.
“With the design industry being dominated by a male environment, I decided to offer women a different alternative,” says Hunter of her new enterprise which, she continues, will “focus on the female market, fashion and beauty industry. We will provide graphic design for female clients as well as products or services aimed at women. LoveLife also promotes a “love life” and “feel good” attitude by offering a free, no obligation brand and design advice.“
Intrigued by her new agency’s philosophy, we dropped Hunter a line to find out a bit more about LoveLife…
CR: Do you feel there’s a need / gap in the market for a “female-centric” design agency?
NH: To be honest, I’m not sure if there is a need for a design agency like LoveLife. We are now learning though that the female led organizations are becoming stronger which is giving me a confidence that feminine corporations are becoming increasingly successful. Over the past few years I have developed a unique feminine style in my illustration work, my oil paintings and my approach to graphic design. This is what I enjoy doing most and this is what I do best. Being a woman I can empathise with women, I know what is appealing to them and I understand that they want so much more than floral designs and pink swirls.
What I want to do is offer women a choice. I know that the design industry is dominated by men and, after much research I learnt that there are very few agencies which would target women only markets and products or deal almost exclusively with female clients.
CR: Is there a demand for such an agency? Or is working with this approach just a personal preference?
NH: I’d like to think so. We are a very young company and I have no idea where or how far the demand is going to take us… But I must say that at this stage LoveLife has been met with great response and I’m getting some good work through. It goes without saying I’m cutting my target market down by a huge percentage, so we will just have to see how it pans out.
CR: Given the agency’s philosophy – would you look only to employ women? Is that legal – to only offer jobs to women?
NH: I would prefer to employ women only to strengthen the brand, but it is not possible sometimes. I work with a fantastic web developer who is a guy. In my experience I have learnt that blokes are better coders than gals. My bank manager is also a guy (lol). It’s not always possible, but ideally we would employ women cause ultimately that’s what we are about.
CR: Is it really necessary to make a point of your female approach? Good design is surely about responding appropriately to a given brief and solving problems…
NH: The female approach is LoveLife’s brand, so it is necessary. Of course good design is good design – whether it is by a man or a woman, but what we are doing at LoveLife is giving women in business an opportunity to work with other women in business. And if we can offer women great design with that little bit of empathy that’s better than just great design.
CR: There is a chance it could appear slightly old fashioned, sexist – gimmicky even – to make a point of just doing feminine work for female clients. OR, in these recession gripped times – is it, actually, an effective way of securing precisely the kind of work you enjoy doing?
NH: When I first started my career as a graphic designer I was doing work for non-specific markets, I was also William Hill’s online creative designer – you can’t get more masculine than that! I’ve had success within graphic design before LoveLife, but I have found that feminine design work is what I enjoy doing most. I hope it’s not old fashioned – focusing on what you are really good at and also what you enjoy doing. Sexist – no not at all, it’s a company for women that’s all. It’s not the first women’s brand it’s certainly not the last. Gimmicky? No, I don’t think so. I sell a genuine good product to a niche market. Recession or not, I will do my upmost to provide my clients with the best possible work. If I can make a few pounds along the way – good for me! When I enjoy it – that’s the bonus.
CR: I also have to ask if you feel you run the risk of upsetting / annoying your design peers by offering free brand and design advice/consultation – as this is a service that most designers would feel is something they should charge for?
NH: Of course I don’t want to upset anybody out there, but at times we have to come up with different marketing ideas. It’s tough being in business, especially in the early stages. At the end of the day I’m running a business, I enjoy it yes, but that doesn’t make LoveLife successful, I’m in business to make money and if I feel there is a way of giving my business a shot in the arm then I’ll do that. This offer has already given me a couple of contacts in New York, it might just work. Everybody likes a freebie now and then……I’m not running the offer for ever!
Thinking further on all of these issues and of Hunter’s approach to her new company, I can’t help but think about the way pop music is marketed and about how music brands are always looking to be one thing in order to appeal to a particular market. There are, for example, plenty of all-girl groups who aim their music and their brand at other girls. And to suggest boys should have an “equal opportunity” to join a new girl group would be ridiculous… As for Hunter giving away consultation for free – both Radiohead and Prince have given away albums for free… Oh dear, this music analogy just threw up another thought: Is LoveLife the design equivalent of The Spice Girls?
Girl Power, anyone?