Aoife Dooley

The Personality of Irish Design

8th January 2018
by Paul Woods

Cover image: Aoife Dooley

First up answering Paul's questions on the personality of Irish design is Aoife Dooley. Aoife is an illustrator, author and comedian who hails from the Northside. She studied at Coláiste Dhúlaigh and DIT and has written and illustrated two books, How to be Massive and How to Deal with Poxes (on a Daily Basis). Here's what she makes of Irish design...


Do you feel that Irish design has its own personality? What attributes make it unique?

Yes and no. I think we are influenced heavily by what we learn in college (Swiss design, mainly) but I do think it’s more so the tone of voice that comes through, which I think we’re seeing it more and more, especially Dublin slang. You see it on coffee packaging, beer branding, radio stations, the lot!

When you think of ‘Irish design’, what designers / agencies come to mind and why?

Agency-wise, Zero-G, Detail, Red Dog. While in college before I moved on to illustration I would have been looking at these agencies' work a lot. Ciarán ÓGaora came into our studio in third year and everything he talked about stuck with me (and I have a very short attention span). He made it interesting and I feel that there can almost be a divide between designers and people outside of design, almost like a secret circle, and I felt that he very much included the people he was working with. He was interested in what his clients do, he wanted to know everything in order to understand before starting a brief. I also love Annie Atkins' work, but to be fair, who doesn’t!

In the past 10 years with the arrival of platforms like Offset and the 100 Archive, is Irish design is more recognised on the international stage?

I think so, over the last few years Bren has always brought Irish designers and illustrators to the stage (one of my favourites was Robert Ballagh in 2016) and I think other conferences are alike. There are many Irish illustrators and designers speaking at conferences abroad and the Illustrators Guild of Ireland is great for representing Irish illustration in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair each year.

Is ‘Irishness’ important in our work, or to our designers?

For me it is important and I think it should be for everyone else too. Not in a cheesy ‘leprechauns frolicking through fields of shamrocks and rainbows’ way, but by referencing or being influenced by different aspects of Irish life and culture. It means that an audience can relate to your work and they get it instantly as it is around them every day. It’s an instant connection. I think it's good to pay homage to where you are from. I do however think that sometimes that this can be misused. For example, I think the use of Irish calligraphy can sometimes be a bit kitsch, depending on what it is used on.

Do you think it matters if Irish design is recognised as Irish design?

Yes, I think it’s great when you look at something you can see the Irish influence within. Even if it’s only something subtle it’s nice to spot something and say ‘Hey, I know who designed that’.


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