Feed the Artists: A Chat With Design Director Sue Harris

By Julia Briggs / 22 Dec 2016

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Being an artist is like being pregnant and giving birth over and over again. You have this powerful creation growing inside, and it nearly sucks the life out of you while it's forming. It can make you scream in agony or bring you to tears of joy – sometimes at the exact same time. But more than anything it makes you hungry. Really, really hungry – like you are eating for two, except you are not feeding your belly with watermelon, ice cream, and Jolly Ranchers every 5 minutes. Instead, you crave the things that feed your soul (and occasionally your belly, too).

So, how do you feed an artist to keep them going day after day? Let’s turn to our Design Director, Sue Harris, to find out.

Sue, what are the necessary food groups to sustain a healthy artist?

The five major food groups for the soul are:

  1. Music
  2. Coffee (or in my case Diet Coke)
  3. Books
  4. Tech gadgets
  5. Social Media.

Designers need an all-day supply of music. Where do you shop for your favorite tunes?

I usually listen to Spotify. I’ll listen to the radio, a specific artist, or the Discover Weekly, which chooses new music for you based on your listening history. My most recent radio stations include Mandolin Orange, Walk the Moon, Jack Garrett, Sia, DNCE, Joe Purdy, Labyrinth, Rictor, and Damien Rice. I really like Lady Gaga’s new album, surprisingly. My favorite song from that album is A Million Reasons. Mostly, I love music that makes me want to dance. I've actually discovered a lot of artists I probably never would have listened to during a Zumba class I take.

 Coffee vs. Coke?

Designers typically drink lots and lots of coffee. I think it's just because they admire the Starbucks logo. Web developers live on Monster energy drinks – but they need it because they don't sleep at night like normal people. I don't partake in either of those: I prefer a good dose of Diet Coke once or twice a day, and three if things get too painful. I'll celebrate a good color choice or extra white space allowance with a snack of string cheese or a handful of almonds.

 Put a good book in front of any artist, and they will devour it, am I right?

Oh yeah! Absolutely. Right now I am reading A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny. I just finished The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, and also The Little Paris Bookshop by Simon Pare. I love Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, and The Martian by Andy Weir (Both science fiction). I often give the book Mountains Beyond Mountains to graduates or high schoolers. Tracy Kidder is a favorite author, and his books have so much meaning for me. For many years, I read to my daughter every night and loved introducing her to my childhood favorites as well as discovering new young adult fiction. I've read the Harry Potter books numerous times—both aloud and to myself.  

How much technology do you consume?

As they say – "An Apple a Day keeps the doctor away." I'm all about the Apples. I use a laptop at work and my iPad at home, although I need an upgrade soon. I love my iPod touch and keep my music there so my iPhone isn't constantly drained of battery. If I feel like I’m coming down with the blues… I throw in a bit of energy from my light therapy box - it’s like “comfort food” during the winter months. 

How bad is your social media addiction?

I am totally addicted to Facebook and Instagram – there’s no breaking that habit. I use Headspace almost every day. I play Words with Friends and do jigsaw puzzles on my iPad. I check my Fitbit app several times a day. I also Snapchat with a couple of dear friends.  

Thanks, Sue, any last words?

Artists are always in search of the delicious, memorable work that takes them to places they haven’t been before. But to get the food to the plate, so to speak, designers need to be equipped with a good amount of the ingredients mentioned above. So please - feed your artists!

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