There are many reasons why we might choose to interview someone on The Industry. Sometimes, it’s their awesome work. Sometimes, it’s that they have something great to say. Sometimes, they’ve got a great new product out. So why did I choose to interview today’s guest, Able Parris? To tell the truth, simply because he’s an awesome guy and I wanted to learn more. Able works at the agency Big Spaceship, but in his spare time, makes sweet collages that lie very much on the opposite end of the creative spectrum to his clean web interfaces. I guess you could say that Mr. Parris is Able by name, able by nature (Pun most certainly intended.)
Both a designer and an artist, Able has run a studio, worked at a studio, worked freelance, and everything in between, and he was happy to share his experiences with us today.
Hey Able, thanks so much for joining us on The Industry. Tell us a bit about yourself and the work you’re doing.
Thank you, it’s great to be here.
I’m an artist and designer living in beautiful Brooklyn. I‘m tempted to put an adjective in front of ‘designer‘, but I’m not sure if it helps or confines these days. I mostly do interactive design at Big Spaceship, but I’ve been known to do other things as well. I’ve spent the past 6 months working on a fairly large eCommerce site, as well as a few others projects that revolve around it. I’m also working on assembling enough collage works to fill a solo show coming up this Spring. (More details on that at another time.)
How did you get into the design industry?
I got into the design industry almost by accident, but now I can‘t imagine doing anything else.
I didn’t go straight to college after high school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I just worked odd jobs. Then I got married to an art school girl – we got married the summer before her junior year, which is the same year she transferred to
If you hadn’t become a designer, what do you think you’d be doing now?
It’s hard to say, but I’ve always thought it’d be cool to be an entomologist.
What does a typical day in the life of Able Parris look like?
I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve made my wife and I eggs and a pot of French press coffee almost every morning for over ten years. My mornings are spent in kind of a wandering state. I pace back and forth between making breakfast, choosing music to listen to, queuing articles to my Instapaper and checking the weather. It’s a great time. I feel invigorated in the mornings.
On my way to work, I ride the F train where I’ve been taking a picture of a certain sign almost every day since we moved to Brooklyn. My work day is spent working with my team to get everything ready for our clients, but I always take time to walk across DUMBO for coffee, and admire the Manhattan skyline; it still captivates me.
After work I either meet up with friends, go to a design/art event or head home to do chores and make stuff. When times are really busy at work I usually go straight home, watch a movie and crash in bed.
Weekends are spent walking around the city exploring, and taking plenty of time to sit in cafes to read, write, think and watch people.
It’s not a glamourous life, but I enjoy it.
Whilst you do a lot of work in a lot of different styles, you’re perhaps best known for your awesome, organic, collage stuff. Did you try to develop this style, or was it something than evolved naturally? Do you think having a unique style is important in an industry as large and as diverse as ours?
To your answer first question: both? I don’t know, it is continually evolving, but I haven’t really “tried” to develop a style. I sometimes think that’s a problem. I’ve had friends over the years who have definitely helped shape my work, but it really comes from a constant curiosity and challenging myself to do better.
As for your second question: no. I think you need conviction and a method. I’ll let that one just sit there for your readers to interpret.
You’re married to Julia, who is an artist and photographer, and therefore clearly a creative mind like yourself. Do you find it beneficial to have someone to bounce ideas off? Do you ever collaborate on projects, or do you try to keep your work and personal lives separate?
I find it quite beneficial to be married to an artist and photographer. We have collaborated many times, and hope to do so more in the future. When we each had our own studios, it actually became very difficult to separate our work lives from our home lives. We are kind of workaholics.
If you could change one thing about your career to date, what would it be?
I would have finished school.
What is your workspace like? Are there any design tools that you simply couldn’t live without?
I have two workspaces. At Big Spaceship I have giant iMac and a Wacom tablet, which I adore. At home I have a permanent table for collage. It stays covered in cut-up pieces of paper and old books. I can just sit down and pick up where I left off.
And finally, for those looking to get started in the big bad world of design, what tips or advice would you give?
Design is a process that you learn over time. You only learn design by being involved in the process. Make more.