Creative Edge: Mia Kennedy

We love designer Mia Kennedy’s fresh and quirky style. Amongst other things, she has created fun but functional designs for the likes of CERN. We talked to her about particle physics, panic and using humour to engage her audience.

Can you give us a little background about yourself and your work?

I am Mia Kennedy, born and bred up north in Manchester, I moved to London 3 years ago to study graphic design at Central Saint Martins. I arrived incredibly naive to what graphic design actually was. The plan was to carry on making nice drawings, learn some vague new stuff, and become an incredible and famous illustrator overnight. Not quite. It took a year or two to finally really fall in love with “real” graphic design (type, grids, the user…) but I eventually managed to find a style that I’m comfortable with.  With every new project, I try to add humorous subtleties that can perhaps be missed at first glance and only really discovered through the correct use of object. Humour is my favourite tool to engage an audience, and it also helps keep me sane after hours and hours of staring at the piece in Illustrator.


Where/when do you find most of your inspiration?

It’ll be different every time, but I’ll always try and jot down the most logical, and then illogical ideas, and see where that gets me. Adding a contrast to any idea, even if it seems stupid, will produce some very interesting ideas you can then refine later in the project.

How do you encourage yourself to become inspired?

Discuss the ideas with someone. Wins every time.

What does your creative process entail?

Totally depends in the brief and project. But I can promise you a healthy amount of panic and coffee towards the end of nearly every one. geometric ian2

Describe to us your ideal workspace.

Oh wow. I’d have a big beautiful desk and big fast computer (currently writing from my kitchen on my little laptop). Put me in a big airy room, then add all my designer friends and then more new people so we’d all wander round and bounce ideas and help each other out. Throw in some big windows with a skyline (just for kicks) and I think all that would be enough to make be very happy.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you like to be?

A scientist. I like to think they have a similar creative work process as us, plus I’m a sucker for logic and calculations. Brief: discover why…. / create a thing to… / improve… Research, analysis, experimentation, constant retries, hours and hours of polishing and finalising the same little piece of a project. Final piece!

What is your personal favourite piece of work to date?

This one took me a while. I think I’d have to say ‘Fuck – Design – Kill’. It was a 2 week project in third year, where the brief was just “Sex, Death and Design: how are they related?”. It’s my favourite I guess because for once I actually rejected the use of any imagery and still managed to create a smart and fun project. The final piece consists of 3 posters, each with a phrase and smaller sub-phrase of advice, which can be interpreted for either having sex, killing someone, or designing. The idea is to inject a bit of excitement and danger to an unmotivated designer, and remind them of the pleasure and indulgence we can (and should) have in our work. I had a lot of fun working on the phrases, playing on the meanings of words such as “breathtaking” and “execution”.


Who is your favourite designer?

M/M Paris: I fell in love with the pair in first year of college, so… 5 years ago? At the time I loved their work with Balenciaga and other big fashion houses; as a 17 year old so used to seeing just images of beautiful women, the manipulations and illustrations on top of the photos were so refreshing. My work hasn’t ended up going down the same path in terms of style, but I still love looking over all their new and old projects seeing their incredible images and letterforms.

What is the dream project you would like to work on?

 Working with CERN creating on-going visuals to explain to the public what’s going on in the Large Hadron Collider, what they’re discovering, and why it’s all important. Since exploring particle physics visualisations for my dissertation, it’s become a bit of an obsession as I’m yet to see an example even near perfect; all of the case studies were heavily flawed in one way or another. I used my findings to try it myself for a project (Underground Science) but it’s still just not quite right. I want to be a useful designer and if I can become skilled enough to be able to educate the public on such intense issues I’d be absolutely thrilled.


What do you find most challenging as a designer?

 I’m new to the real world, so this’ll maybe get stamped out of me pretty quickly, but for me, the most challenging thing is not seeming smug and show-offy when discussing work with a non-designer. I love what I do, but I doubt whoever I’m talking to wants to know after spending 45 hours filing reports and sorting accounts! Oh and also, remembering to think ‘Does the person I’m with really care?’ before pointing out bad type/kerning/alignment in everyday life. The amount of times a train spotter would sound more interesting than me is embarrassing.

See more of Mia’s work on her website.