This week we are honored to chat with Deva Pardue, a graphic designer originally from the Republic of Ireland. Deva came to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts where she graduated with her BFA in 2011. From 2012 to 2016 she worked at Pentagram in New York, under the direction of Emily Oberman. Just this past October Deva made the switch to full time freelance after taking a 3 month sabbatical traveling Europe. We're glad she's back designing because we are particularly smitten with her most recent venture For All Womankind.
Looking to feel empowered? Dive on in!
Your preliminary studies were in Psychology. Can you tell us what drew you to studying graphic design and ultimately becoming a graphic designer?
I kind of grew up around design, my dad is a graphic designer and he had a studio in Dublin, Ireland when I was a kid. He eventually closed it to work from home so that he could be around more for my brother and me. I was often found hanging around his home office after school drawing and stuff. That said, I didn’t really consider design as a career path for myself until much later. I don’t know why that was really, maybe because I didn’t just want to copy my Dad, haha.
I was very interested in Psychology—I still am—but I think I realized pretty early into my studies that my interest was a bit more of an intrigue and that I didn’t necessarily want to spend my life as a psychologist nor did I think I’d be good enough at it! I had been taking elective art classes that I really enjoyed so I decided to shift my focus more in that direction and it all sort of happened naturally from there.
Do you find that you bring elements of your psychology studies into your graphic design?
Absolutely. I think that psychology does play a role in understanding and implementing good design, so I like still trying to insert that thinking into my work.
You worked at Pentagram in New York. How has your time at Pentagram prepared you to take on freelance work?
As a designer at Pentagram you really get a lot of hands on experience in all aspects of the job. There aren’t really production managers and there isn’t a middle man between the designer and the client so you really get used to managing clients needs, timelines, production schedules, etc. I also got a lot of personal presentation practice and exposure to some of the most respected designers in the world making client presentations. All of that has given me confidence when it comes to communicating ideas and speaking about my work. Additionally there’s quite a bit of transparency internally there when it comes to proposals and SOW’s which definitely helped me with writing my own for freelance clients.
How do you attract, and continue to attract, your ideal clients?
I try to be careful about the kind of work I say yes to. I’ve found that if you take on a certain type of client you’ll attract more of that kind of client so I only take on jobs that I think are worthwhile. If I find myself wanting to do something just for the money, I have to check myself. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself or anything, but I know the kind of work I don’t want to do.
What do you do to stay creatively inspired?
I get asked this question a lot and I’m never entirely sure how to answer it. I don’t think that I have a specific way really. I mean, I know that I’m least creative if I’m working super long hours and unable to do other life things besides sitting in front of a computer. I like to take boxing classes, cook, and I have a pretty amateur photography hobby. I think it’s really important to have interests outside of design, not only to be a well rounded individual but I also do think it’s a good way of staying creatively inspired. It helps you bring something new to the table—or the desk— when you go back to work.
"I think it’s really important to have interests outside of design, not only to be a well rounded individual but I also do think it’s a good way of staying creatively inspired. It helps you bring something new to the table—or the desk— when you go back to work."
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
The anxiety of what’s next, haha. And I haven’t even been doing it very long!
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
The freedom, it’s a doubled edged sword really. I like being able to call the shots, it’s empowering.
"I like being able to call the shots, it’s empowering."
You recently launched For All Womankind. Can you tell us more about the inspiration for that project?
Sure. I had wanted to find some way to to express my outrage after the election, some way to help or contribute in whatever small way I could. It was about a month later that I had the idea for For All Womankind. I had been asked by Magenta (Huge’s digital publication) to submit an existing piece of protest art that I thought was successful for an article on History’s Most Powerful Protest Art. I submitted the clenched fists motif because it’s such a universal image that’s been appropriated by so many movements all over the world for so long because it’s so immediate and soulful. While I was looking at different versions of the clenched fists on the internet for this submission I realized that none of them really looked feminine in a traditional sense, which is a look that I think our generation of feminists is really reclaiming. So that’s when I decided to do my own version of the clenched fists, from there I designed a series of posters, some typographically driven, that I think have this nice balance / tension of being soft and feminine and also strong and bold.
The name For All Womankind seemed so right to me because it quite simply encompasses the idea that this movement, or beginnings of one, is not just about American Women but about oppressed women of all ethnicities from all corners of the world and their right to be free and equal. Angela Davis says that in order to be successful, movements must succeed in making connections, affecting the perspectives of those who do not necessarily associate themselves with those movements. She says it’s not possible to separate issues of gender from issues of race and that we have have to encourage a sense of community when neoliberalism attempts to force people only to think in terms of the individual. I think she’s absolutely right and For All Womankind continues to be inspired by that thinking.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
I’m still getting the hang of that stuff myself! I’ve hired an accountant for my taxes this year for the first time. I guess one tip I have is to always build in an administrative fee to your scope of work with freelance gigs for all that time you spend emailing, overseeing production, etc.