In our never-ending quest to learn more about the amazing people in our community, we were thrilled to have an opportunity to interview Alix Northrup, a graphic designer and illustrator at Ullman Design. We asked Alix to tell us more about herself, her love for hand lettering, and life in Marietta.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve lived in Marietta for most of my life. In 2005, I graduated from Marietta College with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Studio Art. I got a graphic design job right out of college and worked as the sole designer for a small local marketing firm for a few years. Sometime in 2007, Tina Ullman, who had been my design professor at Marietta College, started her own design studio and offered me a position. I’ve been with Tina ever since.When did you fall in love with illustration and graphic design?
I had creative tendencies from a pretty young age. I contribute this to being an only child and having to rely on my own imagination to entertain myself and also growing up with a father who is a professional photographer. My father made art and design accessible to me throughout my childhood. Traveling and experiencing different forms of art, interacting with many of his graphic designer friends (some of the best in the industry), and general conversations with him related to art and creative thinking all influenced my direction to pursue a career in a creative field.
What drew you to experimenting with hand lettering?
I can remember experimenting subconsciously with lettering and type as early as 12 or 13 years old. I would often change up my handwriting in school and doodle in the margins of my notebooks. When I discovered Jessica Hische’s work many years ago I was so inspired by her approach to design. I was especially drawn in by her lettering work, and it became the first time I realized hand lettering was a “thing.” I’ve dabbled here and there throughout the years, but recently my love for lettering was renewed and ignited by Lauren Hom—who is is not only a lettering and content genius, but is also big on helping others find their own creative voice.What is the #HOMwork challenge and how has it helped you grow as a designer?
The #HOMwork challenge is a weekly lettering assignment created by the aforementioned Lauren Hom. Lauren, or sometimes guest letterers, provide a creative prompt and we, the “students,” create a lettering piece based on the assignment. The prompt is there as a loose guideline but it’s completely open to our own interpretations. The assignments have been a great opportunity to flex my creative muscle and hold myself accountable for creating something each week. Beyond the positive effect it has had on my design illustration and lettering skills, it has opened me up to the supportive creative community on social media. It is a great feeling to have other artists appreciate your work and to in return celebrate their work—especially when being an artist in a small town can, at times, be isolating.Why did you decide to stay in the Mid-Ohio Valley after graduating from MC?
A big factor in staying in this area was landing a job with Ullman Design that has been immensely rewarding both creatively and experientially. I’ve had the chance to work on a wide variety of projects for many types of regional, national, and even international clients. Most designers don’t get their hands on the types of projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on until they’re many years into their field.
What do you love most about living in the Mid-Ohio Valley?
Since I grew up in Marietta it will always hold a nostalgic place in my heart. I have so many memories connected to this town and the people here. I can look at the river and remember camping along its banks or drive past the Smoot Theater and recall performances I was part of on its stage. There is also a comfort in living around friends that have known you most of your life. It’s easy to take the beautiful scenery and quaintness for granted when you’ve lived here the majority of your life, but it’s a nice reminder when an out-of-towner comments on how beautiful or unique the town is. It makes you take another look and remember how special it is.How has the local creative community changed or grown over the past decade or so?
I definitely feel like in the past 5 years I have heard about or discovered more creatives and makers in our community than ever before. This could be largely due to social media and how it gives creatives a platform to showcase their work easily and generates communication between them. The internet has also allowed creatives to relocate or continue working in a small town like Marietta more than before because they can establish a great following or client base on a larger scale online while still being able to enjoy all the benefits living in a rural area has to offer. I would love to see our creative community find better ways to interact and communicate so that we can be more aware of each other, share resources, or collaborate with one other. A creative meet-up or even some sort of online group would be a great tool to facilitate interaction between the artists, makers, and other creative people in our community.Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere! I spend a lot of time online just looking at designers, illustrators, and artists that inspire me. I also always keep an eye out for design that catches my attention through my travels or in my everyday life. Our area is full of great vintage design and illustration because of its rich history. Take a walk in downtown Marietta or Parkersburg and you will see great examples of art and design in the many murals, signage, and architecture.
Are there any projects coming up that you are looking forward to?
I just signed up for Lauren Hom’s class that deals with creating a passion project. Her course helps you cultivate and generate a personal idea or concept while guiding you along the way. It’s a way to continue building skills and becoming more comfortable with sharing my work that’s focused on something I’m passionate about or is authentic to me. I’ve also been entertaining the idea of teaching an introduction to lettering class in the community down the road. Anyone can letter—it’s just really a matter of learning the skills, practicing, and honing in on your own creative point of view.
You can follow Alix on Instagram to see more of her amazing hand lettering projects, and check out some of her past projects at Ullman Design!