Today we are lucky enough to have Rachel Simonsen, the creative genius behind Alethea and Ruth with us today. I know you’ll love learning about her close relationship with her sister, how she’s breathed fresh life into florals, how the Minted community helped her claim first prize in our most recent wedding invitation challenge, how she’s inspired by outfits, and what she does during the day. That’s a long-winded way of saying Rachel is truly incredible so enjoy your time with her!
Let’s start with names, How did you come up with the name Alethea and Ruth?
My sister and I started a blog under the same name, and while I’ve done all of the designing for minted thus far – she’s a huge part of where I find inspiration and is my sounding board for mid-project questions. Alethea and Ruth are our middle names.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
I think since I was little and couldn’t stop drawing – even when I shouldn’t have been. I always answered the question of what do you want to be when you grow up I with something art related. Specifics ranged from interior designer to computer animator (toy story was very powerful to my small self) – I loved computers, so graphic designer was just sort of the natural progression of my passion for art.
Do you have any formal design training?
Yep – I have a BFA in graphic design
How would you describe your style?
Funky, whimsical, full of lots of color and pattern
What is your normal workflow or process like?
I’ll brain storm – talk with my sister – who is also an artist, look through sketchbooks, maybe doodle a few ideas and then start working on the computer. I start with a single illustrator document and work on a bunch of ideas at once – it gets crazy messy, but it’s all in one place and I can everything better that way. Then I edit by pulling the best parts out on separate documents and fine tune them.
How many iterations does it take for a design to become final?
I think it’s different every time – some designs just work right away. But on a whole for every design I finish, I have three other ideas, sometimes related – sometimes not –that don’t make it off that first ‘idea’ document. Either they weren’t strong enough, or too similar to other better designs, or I just ran out of time to work it out.
What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?
Hand drawing things first, a scanner and my wacom tablet – I love my wacom pen.
What are the easiest and the most difficult aspects of the design process?
Easiest is brainstorming – Hardest is editing.
Your flowers are awesome! Banners and Branches and Celebrate Florals are amazing. How do you go about creating them??
Thanks! I’m a compulsive doodler – constantly drawing on one of my many sketchbooks / moleskins / paper stacks. And I love florals – they’re what I draw when I’m not even thinking about what I’m drawing, so I always seem to have a bunch of ideas to start with when it comes to flowers. I have a few illustrator documents of wacom tablet drawn flowers that started in my sketchbook. I’ll pull those up when I’m working on an invite that needs flowers.
Celebrate Florals was, in my mind at least, the next step from the personal stationary Initial Letter – some of the same flower pieces are in both actually.
Circling focal points in funky flowers is a total doodle fallback of mine. I used my handwriting for the Celebrate word (draw, scan, wacom tablet), but I wanted there to be a place for a bride to add their custom message, so I added the banners. An idea which I ended up loving the results of so much I thought it needed it’s own invite – which was the start of Banners and Branches. Which I totally credit the end result of to the minted community. My initial design had about four different typefaces in it. It was way too busy, but editing is a challenge for me (I always want more – More color, type, pattern, illustration!) It really helped to hear the feedback from minties that the design would make more of an impact with simplified type. I love the minted design community – such a wealth of design knowledge – it really does make everyone stronger.
How did you both come up with the concept and create all of the patterns in Hello Patterns?
I love patterns! By day I’m a designer for a company that manufactures scrapbooking materials – so I have a lot of practice coming up with different repeat patterns – and my favorite thing to do is line them all up next to each other. It’s so satisfying to see them as pretty little patchwork collections. I tried doing this with a design I submitted for the wedding challenge – Pattern Waves – but it was kind of a last minute idea and the design wasn’t that strong.
So for the save the date challenge I had this idea still and it had sort of morphed into wanting to do typography/numbers that looked like a quilt. So after drawing some swatches of different patterns – I added about 12 different colors and the wood was sort of a last minute idea to add some dimension to all the flat designs. The Hello Patterns business card is sort of the small version of the Pattern Numbers Save the Date.
Do you have a favorite font?
Currently… Monroe. But I always love a clean san serif basic – Futura, News Gothic, Helvetica Neue.
Mechanical Pencil and LePen’s.
Favorite design tool?
Easily my wacom tablet – love it, would be lost without it.
If you are married, what was your wedding invitation like?
I’m not married – but we’ve been working on my sister’s save the dates this past month… I couldn’t help sneaking in some patterns –
What design trends do you think will emerge this spring/summer?
I’m not sure I currently have any design trends pegged – but I’ve been seeing coral and melon colors mixed with metallics everywhere lately –a color combination I totally support.
What was your favorite Minted design challenge and why?
I think the business card challenge. It surprised me how much I enjoyed working in a format I’m not greatly experienced with. And I had fun imagining the person who would carry such a business card with them and what their life would look like.
How does living in Orange County influence your design?
I think the laid back attitude of southern California influences my designs. I think things tend to be more casual around here and maybe because of that I often find myself drawn to more whimsical, colorful, quirky design than minimal or formal design.
What are the places in your hometown that you would recommend a visitor check out?
Oh Orange County has so much to offer – the ocean and great beaches, of course – but great shopping, mountain and hiking trails, parks, old town centers, vintage shops, and it’s close proximity to LA. The museums LA has are fantastic – my favorites are the Getty, for the art, but also the view, and LACMA. In actual Orange County – I love going to the City of Orange’s downtown circle where I swear every other store is an antique store filled to the brim with treasures and inspiration. Oh and In and Out Burger – I kind of think every visitor to California HAS to go there!
Where do you go for design inspiration?
Lots of places – sometimes to my sketchbook and my doodles. Often I’ll look towards fashion for inspiration – the patterns, the shapes, but mostly for the color stories. I’ll look at clothing catalogs, blogs, stores and runway shows for ideas. My sister is the best at unusual, fresh color combinations in her wardrobe. Regularly I get color palette ideas for projects from outfits.
I keep clipboards above my work space and rotate out items that are currently inspiring me – often times its a work in progress of my own, textiles, magazine clippings, piece of great typography
Where do you like to shop? What are your favorite stores?
Anthroplogie is a favorite, no surprise – and J.Crew. I love getting J.Crew’s catalogs in the mail, at least a few pages always end up ripped out and pinned up on my inspiration board.
What are your favorite online design sites and blogs?
I love fffound and pintrest – I can get lost for longer than I care to admit clicking away at things. I also love looking at book covers for typography ideas on Abunditz.
Is there a celebrity or famous local whose style or aesthetic you envy or want to mimic?
My sister – totally. Who, granted, is neither a celebrity or famous local. But she has great style and color sense with fashion, and sometimes I DO mimic her style by stealing her jewelry and cardigans, after asking politely to borrow of course.
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