Margaret Hanson: Designing Woman

It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another Creative Canadian Woman! This week we’re chatting with Margaret Hanson, a talented designer with her own boutique style graphic design company. I was familiar with some of Margaret’s work, without knowing it was hers, before I met her. She designed the logo for the Breathe Now conference, as well as packaging on some products that are in my kitchen. I asked Margaret about her career as a self-employed graphic designer.

What is a typical day like for you?
I do a lot of branding and package design for food and beverage companies. At any given time I’ve got 8-12 projects on the go and in various stages of completion, so some days I’m in a concept-making headspace, while other days I’m in a finishing, file production, print ordering, web publishing headspace. My day starts when my dog wakes up just after the sun. After coffee I’ll take the dog for a good walk before sitting down and figuring out what to work on first. I usually keep working till the early afternoon when I take the dog for another walk (we live in an apartment, so he needs walks). If I’m really busy, I’ll eat at my desk; snack type things so I can keep working. I generally keep my head down and work during the weekdays. I like to keep meetings to a Monday or Thursday/Friday, this way I have the middle of the week to really focus with little distractions. I’ll often put a few hours in on Sunday to make Monday a little smoother.

What is your background, and what led you to be a graphic designer?
I started Design school in 2002, and finished with my Bachelor of Design, Honours, from NSCAD University (Halifax, NS) in 2006. I love design and the ‘figuring out’ part of the design problem. I love that it’s always different and that I get to work with so many driven, excited and focused people that are small business owners and entrepreneurs.

I don’t know what drew me to design school, I had this idea that design was ‘art you can get paid for.’ I remember as a kid doing design-ish things like redrawing my mom’s grocery list with just icons of what she was planning to buy. Then thinking it was a RIOT to go shopping with her and the ‘improved’ list. I’m sure she was playing along a little bit, but I still love drawing icons to this day. I was also very crafty, making jewellery and other gifts for friends or family. But it didn’t stop there, I would also make little cardboard boxes or earring cardbacks and ‘branding’ it with a  little illustration or something.

I’ve been self employed for almost four years. I finished school with a great education, but it was very theoretical which meant I didn’t have much of a showy portfolio, which pushed me to try and get freelance clients to get something to show prospective employers. My goal was to get a job at an agency. I didn’t know that I’d love interacting with the clients so much and would be able to make a business of it. I worked as a florist while I was getting established, and that was a nice creative job to have, too.

What is your working space like?
It’s a cluttered little desk in the corner of my tiny apartment’s living room. My dog is almost always immediately to my left. I spend a lot of time at my desk, in front of the computer, but that’s not where my creative spark happens. During dog walks, or during a slow time I’ll sit down at the beach and think, reflect, ponder, let out frustrations, sketch. If it’s raining a lot, I’ll go to a coffee shop to get a fresh perspective. Rarely does inspiration hit while I’m sitting at the computer. The computer is where I bring inspiration and ideas back to.

” I love seeing the finished product in stores.
    I can’t get over how happy that makes me.

How do you balance creativity when working to meet a client’s demands?
For me, the real creativity comes FROM the restrictions placed on the project. Trying to be creative without a problem is nearly impossible; there’s nothing to measure the project’s success against.

How much of your design work is done by hand and how much on the computer?
Almost all of it is done on the computer, but the concept is organic and naturally thought of. Lately though, I’ve been returning more and more to handmade art. I’ve been doing Linocuts for various projects including a calendar and card series done just before Christmas. I also did a larger linocut as part of the 2012 Victoria Tweed Ride’s overall branding.

What creative things do you do outside of your work?
Lots! I’m a voracious knitter. I love to make gifts for friends and clothes for myself (I’m working on a big, cozy sweater for myself right now). I experiment in the kitchen, I’ve got some kombucha going right now and am taking a sauerkraut workshop soon. I want to ferment everything. I’ve also just completed a six-week oil painting class, and look forward to painting more in oils; I’m looking for my next subject to paint. A friend and I will likely do another linocut card series again soon; the last set were very popular and we had a blast doing them. I used to do a lot of pottery and had my own small studio in my dad’s garage right after high school, I’d love to get back into clay.

What are some of your favourite designs or projects you’ve worked on?
They’re all my favourites. Ha! I’m not sure, I love the sort of work I attract; food and beverage. I’m looking around at my desk and shelves surrounding my desk. They are full of completed projects, and I couldn’t possibly pick just a few favourites. Really.

All images courtesy of Margaret Hanson Design Co.

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