Deirdre Breen is a graphic designer and visual artist based in Dublin. After graduating in 2008 she moved to London where she completed a number of internships before securing a role as an in-house designer for a large corporation. During her time in London Deirdre contributed to the Graphic Birdwatching website and was involved in The Graphic Design Walk, an organised open studio walk during the London Design Festival that celebrated the work and practice of female creatives in East London. In 2013 she returned to Ireland and began working in Design Factory. More recently Deirdre has become a member of Damn Fine Print Dublin and Cork Printmakers where she designs and hand prints her own limited edition screen prints. Deirdre’s first solo exhibition ‘Superstruct’ opens on the 27th of April in the Damn Fine Gallery, Dublin.
What are you up to now?
At present I split my time between visual art and graphic design. I work as a Graphic Designer for Design Factory in Dublin. The output of work is a varied mix of design for corporate identities, books, web, promotional print, packaging, exhibition and signage design. Some of our clients include the Dublin International Film Festival, Ballymore, MCA Architects and FRKelly. While the day job keeps me more than occupied, I also pursue work with fellow LSAD graduate Eimear Gavin on a range of smaller projects under the moniker Manual Made. We’ve collaborated since college on self-initiated and commercial projects and it’s a great way to explore and express a style we’ve developed over the years.
I’ve always enjoyed the interplay between art and design, and wanted to explore this area further in my own personal work. Last year I became a member of Damn Fine Print Dublin and Cork Printmakers where I design and hand print my own screen prints. Right now I’m working on some new work for an upcoming solo show in Damn Fine Print.
How did you get there?
My journey is a tale of two cities. After I graduated from LSAD, I spent a few months working in a photography studio and saving before making the move to London to pursue a career in Graphic Design. I spent a year getting as much industry experience as possible through internships in various studios in the City before landing a permanent role in-house for a large corporation. This role involved design for corporate communications.
While in London, I voluntarily became an active member of the organisation Graphic Birdwatching, a platform and network dedicated to promoting and supporting women in Design. I was a contributor to the Graphic Birdwatching website and was involved in The Graphic Design Walk for 3 consecutive years. The Graphic Design Walk was an open studio walk celebrating the work and practice of female creatives in East London. It took place over two days of The London Design Festival and opened the doors of 10 studios in East London alongside a design exhibition at a main venue. The response to the walk was tremendous and it was featured in Creative Review and Slanted Magazine. I found this experience invaluable and made many friends and professional connections in the Design industry.
In 2013, after 4 years in London, I returned to Ireland and began working in Design Factory in Dublin. I was genuinely surprised at how inclusive the scene in Dublin was when I first moved back. A lot of people opened their studio doors and were happy to impart their own insights, and I’ve found the smaller network to be a very supportive one. The design scene here is very enlivened, with lots of events on a regular basis. Festivals like OFFSET and it’s rapid growth and stature on the international stage are a testament to this. I think the last two years have been a formative time for Irish Design, with the Year of Irish Design showcasing our talent on an international scale and engaging the general Irish public on what design can achieve. It’s a very exciting time for design in Dublin.
What is your design process?
Whatever the project, work usually starts with research online or in books to spark my curiosity. I’ll research and explore potential themes, collating and observing my findings and mapping them on a concept/mood board. When I find something that’s exciting or inspiring then it’s straight to a notebook to sketch and draw up ideas. Once I’m confident with the direction an ideas going, I’ll start to work it up on screen. With graphic design projects, it’s often a collaborative effort before something is finalised. With screen printing, it’s more of a solo affair. Once I’m ready to start testing colours, patterns and processes on paper, I move to the print room. The process can vary depending on the print. For more representational pieces, I’ll try to replicate what’s been done on screen, but colour mixing and selection will always be refined in the print studio, where I see on paper which colours will contrast or complement best. For abstract compositions I take a looser approach, using a shape toolkit and exploring compositions in the print studio. This leads to unexpected results and will often influence progression. It can often take numerous attempts before getting it right and there is a lot of testing and trial and error throughout the print process so patience is key. Mistakes always give you something to reflect on.
I often look to find my own inspiration in the spaces I inhabit, cityscapes and landscapes, and draw from the forms and colours I observe in my surroundings.
Where do you find inspiration?
Since my introduction in LSAD to The Bauhaus school, it has always been a point of return for me. The vision to unify all the arts and create a utopian craft guild was progressive and impressive, and I take a lot of inspiration from the work of both its faculty and students, particularly the textiles of Anni Albers and the photography of Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. Both explored geometric shapes and experimental modernist design which are big influences on my work. I’m also drawn to minimalism, and the work created by Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin and later James Turrell. I admire their manipulation of space using light, colour and shape. I often look to find my own inspiration in the spaces I inhabit, cityscapes and landscapes, and draw from the forms and colours I observe in my surroundings.
advice for students
What advice would you give students who are beginning their studies?
Try and gain as much knowledge as you can. Presenting your work to peers and lecturers can be a daunting task, and critical feedback can be hard to take but it’s an invaluable process and will make your work better.
And for students about to graduate?
Prepare yourself for the change of pace. You may leave college with an idealistic view of what studio life entails but it can be a hard graft with long hours and fast turnarounds. It will be tough at first but have confidence in yourself and your abilities and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure of anything.
The industry is very competitive so spend time crafting your portfolio and ensure it’s as well presented as possible.
The industry is very competitive so spend time crafting your portfolio and ensure it’s as well presented as possible. Approach studios that you admire. Even if they don’t have opportunities available, many studios will be happy to sit down and give you feedback on your portfolio.