Interview Surface Pattern Designer & Design Consultant Rachael Taylor

Currently embroiled in a dispute with M&S, Rachael Taylor‘s work speaks for itself. I’m a fan of her work and it’s great to talk to her about her experiences, how to respond when your work is stolen, the acid campaign and more.

Firstly, I believe it’s happy birthday to our interviewee Rachael Taylor today!

Yes thank you, I’m 29 today!

Who is Rachael Taylor? What first got you into the creative industries?

I’m a surface pattern designer, art and design consultant, lecturer/teacher & creative writer. From a very early age I’ve always had a passion for art and design. It was a path I followed throughout high school, college and university. I genuinely love what I do, my work really excites me, each day is different. I wake up every day really not knowing what the day will bring. Creativity really is a blessing.

How did you get from education to where you are today?

After graduating from University of Leeds (in 2005) with a BA (Hons) in Textile & Fashion Design. I then carried out numerous work placements and I went on to work full time in the design industry firstly with a textile company then with a leading greetings card company. After three years of working full time (in house) I decided to fly solo and I set up on my own in 2008. At first I mainly worked as a freelance designer for various companies and after a while I launched a small design range under my own brand. Soon after I was approached by several licensing companies and I’m very lucky that my licensed lines sell internationally from the USA to Australia.

Over the past two years I have been invited to lecture at numerous universities and even write an online e-course that has been described as ‘the definitive guide to becoming a surface pattern designer’. I’m very fortunate to have collaborated with some great companies and individuals, I really wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

I’m someone who like a challenge, I do work a little too much at times but I’m very fortunate to have received all of these wonderful opportunities. I wouldn’t change a single thing or have it any other way!

Having been in the industry for a few years now what have been the biggest lessons you have learnt?

It’s important to know how to accept constructive criticism without it knocking your confidence also in the beginning dealing with rejection can be hard. No one likes a ‘no’ but I can honestly say the ‘no’s’ have led to ‘yes’s’ and without someone the ‘no’s’ I wouldn’t have been able to accept some of the fantastic opportunities that can my way. My style may not be for everyone, it’s really important to believe in yourself and your brand and work with the right companies that honour your brand ethos and work ethics.

Sign up to ACID! They are a great support!

What is your favourite personal project to date?

The e-course I developed with my business partner and award winning entrepreneur Beth Nicholls. It’s called ‘The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design’ it’s a global online classroom that helps to guide people, support and educate them about the wonderful world that is surface pattern design. We are very lucky to have students from over 30 countries take part (with five continents represented) we have built a inspiring online design community. I’m so lucky to be a part of it, the students are fantastic the talent coming through has blown me away.

We invite companies to set live briefs, such as the wonderful Wallpapered and I pleased to announce that four of our students secured branded licensing contracts as a direct result from the live brief. Supporting new designers to the industry is extremely important to me and I am lucky to be in position were I can help and support them.

What were your inspirations and influences growing up with your designs?

I’ve always been a fan of ‘spontaneous’ styles. I love it when art and design feels free, energized and full of personality. I’m a big fan of Jackson Pollock and Alexander McQueen, Alexander was never afraid of taking risks and that’s something that I always admired him for.

Your currently embroiled in a case with M&S, How did you first find out about this?

A colleague spotted the top (on the 9th of June) in the Camden, London window display. I was sent a photo of the top as it was also selling in various colourways. I have never felt so sick! I’ve been so upset and just emotionally drained since. The whole thing has just been exhausting.

What did you do once you found out? Have you had any response from M&S?

As an ACID member I contacted them in the first instance (Anti Copying in Design Ltd) I then sought legal advice with intellectual property specialists McDaniel & Co. As the design is well documented and I have the original drawings (first published in 2008) along with it receiving several press and television features, I had no problem providing the evidence. I kept the whole situation out of the press for over a month but as M&S still haven’t provided a fair resolution. I felt it was my duty to flag this up, as a designer and a teacher, this is happening all the time to independent designers. It Is important to understand your intellectual property rights and to not be afraid to speak out. I had to resort to Social Media and the press, to make my plight known due to the fact that M&S have not been willing to acknowledge there has been any infringement of my rights. However, now I am hoping that Marks & Spencer will reconsider the stance, and do the right thing.

I never gave M & S permission to use my own hand drawn design and they should have checked with their own suppliers before selling what is clearly my design and profiting substantially as a result. They outspokenly said on twitter that they “withdrew the top” as soon as I complained, but it actually took over two weeks for the tops to be pulled so that isn’t what happened.

We’ve seen a lot of support on twitter, What has the over-riding response to it all been online? & from the press?

The Twitter community has been fantastic, Twitter really gives a voice to the general public it allows people to have their say. I can’t control Twitter so it’s good that people get to discuss it from both angles, it really is free and open.

The press have been very supportive and my PR consultant has worked with some very good journalists, who have told the story well.

You’ve since joined up with the Acid Campaign, How has this come about and what advantage has this been?

Yes, ACID have been fantastic they are really trying to fight this cause, we interviewed ACID and an specialist intellectiual property solicitor for the online e-ccourse, so I have always supported their wonderful work and campaign. If something good can come of my ordeal and it helps raise awarenesss for the ‘Commission it don’t copy it‘ campaign then I will be happy. The ACID Campaign is to get all High Street stores to get on board to publicly sign up to the pledge, to protect independent traders and designers from copyright infringement, and represent them in disputes.

So far John Lewis and Selfridges have signed up to the promise to “Commission it, don’t copy it” It would be good to bring about this change to protect designers, otherwise I’m just another case, and unfortunately this sort of thing happens all of the time, it’s sickening. Designers need a voice and need to be heard! There is going to be a petition where you can sign to show your support for the campaign which we will link out on Twitter;

With the power of social networking change can happen, who are your favourite people to follow on twitter?

I follow lots of different people from all walks of life from designers through to teachers and members of the public, the editors of magazines and newspapers tend to have a large following and just a simple tweet from them showing support can really generate a reaction within the Twitter community. A very kind member of the public tweeted Watchdog and shortly after they BBC producers got in touch to say they are following the case, the power of a simple tweet is really mind blowing!

What other sites online do you follow and keep yourself inspired by?

I love the ‘Print and Pattern‘ blogspot it’s my daily read, it’s also a wonderful platform that supports designers along up and coming talent. I also follow ‘Creative Boom‘ and of course ‘Design Juices.’

What are your plans for 2012 and beyond with your work?

I’m very lucky to have received numerous licensing deals recently so I’m really looking forward to all of the new products launching as they will be sold internationally. I have my designs on different products including wallpaper, lighting, kitchen and home accessories, so it is exciting to see what is next for my designs.

I was also recently approached to write a book the timing wasn’t quite right this year but it’s something I hope to pursue in the future. I just want to keep building my brand and hope that people continue to enjoy my designs. I never take my job for granted I really do feel blessed.

I’m also exhibiting at Top Drawer in September 2012, where I’m launching the ‘Designer Charity Wall’ event, we are trying to raise money for Cancer Research through a fun design event.

Life is never boring!

Thanks to Rachael Taylor for making this interview possible, please do offer your support to her campaign and her work. Follow her work on her Website, Blog, Facebook and @rachael_taylor_ on twitter.