Grin designer Flossie Aylin on community, womanhood and switching jobs mid-pandemic
As well as working as a designer at Birmingham-based creative agency Grin, Flossie Aylin is one of three founders of Grl Gang Brum, an online platform that uplifts marginalised creators in Birmingham. Having graduated from Cambridge School of Art, it was a live brief that initially led Flossie to her first full-time role, before she returned home to take up a position at the University of Birmingham. After developing a desire to get back into agency work, she then fast applied for her current position at Grin, joining the team in the middle of the pandemic. Here, we chat to Flossie about some of her inspirations, starting a new job virtually and why design shouldn’t be a competitive sport.
Designer, Grin (2021–present)
Designer, Creative Media, University of Birmingham (2018–2021)
Junior Designer, Onespacemedia, Cambridge (2017–2018)
Place of Study
BA Graphic Design, Cambridge School of Art, (2015–2018)
What I do
How would you describe what you do? And specifically what you do at Grin?
As a designer at Grin I work on a variety of projects including branding, digital and motion. Even while working from home Grin is pretty collaborative, and a lot of projects are shared across the team. Everybody can give their creative input, whether it’s directly working on something or giving opinions in a group crit. Recently, I’ve been working on quite a bit of animation work which I love! It’s so fun to see it all come together once it’s finished.
What recent project are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my work for Grl Gang Brum (below), an online – and hopefully, one day, real-life – community for women and other marginalised genders. I started Grl Gang with two other women. We discuss social issues, celebrate being women, uplift and shout about women and non-binary creators – especially Brummie ones! We try our best to fight oppressive systems and be the best allies we can to marginalised groups.
As lead designer on this project, I created the entire brand and am constantly creating new assets and other bits and pieces. Grl Gang is like my baby!
“Grl Gang Brum celebrates and uplifts women and non-binary creators. We try our best to fight oppressive systems.”
What kind of skills are needed to be a designer? And would you say you need any specific training to do what you do?
I think that my degree in graphic design gave me the tools I needed to design well, but it wasn’t until my very first design job as a junior designer at Onespacemedia that I developed more of the skills to actually be a designer.
I think anyone with a good eye and a passion for creativity can design something, but being a designer is a little different. You need to get a good grasp on how clients think and how to best work alongside them and for them.
If you could pick one meme to describe what it’s like to work at Grin, what would it be and why?
(Below) Grin has felt like a really supportive place since the moment I started. Every few weeks we have a team meeting called ‘Creative Share’ where we show off some work we’ve done, or something cool that we’ve seen from other artists and designers. This usually turns into the most wholesome, supportive chat where everyone gushes about everyone else’s work. It makes me smile every time!
How I got here
How did you land the job?
I was looking to make the move back into a design agency after a couple of years working at the University of Birmingham. I found out about the vacancy at Grin through Birmingham Design, an organisation that I would encourage any Brummie creative to get acquainted with if they aren’t already. After a couple of interviews and a creative brief, I was offered the role – and I’m loving it so far!
What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I owe a lot to the opportunities I was given while I was at university. I started my role as a junior designer at Onespacemedia after a live brief given to us as part of a second year university project. I learnt tons and it really prepared me for working in industry – I still use a lot of the skills and the advice I was given today.
“I love discovering new work by women in the creative industry – representation matters!”
If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
More than anything, I find the design community inspiring, and the community in Birmingham is so wonderful. Organisations like Birmingham Design and Ladies Wine and Design Birmingham are so supportive, and I’d advise any creative to get involved with their local art and design communities.
I love a design book and my bookshelf is full of books that I’m forever using to find inspiration. One of my favourites is Annie Atkins’ book Fake Love Letters, Forged Telegrams, and Prison Escape Maps: Designing Graphic Props for Filmmaking. I’ve loved Annie’s work for ages; I attended one of her workshops in Bristol and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who's interested in that side of design.
I’m constantly inspired by women and I love discovering new work by women in the creative industry – representation matters! A particularly brilliant resource for this is Mary Hemingway’s Design by Women.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Moving jobs during Covid was an interesting challenge. I left my last role without a proper leaving do for myself and a few others that were also leaving, and then I started at Grin working from home, logging in on my first day and meeting everyone over Microsoft Teams.
It's such a bizarre thing that tons of other people have been through too; not being able to just pop over to someone else’s desk to show them something, or ask a question. As much as I love working from home, it can be pretty tricky to navigate at times.
What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Knowing your worth and advocating for yourself financially is so important whether you’re freelancing or employed. Asking for more money isn't cheeky or rude – it’s just business. It takes a while to get over the awkwardness of it all, but it’s worth it and you’ll be proud of yourself afterwards!
What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
“Design isn’t a competitive sport.” As creatives, it can be really difficult not to compare our work and ourselves to others in the field. There’s room for all of us especially when we are all supporting and cheering each other on.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
I’d advise anyone that’s currently looking for a design role to showcase their personal projects and passion for design as much as you can. If you’re excited over something, employers will love to see you talk passionately about it.
Also remember there’s nothing to lose by getting in touch directly with agencies you admire. The worst thing that can happen is they don’t reply, and you can try again another time. The best thing that can happen is you end up working with an agency you love!
Mention Flossie Aylin
Interview by Lyla Johnston