Tattly is one of those beautifully fun products that makes you wonder what was going on in the mind of the creator and team behind it. Every time I see a new tattoo from Tattly, my mind goes into an imaginary state of wonder. I often wonder about the team, designers and artists that work on Tattly – it’s an amazing, creative product with a sound business side to it.
So, you can imagine how excited I was to have a chat with Cristina Gomez, the Design Head of one of the most fascinating brands I’ve come across. If you’ve wondered what it takes to be a Design genius behind a brand like Tattly, you’ve come to the right place as Cristina shares all the beauty and wonder of growing as a Design and Art Director!
Ladies and male allies! Here’s the badass, badass Cristina Gomez.
For Creative Girls: You’ve been a Designer and Artist for 10+ years! Wow. Your growth and experience are inspiring. Can you tell us more about your journey/story so far?
Oh my god. Has it really been ten years?? I was born and raised mostly in Knoxville, Tennessee. I spent a huge amount of my free time drawing and always said that I wanted to be an artist when I grow up. At some point in high school, I saw one of those Pom brand juice bottles, and became enamored with the design of it. It was one of the first moments when I realized that somebody designed that, and I could learn how to do that too! So I decided to study graphic design at MTSU. After college, I was determined to get to NYC. I always wanted to live in a big city, and New York seemed to have the most job opportunities in design. Luckily a couple of my close friends felt the same so in 2010 we moved up. I landed an internship at MSLK where I learned a great deal about branding before moving on to Kikkerland Design, where I largely focused on packaging (along with a lot of other stuff). I was there for about four and half years before I started at Tattly, where I’ve been for almost another four years!
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What are some trends in Design that you predicted and saw coming? And which ones have taken you by surprise?
That’s a hard one! I feel like when you work in house, you’re focused less on trying to predict design trends and more on predicting trends related to your company’s industry. When I started at Kikkerland, owls were HUGE so we were focused on trying to figure out what the next owl was going to be! Or what colors or materials will be trending. At Tattly, we look a lot at trends in the real tattoo industry as well as in the design and illustration world. I suppose that doesn’t necessarily answer the question. I feel like product design is so fast paced, I can’t even remember what’s surprised me anymore!
Now you work as the Design Director at Tattly! What’s that like, being the Design Director at Tattly? What does every day entail for you at work?
It’s so much fun! I get to work with a great team and because we’re a small company, I get to take on a lot of different creative projects. The work days really vary as a result. Sometimes I’m designing our weekly newsletter. Other days, I’m art directing a photoshoot or helping curate our next collection. I’m the kind of person that likes to be involved in everything so it’s a great fit for me!
You previously worked at Kikkerland. It must have been empowering to design and art direct everyday items. How were you able to combine form, function, and artistic delight?
Kikkerland was so intense! I ran a very small team that produced A LOT of work. Most of the time we were developing packaging, but we ended up working on a lot of other things too such as product, email campaigns, and print collateral. But despite the intensity, I still tried to find time to create fun exciting packaging. I think the best way to combine form, function, and delight as you mentioned was trying to find a way to explain the product in the most creative way possible. I think the most fun I had trying to do this was with our magnifier packages. I’d create these little boxes with cutouts that let you look through the magnifier lens at different images. I was always so happy with how those came out.
For product, a lot of the fun came in trying to match the shape of the product to an existing thing? For example, I turned a pair of kitchen scissors into a toucan! They ended up being one of my favorite products that I’ve ever designed. Years later, I still see them on the top bar of Amazon all the time, which is just crazy to me.
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What are your favorite design tools and why are they your favorite?
I love love love adobe illustrator. As somebody with a more “graphic” style, it’s obviously my program of choice. I’ve also been getting into using my iPad and procreate.
I also try, when I can, to practice with traditional tools. I really love copic and posca markers. In college I was also really into silkscreen and letterpress. I’d really love to get back into that someday.
Tell us about Women Design figures you admire.
I mean, of course, I admire Tina (aka swissmiss) for building her incredible creative community (and always trying to inject joy into everything that we do). Getting to know the people of Tattly, Creative Mornings, and Friends Work Here has been such a gift.
Debbie Millman (again, of course) has also been such a constant source of knowledge an inspiration throughout my entire creative journey (I first saw her speak when I was a student). Every time I hear her speak or read one of her books, I’m blown away.
I also, above all, deeply admire all of the women I’ve ever worked with. I have been so so lucky to work with so many talented, smart, and passionate women over the years. I’m just in awe.
Your cosplay costume game is fire. What are your favorite characters to channel via costume?
OMG Thank you! It’s kind of crazy how cosplay has grown into this cool hobby? I started going to conventions and cosplaying in the year 2000 (almost 20 years ago!). Over the years some of my favorite characters to cosplay have been Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers, Ann from Sailor Moon (I got my soon to be husband to dress up with me for that), and Utena from Revolutionary Girl Utena. For me, a lot of the joy comes from being able to wear something I worked hard on with my dear friends. I’ve been so busy the last couple of years, I haven’t been able to work on anything new, but after my wedding, I plan on working on some new ones.
Share your go-to websites, books, and resources.
I try to find inspiration wherever I can! I’m always taking pictures of things I see, whether it’s restaurant menus, beer cans, a well-designed cookbook, a cool sign, you name it. I also find inspiration in some of my favorite video games. Katamari Damacy and Loco Roco come to mind. They really helped shape my aesthetic early on. Online I love going to Brand New (the Friday Likes are always inspiring) and Behance or even just to instagram and Pinterest. Whenever I travel to another country I try to purchase a design book, a personal favorite being a book on Japanese manhole covers. Other design/art books of mine that I love include a book on the history of Hermes scarves, the reprinting of the NASA brand standards manual, a book on Naoshima Island, and the book from the Met’s Manus x Machina exhibit.
Your work as a legacy – what legacy do you hope your work leave?
One thing I want other creatives to know is that it is OK to have hobbies that are not design-related. I used to always feel guilty about not always designing or creating in my spare time or not having my entire online persona be about design. I love love love design, but there are so many other things I want to try out and do. I currently cosplay, pole dance, play Final Fantasy XIV and design. It’s ok. And I’m honestly always surprised to find that each hobby ends up informing the other. My design skills have been useful in cosplay. My cosplay skills have become useful in pole as well as at Tattly. (Of course, if all you want to do is design, then that’s amazing too!)
Gbemi Lolade Adekanmbi is the cultivator of For Creative Girls. She is a firm believer in the fact that there is no division between the ability for science and the ability for Art. Her goal is to cultivate this ability with as many people as possible and make creatives a living, breathing part of how the world, organisations, and societies run.