Ali Macdonald

"When I finally have a clear mental visual of how an idea will materialize, I can't wait to get to work."

INTRO: Ali is a designer and illustrator based in New York City. She is also the Founder and Creative Principal of Lark + Raven, a company that produces prints, pillows and paper goods with bright and whimsical marks. Her primary muse and inspiration is her grandmother, who she describes as “a brilliant, bold, and often outlandish artist.” Is that beautiful or what?

I found Ali’s work on Instagram @alimacdoodle, and I think what I loved most was her ability to make overlooked places and objects so cheery and colorful. Laundromats, matchboxes, condiments and coffee cans, just to name a few.  We did a Q&A over email and she shared her thoughts about New York, working independently and learning as you go. Lark + Raven is also exhibiting at the National Stationary Show, so be sure to stop by booth #2257 if you're there!

Environment / Geography

Stephanie: What is the best part of living and working in New York? 

Ali: There's always something going on here and the creative inspiration is never-ending.

S: How much does your physical environment impact your work? 

A: A lot. When my studio is a mess, it's hard to work. It doesn't necessarily inhibit me from getting the job done but it adds a layer of stress I could do without. 

S: What do your current workspaces consist of? Do you like to stick to one space or move around? 

A: I work where I live so my current workspace consists of a bed, a couch, a table with a printer and two large storage units for materials and products. I do all of my design work at the table but I answer emails on the couch.  

Media / Motivation

S: Do you consume media (music, podcasts, audiobooks, videos, etc.) while you work? 

A: I really only listen to music. I've tried working while a podcast or a movie is playing but I miss everything because I'm often so focused on what I'm doing. 

S: Are you involved in any creative communities? 

A: Sadly no, but I'd like that to change. Many of my friends are creatives and we are always discussing projects when we meet. I would really like to join some sort of an artist community where I can collaborate with others. 

S: What motivates you to get started on new things? 

A: When I finally have a clear mental visual of how an idea will materialize, I can't wait to get to work. This sometimes happens when I'm too busy with other projects or I'm on vacation, which frustrates me because I just want to get started right away.  

Current Work

S: How do you describe your work to other people? 

A: Playful and bright.

S: What are some of the biggest challenges, surprises and learnings from your work as a designer and illustrator? 

A: My biggest challenge has been working alone. Because I freelance remotely, I don't have other creatives to give me input on whether something is or isn't working before it's out in the world. I definitely email friends for opinions but it's not quite the same as sitting next to them in-house and having constant feedback with months of meetings to finalize ideas in a collaborative setting. I've really had to push myself to make my work better and it hasn't been an easy process. I've publicly posted products that I've realized months later were weak and needed revising. That used to embarrass me but I've since learned to embrace it as part of my process. Being okay with making those mistakes has allowed me to improve my work. The biggest surprise has really been learning as much as I've learned on my own. I was really fearful that I wouldn't learn anything but it's been the opposite. 

S: Do you have any new adventures, travels or projects coming up? 

A: I'll be an exhibitor at The National Stationery Show May 15-18th. It's a lot of work but it's an exciting opportunity to meet new people in the industry and get feedback.