Meg Lewis is the founder of Ghostly Ferns and works with happy companies to execute thoughtful brand strategy and usable, clean and friendly design across various platforms. She never takes herself too seriously but this didn’t stop Ghostly Ferns from being nominated for Agency of the year at the Net Awards, Meg is also currently nominated for designer of the year for the second time in a row, read her interview after the jump.
Could you please tell us about your background? How did your career unfold?
I went to college specifically with the hopeful outcome of becoming a freelance web designer. While I was in school I worked my butt off to design as much as I could to build up a portfolio which would then impress thousands of amazing potential clients once I graduated. It happened something like that, but much less glamorously. Because I never had a real design job, I had to make everything up as I went along. I continued to work really hard until I figured it all out. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but over the past 6 years of freelancing and struggling to figure out what the hell I’m doing, I finally got to a comfortable place! I always wanted to be a “web designer”, but as my career has evolved I’ve become more of a generalist. I’ll design anything for a brand to make the brand holistically stronger whether that’s web design, branding, or UX.
You were nominated for Designer of the Year from the Net Awards, in your opinion what are the essential features of you work that made it stand out?
Even though I have a lot of insecurities about my actual design work and am generally shocked that I was nominated for Designer of the Year, I think most people are drawn to work because of my personality. I’ve always been extremely honest and am willing to make myself and my work vulnerable. It’s very important to me that my happy, enthusiastic personality really shines through my writing, my teaching and each piece of my design work. Design, especially for products, has become pretty clinical and personality-free as of lately. I’m actively bringing personality and fun into a world that has been drained of it. I think (I hope) it makes me stand out amongst other designers.
Could you please tell us about Ghostly Ferns? How did it start out? What was the greatest challenge in starting and operating your own business?
Ghostly Ferns is a creative family of freelancers each specializing in various areas from hand lettering to UX design. A company hires one or more of us to work on their project which makes us very modular. We even act as a product design studio, which allows us to provide a full range of services from brand strategy to vision of a company’s full product plan. Ghostly Ferns started as myself just going by the name “Ghostly Ferns” because it was a heck of a lot more interesting than Meg Lewis. After a couple of months, my husband Brad joined me and we became a cute husband and wife design team. After we moved to NYC, we joined a shared studio space called Studiomates where I met the rest of the Ghostly Ferns team. Through working alongside each other at Studiomates, I slowly started collaborating with the others until we decided to make it official and turn Ghostly Ferns into a full-fledged family. I encourage everyone to structure their business similarly to what we’ve done here. Because we’re a group of freelancers, Ghostly Ferns is only owned by me. From there, I hire everyone else as contractors. That way I don’t have any employees and everyone on the Ghostly Ferns team remains free. Everybody wins!
What are some of the most memorable projects you’ve been involved in over the years?
The most memorable projects always coincide with products or causes we are enthusiastic about, which results in founders who are enthusiastic about us. These relationships make for the most amazing outcomes in terms of design and everyone’s happiness. I’ve recently designed a couple of themes for Big Cartel which was a dream project. Their team is so exceptionally wonderful and they really respect my design perspective. Currently, I’m working on the design for an event designer named Michelle Bablo. Michelle has a kick ass personality that jives with my own. We are having the best time making things together and we’re actively finding more ways to work together on event projects!
What challenges do you see creative agencies facing in the next few years?
I’m really hoping that more groups of freelancers just like Ghostly Ferns will start to pop up, inspiring others to break out of traditional agencies and become freelancers themselves. So many designers dream of switching over to freelance. Forming families of freelancers gives piece of mind and security for individuals who are afraid of being lonely and without work. In some ways, I’m hoping Ghostly Ferns can be the exact challenge that creative agencies will face in future years. I’m hoping we can reshape the agency landscape and create a happier world for designers!
What is the most interesting place you’ve ever travelled to?
100% absolutely Iceland. Iceland is the place in the world where my soul connects the most. The freshness of the air and the connectivity I feel to the earth is like nothing I’ve experienced before. It’s like a massage for my entire body and mind that I have to get once a year to be able to feel whole again. Even though there are so many interesting places around the world that I’ve visited, Iceland is the only place that impacts me on such an emotional level.
What are 5 things (anything goes) that help your creative process?
1. FUN! If I’m not having fun while I’m working, I’m not going to make good work. If I find myself trying to work in an atmosphere that isn’t fun, I’ll wait until I’m back in the fun zone to start working again.
2. Flexibility. As a freelancer, I need to be able to get away to my favorite trampoline class or go see a movie by myself in the middle of the afternoon to recharge. It helps give my mind a different change of pace and gives me much needed time for myself.
3. Friends. At Ghostly Ferns, we work in the attic of a townhouse that is full of 4 floors of our best friends who are other designers and creatives. All day we laugh together, make NSFW jokes with one other, and even have boozy lunches on weekdays. These people are my best friends and my family. I couldn’t work any other way!
4. The internet. Being inspired by other creatives on the internet is what fueled my fire as a young designer and what keeps me going today. The internet is full of hilarious people, constant inspiration, and plenty of amazing challenges.
5. Being alone. I’m an introvert and am constantly surrounded by awesome friends and supportive people. This is so great until I need time for myself. My brain sometimes feels too chaotic and the only remedy is being in the company of myself. Sometimes I’ll go off and have a meal by myself, or go to a movie alone. Other times I’ll take off on a trip by myself and stay in a hotel just to get away. It’s very restorative for me and gives me plenty of Meg brain time to think of new ideas.
What are the words you live by?
Be 100% Meg, be aware, make people happy. I’m not the type for affirmations, but this is the sentence that drives me every day.
I actually don’t make any plans, goals, or roadmaps for the future. It makes life unexciting to me. I take my life one day at a time, embracing each surprise along the way.
Who is the woman you’d like to see featured/interviewed here?
I would love to see you feature Adi Goodrich. She has the most amazing imagination and is able to bring things into a perspective unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I love Adi’s work and would love to learn more about her.
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