Established in 2018, Not Not Smiling, aims to amplify the voices of female and female-identifying creatives, and provide a platform for them to connect and share their knowledge, experience and work.
In this series, we ask creatives from around the world, short questions covering topics including the meaning of creativity, inspiration, their processes and how we break the gender bias in our industry.
In this edition, we ask what advice would you give to your younger self?
Senior Product Designer, SANS Institute. London, United Kingdom
I always think about this as I mentor and work with young people. I would tell my younger self to get deeper into self-exploration, to take all the chances you see fit and follow your gut. I’ve always been good at being able to ignore what others think about me, but I’d tell myself to own that more and to trust that, with experience, comes unwavering confidence.
Mabintou Kolley is a Senior Product Designer from London. She works in cyber security and was a founder of Forbes features agency, Clamp Digital (2020—2022). Her personal clients include the likes of Adidas and Google. Mabintou has been a judge at the D&AD New Blood Awards, a speaker at several universities and panels, in front of brands such as Nike and Pepsico. She was a winner of the Makers 2020 Women in Software Power List and has also been featured in the likes of Net-A-Porter and BuzzFeed, with her viral commentary being used by publications such as Dazed and TeenVogue, to name a few. Mabintou is currently building Hummmble, delivering digital and physical products within the luxury beauty and fashion space.
Senior Art Director, Buck. Los Angeles, USA
I would tell myself to respect my own time and not compare myself so much to others. Each person has their own path, talent and strengths. We only need time to figure these things out and for some people, it can take longer than others. I think I have put a lot of pressure on myself since I was very young and I wish I could have been less anxious about work and my career.
Florence Dagostini is a Brazilian designer currently working as a Senior Art Director at BUCK in Los Angeles. She graduated in graphic design but has always been interested in the intersection between graphic and product design. This led her to co-found a personal textile design project, Dada Duo. After graduating from College, she worked as an Art Director at multiple advertising agencies in Brazil, and more recently as Design Lead. Two years ago she joined BUCK Los Angeles as a Senior Art Director.
Architect, Sibling Architecture. Melbourne, Australia
Certain ways of thinking or working aren’t automatically meaningful just because someone in power tells you they are. If it feels unnatural to have to design in a certain way, you are better off taking some time to work out what matters to you.
Lauren Crockett is an architect at Sibling Architecture in Melbourne, Australia. Her expanded practice includes teaching, writing, publishing and events programming within the architecture and design field. She believes that diverse new formal outcomes can be generated when designers look to other cultures, to other ways of living, gathering and working, to other disciplines, and to other abilities.
Along with her peers and collaborators, Nicola Cortese and Stephanie Pahnis, Lauren co-founded independent architectural publication Caliper Journal and designed and curated “Reading Space: The Common Room,” a temporary public library that occupied Gallery 3 of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA). The collective archive of their writing, teaching and spatial projects can be found here.
Founder & CEO, Izzy Wheels. Dublin, Ireland
I would tell my younger self not to be afraid to stand out. Being different is a wonderful thing and it should be embraced so don’t just wear the same kind of clothes that your friends are wearing. Fashion is such a wonderful outlet for expressing yourself. I love the feeling of wearing really bright colours because it attracts so much positive energy. I feel most happy and most myself when I’m dressed like a rainbow.
Ailbhe Keane is the founder and CEO of the award-winning company Izzy Wheels. She has a passion for art, design, and business. In 2021, she received the EU Prize for Women Innovators, an award that celebrates the women entrepreneurs behind Europe’s most game-changing innovations. Ailbhe grew Izzy Wheels from her kitchen table into a global brand shipping to over 60 countries, working with 100 world-famous artists and designers, and collaborating with world-renowned brands including Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Barbie and Hello Kitty. This has culminated in over 20 national awards, a BBC documentary, a place on the prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 list, and most importantly, it has provided an outlet for expression and individuality to wheelchair users all over the world.
Creative Strategist, Previously Unavailable. Auckland, New Zealand
Taking a ‘season of slow’ is ok.
"I’ve come to learn that being in a ‘season of slow’—my self-coined term for doing less over a period of time—is a completely acceptable way of operating. It’s a time of pulling back and doing more of the minimum. A self-imposed offseason. I wouldn’t say it’s popular opinion; it goes against the always-on pace of today, but that’s also the point. It’s almost impossible to finish a marathon with a sprint mentality. ‘Seasons of slow’ recharge you to keep you in your race.
My younger self planned every day down to the half-hour to maximise time—entering ‘seasons of slow’ wasn't something I ever wanted or aimed for. But hey, life tends to throw you things you don’t expect (cheeky). I didn’t anticipate the burnout periods. I also didn’t plan meeting my birth mother out of the blue after 30 years, or for her to pass suddenly a year later (honestly unreal). Life hits from all different angles, and in those moments of reconciling your reality, sometimes you just need to tap out for a bit.
More often than not, slowing down is really about letting go of control, and your ego. (I always learn this one the hard way). We put so much pressure on ourselves to keep up. But if you want to play the long game, (and you’re worth the long game), there’s times that you need to stop being a hero. Rest. Recalibrate. Refocus. Rest some more. Taking a ‘season of slow’ is ok. Give yourself permission to shift the goalposts—you’re not worth any less by doing less.
It takes courage to move at a different pace. Pulling back is hard when it’s unfamiliar, especially when people around you are in high hustle mode. But there’s a unique strength and resilience that comes once the blur of distraction fades. You work out what matters most. (And also what doesn’t matter at all). You find power in knowing what’s most important to you, and being true to that provides a focus and intention that accelerates you. Going slow fast-tracks you forward. Taking a ‘season of slow’ you could say, is really not slow at all."
Phoebe J Smith is a creative strategist deeply motivated by the power of human connection. It’s the underlying driver for her innovation and brand strategy work, and she believes it’s the secret for any business and brand hungry to make a meaningful impact in the world. She currently works at Previously Unavailable—an innovation, branding, and venture studio in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, New Zealand. She holds a masters degree in design specialising in human-centred design, and has worked across visual design, advertising, and design education in New Zealand, China and Los Angeles. In her spare time you’ll either find Phoebe pondering what the world needs, or having a dance jam in her living room.
Freelance Illustrator. London, United Kingdom
A piece of advice I would give to my younger self is to be more present and that things turn out how they turn out so there’s no point in overthinking the future.
Elena Boils is a freelance illustrator based in London. Born in Mexico where she grew up, she studied illustration at Falmouth University in Cornwall. She has worked with a number of clients with a heavy focus on interiors and editorial design. Her style of colourful image making explores the theme of spaces, by combining rigid formal shapes with figurative lines.
Through Not Not Smiling, we have worked with a number of charities local to each of our offices that support and uplift women. This year, we are delighted to be supporting:
Young Women’s Trust in London who are working to achieve economic justice for young women.
Hour Children, a leading provider of services to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in New York State.
Women’s and Girl’s Emergency Centre (WAGEC) is a feminist, grassroots organisation that supports women and families in crisis and advocated for social change in the community. They are based in Redfern, Sydney and work on the lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation.
We will be sharing more on each of the Charities across our blog and social channels soon. Please be sure to check them out and support their work if you can.