Our Art Director extraordinaire, Allison Gehrke (@imalicegray), lives a double life. Graphic designer by day and singer songwriter by night, our girl is a certified hustler. She whips up original branding in a snap, and her newest single, Lay Down, was just featured on Spotify’s Indie Pop Chillout and New Music Friday playlists. We’re picking her brain to see what keeps this creative chanteuse at the top of her game.
You went to school for design, tell us a bit about your experience there and what led you to graphic design specifically.
I got into the Roski School of Fine Art with a portfolio of paintings and drawings, but after taking the required Digital Tools for Design class, I was hooked on the efficiency and possibilities of design. I went on to take every design class they offered and found a deeper connection to brand identity and typography than I did to drawing still lifes and nudes.
When did you first start working in social and in what capacity?
My first job out of college was UI/UX design for a B2B market research app. It was a great experience learning the psychology of intuitive design, but it wasn’t expressive or exciting, so when I saw that Calli was looking for a graphic designer I jumped on the opportunity, knowing there’d be a wide range of fun projects to work on.
How do you tailor your graphics for social as opposed to physical designs like merchandising?
There’s many different factors going into social vs. merch. Social is more fleeting, you can get away with a lot more and the risk is low. For merch, you have to think about what someone would be willing and excited to wear and represent. No one wants to walk around with an ad on their t-shirt, but we want the artwork to be enticing and recognizable in some way so that you’re still gaining recognition for your brand.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a graphic designer for social?
There’s two challenges I face regularly. One is the quick turn-around required for designs which doesn’t always allow me to create high quality content. The second is communicating with clients that aren’t sure what they want and go back and forth on what they’re asking for.
What do you love the most about it?
I love the creative process of taking an existing brand and translating it to social assets. My favorite feature is the instagram story, because you can create freebies, interactive designs, linked ads, etc and really engage your audience.
Any accounts that you adore for design inspo?
When did your music come along or has it always been a part of you?
It’s always been a part of me, but I didn’t pursue it openly until my final year at USC. I had a lot of elective space and my impending graduation made me consider my future and all the avenues I hadn’t explored yet. I took a songwriting class where I received very encouraging feedback and experienced an artistic high that I’d never felt before. From that point on, the stars continued to align and I’ve found myself here now with three singles out, an incredible team and an EP in the works. It’s the most fulfilling and exciting adventure I’ve ever been on.
What motivated you to really grow as an artist publicly?
I’m somewhat reserved and don’t love attention so it hasn’t been an easy process. I went to a singing teacher who encouraged me to put myself out there. I started simply by making an instagram and posting videos of me singing various covers. The first one I made gave me so much anxiety, I threw my phone right after I hit “post”; heart racing, hands sweating. Gradually, I started to grow an audience and I became immune to that fear. I continue to step out of my comfort zone little by little and break down my fears along the way.
How do you use social media to project yourself as an artist?
Social media has been my music careers’ best friend. I get to showcase my work, my brand, my voice, advertise shows and merch, communicate with other artists and I’ve gotten many opportunities through it.
Do you think any of your graphic design background impacts the image you portray as Alice Gray digitally?
Absolutely. I want the visuals to communicate the music and vice versa. I want to create a world for my audience to experience and that is essentially what “branding” is.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist in the digital age?
The biggest challenge is the over-saturation and competition. I can get caught up comparing myself to others and second guessing my decisions. While I’m finishing up my EP, I’ve been avoiding listening to new music because it can be distracting. I don’t want to chase trends, I want to find my own path so sometimes I put on my blinders to do so.
What is your favorite part of being a rising star?
The mystery, the possibilities and growing together with my team.
How do you stay so creative without burning out?
I set clear times for creativity in my schedule and when I’m not writing/recording/rehearsing/designing/etc, then I happily turn off my brain and just experience life. I try to take the pressure off.
Any tips for those with a number of creative interests, unsure of where to start?
Don’t paralyze yourself with the big picture. Start small (like posting a cover video) and things will come.
Any big news on the horizon for Alice Gray? When are we getting an album?
As mentioned above, I’m working on an EP that I’m very excited about and I have a show on Nov. 6th at Madame Siam. Come through!
Written by our Brand Communications Coordinator, Kaeleigh Morrison.
Already fan girling Alice? Us too. Tweet us @somethingsocial or tag us on Instagram- @somethingsocial.