Tina Touli's work delights in the power of motion, colour, type, and positivity. With deliciously gloopy, 3D, liquid moving image; charmingly bloated bespoke lettering; vibrant palettes and Memphis-esque patterning, her work is resolutely multidisciplinary, and that's exactly as she likes it.
Half-Greek and half-German, and based in London, Tina's work spans digital and print design, typography, branding, graphics, animation, and more, blending analogue and digital worlds by mixing various materials and techniques into her distinctive outcome. Her impressive client list includes LinkedIn, Kappa, Converse, The New Yorker, and Tate.
When we spoke to Tina in mid-April, she was just a month out from seeing her titles for the design festival Toca Me come to life (with the help of textile designer Pia Scheiber and Jürgen Branz and Andy Morgan Davies on sound design). The gloriously tactile typographic creations that are from gloopy pink confessions to soap-like, metallic, psychedelic or syrupy pieces of moving-image that seem the perfect fit for both the client and as a platform to show off her own impressive skill set.
"Touch is about so many different things, from getting in touch with people to touching someone in a kind of literal sense, touching someone emotionally, and so on," Tina explains. "We started from there, exploring different materials, textures and textures that would invite the viewer to want to touch and feel them in different ways."
While a design festival commission is surely, in part, a dream project for those in creative industries, it must also feel slightly intimidating. After all, designing for designers can't be easy.
"It's quite challenging because you could face quite a lot of criticism and everything – it has to be something that can be inspirational and which people find interesting," says Tina. "It's not just about showing off: hopefully, we'll start inspiring each other and pushing the boundaries and creating new meanings, using typography to show new creative ways."
While many of these look like CGI creations, they are, in fact, deliciously real for the most part. "It's exploring the possibilities of physical and digital, which you will see quite often also in my work," Tina explains. The beguiling foamy titles, for instance, were made using expanding construction foam.
Kinetic typography is one of Tina's main focuses, which she employs across work on titles for various ads, campaigns, festivals and more. "I love typography in general; all my work has some kind of typography, whether it's 3d kinetic typography or physical typography. But it's about images rather than necessarily just text: it has to communicate visually without people having to read it – if that makes sense."
That sense of prioritising fundamental communication as much as legibility lends her work brilliantly to festival settings. "They're likely to let you be a bit more creative and experimental – there's more space to try new things and express yourself," says Tina. "More commercial work has more defined guidelines. But on the other hand, events and festivals can be quite tricky because suddenly you have the whole world to do whatever you want – they don't carry as many restrictions. Sometimes you don't know where to start, which can be scary.
"It's easy to get lost. That's when you must pick yourself up and keep thinking and rethinking, reimagining what you will create. Sometimes you just have to stop yourself and say, 'ok, I'm going to come up with five or ten ideas,' and keep moving things forward. You are still responsible for conveying messages, no matter how much freedom you have."
As well as designing for festivals, Tina has also featured on the lineups for a fair few, speaking or featuring in panels at festivals, including OFFF, Adobe MAX, Graphika Manila, the FITC Amsterdam, and Typomania. Her passion for communication has also expanded into educational work, designing courses and tutorials for prestigious art and design schools such as Central Saint Martins and UAL (University of the Arts London). Tina herself studied for her MA in Communication Design at CSM, having taken her undergrad course in graphic design at the Technological Educational Institute of Athens (TEI) in her homeland of Greece.
For a year or two after graduation, Tina worked at various London studios as a graphic designer but took on increasing freelance work in the evenings, largely through word-of-mouth recommendations. It wasn't long before she took the plunge and went freelance full-time, and she's not looked back. "I enjoy having control over my schedule and being able to decide what exactly I want to work on," says Tina. "I definitely enjoy collaborating with people – working all the time by yourself is not it's not the greatest; it can get quite tiring. But a freelance career was quite a straightforward decision for me: I realised this is exactly how I like it."
Her advice for those considering going freelance? First, consider the financial side: Tina says that in the early days since she was living in London – a notoriously expensive city – she was careful to cycle everywhere and save money wherever she could. Otherwise, she reckons you must ensure that freelancing, and your chosen career, is "something you really want – you need to be committed to your goals."
She continues: "Make sure that you're producing stuff and sharing things like new projects online, but be aware that if you're always sharing something on social, people will hire you to do something similar. But projects usually start coming from friends or people you know, and then it gets moving and just gets bigger and bigger. Just remember to always do the best possible work you can: if you just focus on producing good work, then everything else will fall into place."
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