Take visual pleasure and play, meld it with friendship and complementary design styles, and add in an almost fanatical love of typography — and you have the two partners of the independent agency The Dye Lab: Tonya Douraghy and Alanna MacGowan. The dynamic design duo met as undergraduate students in an actual dye lab while taking a textiles class in the Department of Design at the University of California at Davis.
Imagine the two donned with protective gear — gloves, aprons, glasses, masks — dipping different natural and synthetic fibers into vats and learning age-old and new world techniques for adding colors and patterns to textiles. They both seized on the power of color and texture, and today, their tactile approach to design results in richly layered pieces. They work across a wide variety of media, including print, web, motion, printmaking, and yes, textiles.
“I think if anything characterizes what we create, it’s that nothing ever looks flat,” says MacGowan. “We strive to create work that’s classic and timeless so it won’t look dated, yet with perhaps something askew, or maybe an unexpected splash of color — an air of mystery, if you will.”
But today there are even more layers to their design collaboration. Douraghy went to New York for graduate school at the School of Visual Arts; MacGowan attended the University of Washington in Seattle. Even though they no longer live in the same place, they never lost their profound camaraderie, complementary creative aesthetics, and friendship.
Based on a steady stream of referrals for their work through The Dye Lab, they carve out time to work together on projects that are meaningful and fun. Among their most recent projects is a brochure and iPad tablet app for Youth in Focus, an after school program that uses intensive photography training to help disadvantaged teens develop a personal voice, a positive identity, and social and artistic skills.
Because Youth in Focus lacked a true brand identity or an established logo, the first step was to determine a look and feel for the brochure, starting from scratch. They brainstormed by creating upwards of 20 early sketches. The challenge was appealing because they had two very different audiences to reach: donors, who were likely to be a bit more conservative, and potential students, who represented a completely different demographic coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. The end result is a simple and elegant brochure — straight to the point and uncomplicated. Douraghy, leading the design for the brochure, used Adobe® Illustrator® and InDesign® software for artwork and layout, and Photoshop® for image editing.
After the brochure was complete, MacGowan began her first foray into digital publishing by designing an iPad app using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition — a process she found easy given her experience with InDesign. Using InDesign CS6, she added interactivity such as links to the website and email forms, as well as slide shows and scrolling text.
Using the Alternate Layout feature in InDesign simplified adapting the primary InDesign layout for the iPad orientation and page sizes. InDesign did the tedious work of adding pages and copying content so the team could focus on the design. The Content Collector tools in InDesign CS6 also streamlined the process of reusing text and objects from the print version for the tablet version.
MacGowan describes the process as fun, much like designing and creating for a traditional web or print piece. When she got stuck she found multiple tutorials on the Adobe website to assist her. “Features such as Alternate Layout and the Content Collector tools in InDesign CS6 made it easy to reuse and adapt print layouts so we could deliver them to an iPad,” says MacGowan. “It was much easier than I ever thought it would be.”
The two designers recently joined Adobe Creative Cloud™ and see it as a new way to collaborate across distances, work from anywhere, and explore new ideas and workflows. With Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition now available through Creative Cloud, they can design and submit an unlimited number of apps to the Apple App Store at no additional charge. They look forward to continuing to experiment with creating more custom apps, such as brochures and other publications, as projects come up.
For The Dye Lab, tactile, interactive projects like Youth in Focus keep both MacGowan and Douraghy inspired and constantly flexing their creative muscle. "Sometimes it's almost better to be on different coasts," says Douraghy. "We can chat on the phone, Skype to see each other's expressions, or go off separately to find inspiration. We're best friends, and we even send each other creative care packages, crammed with photos of interesting graffiti, a stray button found on the street, flyers or business cards with gorgeous type — for us, it's better than getting a box of candy.”