The Power of Fun with Ayelet Werner

After the already heavy events of 2020, Ayelet Werner’s dog passed away in 2021, marking her first personal reckoning with grief. She was forced to reflect more deeply on mortality and experienced loss in a way that disrupted the typical flow of her life. “I was really really really lost,” she recalls. Two months later, she would get married to her fiancé, moving from deep sorrow to what she describes as the highest high. The events happening in such succession would make anyone waver. Werner struggled to find focus. “Honestly, I was so off balance for so long and I would spend my days being so depressed and lost and scrolling on YouTube all day,” she recalls.

At some point, she encountered a video by designer Abi Connick about creating a brand from scratch. Werner was inspired.

“It was pink, it was cute, it was beautiful, and I was like, holy crap, that’s what I wanna do too!”

The same day, she opened up Adobe Illustrator and made herself a placeholder logo. Having already taught herself graphic design, with a foundation in a traditional art education, Werner began to pursue brand design, taking to Instagram, and posting daily. It became a routine of organic creativity that she treated like a full-time job, though money wouldn’t come until later.

Werner’s style emerged: fun, bold, and confident. She used a lot of pink. As her work gained momentum through Instagram, even people close to her would question or look down upon her design choices. The criticism would usually go along the lines that such an aesthetic is unserious or lacking in skill. It’s easy to see the connection between this perspective and a bias against youthful, flamboyant femininity. Especially in classical European schools of thought, austerity is often conflated with maturity, good taste, and thus good design. Werner resists this train of thought, suggesting that design can be both playful and taken seriously.

“Why do those things have to negate each other? I like reframing that way of thinking that people have,” she muses at the challenge presented.

What has come out of this orientation is buoyant and effervescent design for brands like Kindness Kookies and Period. Werner’s focus is ideal for the latter, a company which seeks to break taboos around the realities of menstruation. With poppy, illustrative imagery, even a stained tampon takes on a new air of levity.

Werner comes from a conversative, highly religious Israeli background that she says was defined by a lot of rules. It becomes clear that her interest in playfulness may be, in part, a response to her strict upbringing. Her taste for freedom in this way extends to how she lives beyond her work. Given that she and her husband both work remotely, they are able to travel often. Werner cherishes this flexibility and the anonymity that comes with it. “When we travel, I can be anyone I want, really, and do anything I want,” she says.

During recent travels, she found herself compelled by the draw of amusing design, coming back to the same Parisian coffee shop because of the full brand experience, which prioritized fun and a visual sense of joy. Harnessing design as an embodied experience, it mirrored what Werner hopes to do with her work in the future, tugging at her aspirations toward building a more holistic brand design experience. For her, a next move could be designing a physical world for users to enter, bringing feel-good energy into a built environment.

“I just don’t get why there is a stigma with fun design. It’s just so silly because it makes you feel so good,” she asserts. “If you just open your mind, it’s so much more fun and the world becomes so much brighter and more colorful.”

Werner has stayed the course, following her instincts, going with the flow. She feels heartened by other people of her generation that have managed to integrate fun into work and the routine of daily life. To other designers, she encourages following the path that fuels their work.

“Stay on your path and stay in your lane. Focus on what you actually really want and not what you think will make you look the same as other designers,” Werner asserts. Making a case for the path of the individual who chooses personal truth and choice regardless of external approval, she continues to forge her own. “You always deserve to be respected and taken seriously,” she declares. And with her certainty cast in pink, Werner will achieve just that.

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