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Meet November's Featured Designer: Ali Hooten of Coit Creative

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a surface designer. I work full time as an illustrator and surface pattern designer but originally started off on an entirely different career path. I went to school for Architecture and after graduating with a Masters degree, I worked as an architect for several years. During my time in school, I worked for Adobe teaching Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, which are essential visual communication programs for any architect, along with more advanced 3d modeling and CAD programs. All of this rigorous design education and practice formed the foundation towards my design career.

While I was working as an architect, I started to pick up freelance graphic design and illustration projects on the side for friends and family. I loved it, but didn’t know where it could lead to. I actually started an LLC back in 2016 but I was not in a place to work full time. I ended up leaving architecture to professionally guide rock climbing, skiing, llama packing, and backpacking for a whole year before being recruited to teach at the University of Colorado. I was new to that scale of teaching but loved the intellectual challenge and helped build a product design and visual communication curriculum, along with teaching architecture and design studios. Enter my next career teaching full time for several years!

All the while, I continued to develop an illustration and graphic design business. I think it was in 2019 that I taught myself how to make repeat patterns, but I didn’t really lean into pattern making until late 2020. In the summer of 2021, I decided to pursue Coit Creative, my own brand, full time and build my illustration and surface design business. In some ways, I consider myself new to the scene but in other ways, I have been involved in design at some level since 2007. So much of my inspiration to make the leap came from my internal compass and small design communities I poured myself into.

Who or what influences your art the most? The time I spend outside recreating or training for some new adventure highly influences my art. I guided professionally for a few years before deciding to just rock climb or ski for fun, which is a big part of my life. Naturally, the topics or even the color palette in my art can relate to these wild places I spend so much time in. I am fortunate to have access to the outdoors and have prioritized many life decisions around these few passions.

What mediums do you use to create your art? As an architect and technology nerd at heart, I really love the digital world. I primarily use Adobe Fresco on the iPad and then connect to other Adobe Creative Cloud programs on my laptop. However, I will always have a special place in my heart for technical drawing, using black ink and paper, and even wood fabrication.

Your work has been licensed by several companies. Can you tell us about your licensing experiences? Prior to 2022, I had never pitched my illustrations or patterns for licensing and since the beginning of this year, I now have over 25 designs licensed on a variety of products. I started actively pitching in January but it wasn’t until June that I really honed in a system to remain consistent and pitch regularly.

Most of the art licensing deals I have made came from “cold pitching” and looking everywhere I could for companies accepting submissions, and some I just took a gamble and emailed them. Ironically, one of my first licensing deals found me through a greeting card line I used to sell. They reached out and wanted to license some patterns on dog bandanas which boosted my confidence and proved it was possible. I quickly learned that it is so important to just put your art out into the world, in any capacity, because you never know where it could lead to!

Tell us a little bit about the Minted competition you entered that led to a card retailed in Target.

I have been a Minted artist since about 2016, entering design competitions and occasionally winning Editor’s Pick. Throughout the past 7 years, I have had about 13 designs licensed through Minted. One of those designs, a simple birthday card with gold foil, was picked up by Target with Minted’s wholesale line. It has been selling in Target shops across the country for over four years at this point, which has been amazing and completely unexpected! Minted was really my start into licensing, however, I didn’t learn how to pitch my work or reach out through an email because of their competition model to find new artwork. I know many people have varying opinions on a competition model and I personally thought it was helpful to get started and make a ton of art.

You also teach a few Skillshare classes. How did you get started teaching? Yes, I have been trying to slowly build up my own online classes over time. I started teaching on Skillshare in 2016 but it was really a side project. I had taught as a TA during graduate school in addition to teaching Adobe workshops, so I figured why not try Skillshare?

Since then, I have worked as an Instructor, teaching full time at a University for over 4 years and really learned how to teach. My goal in the near future is to pour more of my design knowledge into online classes that are accessible to anyone, whether you are starting a SPD career or want to brush up on technical skills. I really enjoyed teaching but it was time to build my own business. I hope to create more classes which are both available on my own education hub and on Skillshare at the moment.

Was it difficult to film the classes and get approved by Skillshare? I personally did not find the approval process cumbersome, but I will admit my early classes were not filmed with the best quality! I am still constantly learning how to improve the video editing process and sound, but regardless, I am glad I started. I also learned a lot about video recording and editing while teaching full time during the first year and a half of the pandemic, forced to teach online and adapt to a new model of recorded videos and live Zoom courses.

I did make the mistake of mentioning my email in a Skillshare class lesson in maybe my 7th class, which then flagged my account and gave me a strike. There are a few rules to abide by and I now take a bit more time to review my classes, realizing such a small mistake led to a strike.

What's next for you in your artistic endeavors? Are there any other companies or designers you would like to collaborate with? I am hoping to license patterns with more companies, particularly in the baby/children apparel industry and outdoor gear industry. As I welcome my first baby this fall, I have been surrounded by baby products and licensed a few pieces with companies so far. I also would love to tie in my outdoor expertise and license patterns, or illustrations, with outdoor companies. Having patterns on Patagonia children’s clothes is one of my dreams :)

In addition to art licensing goals, I really hope to build my library of online courses and help fellow creatives with the technical side of things, whether that is file organization or computer program skills. If you want to follow along, you can check out my website, , or follow along on Instagram @coitcreative!


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