Punk designer Kate Moross on breaking the rules and rebelling against polarities

On the Design Indaba Conference stage, the multi-tasking creative discusses her unconventional approach to design.

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“Hi, I’m Kate Moross and I do lots of things.”

Kate Moross is a jack of all trades. The illustrator, art director, graphic designer and founder of the award-winning Studio Moross is known for her frenetically colourful and energetic work. But it’s not just her cheeky, engaging visuals that has much of the design world clamouring to collaborate with her; her fresh approach to what it means to work as a creative is as radically innovative as her signature freeform illustration style.

Unapologetically herself, the colourful haired designer – who happens to be the niece of famed South African photographer Roger Ballen – has spent much of her career, and life, in fact, occupying the middle ground between binaries. From the embracing of her gender as ‘non-binary’ to the line she finds herself constantly walking between being the boss and a friend, she’s found the practise of these fluidities to be beneficial to her work in design.

Eschewing inspiration in favour of hard work, Moross’ vast and varied resume is testament to her talent and smart work ethic. Much of the work she’s done has been for recording artists and others in the music industry; she’s worked on music videos for Jessie Ware, Tala, Wild Beasts and Washed Out. In 2014, she designed the visuals for One Direction’s On The Road Again World Tour. She and her studio mates then went on to develop the brand identity and visuals for the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards.

This past April, Studio Moross celebrated their fifth anniversary. At the time of its founding, Moross had never worked for or run any other company, and she had to develop her own understanding of what it means to be someone's boss. Studio Moross, she says, is not about her; rather, it’s about the potential of what can be created when creatives from varying disciplines come together to collaborate.

While Moross approaches her work with a degree of rebellion, she does have a few loose rules she likes to follow. These include sharing work early, hiring people over skills, approaching a task fearlessly, and doing some work for love, some for money, and some for charity. When it comes to the actual design work though, these mandates fly out the window.

In an interview following her Design Indaba 2017 talk, she says, “For me, there are no rules when it comes to what’s considered ‘good’ design."

Ultimately, her secret to success seems to stem from the knowledge that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. As long as her clients, colleagues, family, friends and two dogs are satisfied, so is she. It’s like Moross says about the work she did for One Direction: “I’m so proud of it and I don’t give a shit if other people think it’s lame.”