“Whether it’s walking through Groudle Glen or having a cup of tea at The Shed, the Island is the best place to jolt a creative block”, so says Graphic Designer, Laura Bowles. As the creative brains behind Manx-themed Greetings Card Company ‘Isle of Social’, Laura is a high authority on such matters. Laura’s keen eye for wild, funny and irreverent imagery has resulted in quite the career thus far. There has been globe-trotting exploits, taking her from Belgium to Canada where she’s worked with everyone, be it MTV, Nickelodeon or – most impressively of all, particularly to this writer as it is an old nickname – partied with Chucky from Rugrats!*
*Well, the artist.
Outback is my jam
This restless and fearless creative spirit is represented not only in the backstory but abundant in the work itself: Her cards range from Tinder profiles of Manannan (“I’m the protector of Mann, Fave weather is DEFO fog, Outback is my jam”) to mad Manx colloquialisms – “What’s the skeet?” and “Will you be my galentine?” (chips cheese and gravy and floating 3 legs adorn said card).
Then there’s the frankly batsh*t brilliant designs for Peggy’s nightclub that areat once mesmeric, hallucinogenic and cooler than a polar bear’s gonads. It’s a style entirely of her own: inimitable and surreal; fun and unpretentious.
Inspiration behind the foggy fuc*ery
Laura informs us that the frolicker of foggy fuc*ery, Manannan, is a bestseller – “Everyone loves a bit of tinder humour”, she rightly asserts. But what was the inspiration behind Isle of Social?
“My family. They’re all as ‘Manx as the hills’ and proudly so. We were all having coffee on a Saturday, as per our usual weekly routine. This is part of a family tradition that’s gone on longer than I’ve been alive and includes everyone, literally everyone! From my sister-in-law to my cousins to their pet dogs; it’s a big group!. Anyway, the Manxisms were flowing. It dawned on me that anyone not in the know would think we were mad and talking nonsense. I literally just thought one day someone should put ‘Alreet there bey?’ on a greetings card….so I did!”
Paid in clothes
After graduating with a degree in fashion design, Laura moved to Antwerp, Belgium as a junior in a design house. However, after a brief stint at the British Fashion Council working on London Fashion Week, she soon realised her true calling was in drawing and ideas. This then led to a host of opportunities opening up in the world of graphic design.
“I came out of uni as a young designer expecting to be hired immediately as Anna Wintour’s number two. It slowly became apparent that I was about as valuable in the industry as Anna Wintour’s literal number two. So, I googled companies I wanted to work for. I emailed, called and begged for work; for any opportunity. Eventually one company called me back and said they had availability. It wasn’t particularly exciting – they needed help selling clothes at a sample sale they were having. They said they’d pay me in clothes”
Please sir, I want a job
The next part of this story reads like the kind of risk-taking, brazen display of chutzpah from a biopic; a chance split-second thought that, if dwelled upon, may not have amounted to action. Thankfully in the story of Laura Bowles, this momentary impulse came to fruition and ultimately, changed her life forever.
“I worked at the sample sale, excused myself to go to the loo and found the CEO’s office. I left a post-it note with my CV and a message saying ‘Please give me a job’. It was a bolshy and risky move but I had nothing to lose and, luckily, it paid off. I was offered an unpaid internship starting immediately. I worked there for 3 days and at Debenham’s for the rest of the week. From there on, everything seemed to fall into place. It was here that a girl in the Debenham’s buying team told me her flatmate worked for MTV / Nickelodeon and they were looking for a junior”
At MTV / Nickelodeon, Laura not only got her weekends back and an actual salary, she forged her own path in graphic design and worked on a wealth of fascinating projects – not least the MTV European Music Awards or collaborations with PacMan and Durex (presumably not together. Although that may explain the lack of Pac-Babies between PacMan and PacGirl). There she worked on the counterfeit team as the officiant on whether artwork or products were fraudulent. Interestingly, the most popular imposter was that of Spongebob Squarepants. It was here that Laura met the aforementioned artist behind Chucky – the crimson-haired, curly geek from Rugrats.
Since then, she’s gone on to work on restaurant rebrands on Regent Street and Brompton Road, hoarding on the Burj Khalifa and Mall of Dubai and a career highlight, alongside the Penguin publishing team in Canada.
“The proudest moment in my career has to be when I worked on one of the world’s most celebrated author’s (Yuval Noah Harari) book’s – ‘Homo Deus’. I’ll never forget it, walking through Toronto airport, when I first saw the huge digital banner I’d designed for the campaign. For something that felt so iconically famous to me and to then know that the artwork was distributed all over North America…that was pretty special”
O Island So Strong And So Fair
You can take the girl out of the Island but…etc. With such an impressive and eclectic career already under her belt, it’s truly heartening to hear just how much adoration Laura still holds for her Manx heritage. The success of Isle of Social has given her a deserved sense of pride at “doing something for yourself, seeing an idea come alive that wasn’t emailed to you for a brief. It was purely for yourself” and, that same swell of patriotic pride she feels for the Island can, conversely, be felt by us, the local community, at another Manxie success story.
“I wear a necklace with the three legs of man around my neck every day. It’s my greatest inspiration and a place that will always breathe life into me on the worst of days”
We’ll let one of Laura’s Isle of Social cards sum up our feeling… “Thanks Yessir!”
You can check out Laura’s COOL AF ‘Isle of Social Designs’ here or pick up her cards at Riley’s Garden Centre, Robinson’s Prospect Terrace, Robinson’s Florsity Centre, Cycle 360 and Tynwald Mills.