Growing up in Melbourne, Molly Dyson’s home life was surrounded by creative ephemera leading to the graphic design and illustration hybrid displayed throughout her portfolio to date. Both her parents are artists themselves, but it was one particular poster pinned to her sister’s wall – of Sonic Youth’s Dirty record “with that Mike Kelly photograph of a knitted toy” – that first kickstarted her personal interest: “I remember thinking ‘what is this strange photo of a toy doing on a band poster!’ Though I didn’t know anything about graphic design at the time, I was really curious about how music was visually represented on album covers and posters,” she tells It’s Nice That.
This curiosity then introduced Molly to the punk and DIY scene, collecting flyers as a teenager and spending her time making a lot of zines. In particular it was “an amazing zine shop and collective” called Sticky which proved formative, and was a regular pitstop for Molly and her friends on the way home from school. Choosing then to study art and major in drawing, post graduation Molly’s first commission was designing a tea towel for a homeware store. Though a far cry from the music-focused works which first inspired her, this experience – coupled with a job at a children’s bookstore “which got me looking at contemporary and classic illustration” – helped her to realise “how much I liked having a brief and a task”. Ultimately this led to the role Molly occupies today and the unique work she creates within it.
Now based in Berlin and amongst a fellow cohort of creatives “whose approach and style motivated me to try being an illustrator myself,” Molly’s practice is one she herself describes as “nostalgic and futuristic, at the same time”. With this as a foundation to each of her works, Molly’s distinctive tastes in colour palettes, texture and typographic elements has built an array of works, where no two look the same.
“I had this romantic idea of being an illustrator who sat at a big table with pencils and ink… but as I learned how to use Adobe programs I realised I was better at working digitally,” she notes on her creative direction. At first, Molly kept hold of analogue techniques, mixing both together by scanning drawings before adding text on top. “I remember thinking; ‘oh, this looks really crap! I need to work out how to make these two things work together’,” she recalls now. Yet, it was once she realised that elements didn’t need to be perfect, “and it was ok not to follow kerning rules or grid systems (which totally intimidated me)” that Molly found her groove.
Now cut up, warping typography that adds its own illustrative mark across the page works in tandem with the larger components of her work. Taking her time with finding this style is also something Molly seems pleased she experienced: “It also took me a long time to work out my illustration style, and having a foot in both design and illustration gave me confidence to change things up, and not to be tied down to always producing visually similar stuff.”
A particular example of this hybrid approach is a recent project Molly completed for Australian skateboard brand Passport. Illustrating a series of muscular women, “it was mad” points out Molly, and personally “mega exciting to see my work on skateboards and Passport are such legends, so that was a real highlight.” Also making posters for a concert series Neu, Kaputt since 2015, despite being a totally different outlet to skateboards, is another of Molly’s favourites and “having an ongoing job to develop my style and skills has been really important.”
Looking towards the future, and already with work for Bloomberg Business Week, Medium and Ace & Tate under her creative belt, Molly hopes to work more collaboratively. “Freelancing is pretty lonely,” she admits, “and I love having people around to bounce ideas off and make something more elaborate than what one person can achieve on their own.” With her multitude of talents though, to us Molly appears to be doing the jobs of a few creatives in one brilliant swoop.
Molly Dogson for Tennis bar, Berlin
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.