We love the work of Allison Filice. Her work feels like optimism on steroids—a gateway into something unknown and extraordinary. In the following interview, Allison riffs on self-actualization, partnering with musicians, and introducing magic into the everyday.
Can you tell us a bit about you—where you come from and how you got here?
I’m Allison Filice, a San Francisco based illustrator. I grew up in a small town about two hours south of San Francisco and came to the city for college. I have a degree in graphic design and did graphic and user experience design before making the switch to illustration in 2016. I do mostly editorial and commercial illustration and also try to do a bit of personal work as well. I had a baby last August and have taken a step back from my client work to focus on being a mom and to take my career in new directions.
I’m currently starting a podcast called The Friendly Unknown
. It’s interviews with creative professionals about their paths to becoming who they are today in order to help demystify the creative journey. Each episode explores a theme like self-doubt, or money, or intuition, etc. I’m pretty much making the podcast I wish I had as a resource when I took the leap into becoming an illustrator.
The unknown can be really scary and can hold us back from doing what we’re here to do, and I want to help encourage people to pursue that thing they love in spite of fear or limiting beliefs they may have around what’s possible for them.
How did you discover art? Was there a moment or event that set you on this path?
I fortunately grew up in a pretty creative environment. My mom was a painter and we were always doing crafts and were encouraged to draw and create as kids. I didn’t know what graphic design was until halfway through college, and I was actually studying business at the time. I was totally bored and kind of lost when a school counselor mentioned the field of graphic design. It was a eureka moment for me. It was everything I wanted to do in life and I couldn’t believe it was a career path and that you could get paid to do something you love so much.
"The unknown can be really scary and can hold us back from doing what we’re here to do, and I want to help encourage people to pursue that thing they love in spite of fear or limiting beliefs they may have around what’s possible for them."
If you could organize an event—dinner, show, party, barn raising—with five artists, who would they be and what would happen?
I’d love to just sit and have a long chat with Milton Glaser, Thom Yorke, Nicole Claveloux, Jim Stoten, and Andy J. Pizza and see what they’re like and what they’re into right now. Maybe at some magical location, like a library high above the clouds, with some really nice wine to drink.
What ideas define the way you work? How would you describe your process to an outsider or brand? Is there a moment in your process that defines your work?
I think I’m probably most interested in the idea of self-actualization. I’m not even sure I totally grasp what that means, so maybe it’s the pursuit of that idea. I guess I’m far less interested in my process than in pushing my ideas forward and reaching people. I think I can work across multiple mediums and still play with that idea, and have it all still look/feel like me. It’s like a friendly approach to deeper ideas, a kind of portal or doorway to explore your inner world. It’s all pretty abstract and I feel like other people or brands might see themselves in it somehow and that’s why they might be drawn to it?
When you think about your work, what emotion are you looking for? Are there certain ideas that you hope shine in every piece?
I guess I want people to feel something on a deeper level. Anytime we’re caught up in the mundaneness of life, like checklists and errands and traffic jams, I just want to break that up and remind people that there is magic in life and to keep pursuing who they are and why they’re here. Stay curious.
Who are your favorite people to work with and why? Is there a way of working that attracts you to them? What’s their vibe?
I love working with musicians. Music is so experiential and can transport you to an emotional state in a way that visual art just can’t. I love to try to translate a sound into a visual. It’s a fun challenge. I guess I’m kind of envious of the powerful tool musicians have. Music is so healing. Plus all of the musicians I’ve worked with have been so lovely.
When you create artwork for a brand, what are you trying to achieve? What do you need to know? What should a brand avoid when they work with you?
I want to showcase whatever their magical essence is. How can we create something that’s bigger than the sum of our two parts? How can we connect with and inspire their customers? It’s really important for a brand to hire me for me, not just use me as a hired hand. It’s more about the idea and emotion than hiring me to just make a pretty picture.
What brands, in your opinion, use art to elevate their meaning and importance in our lives? Is there an example that stands out in your mind?
I love how beer and wine labels are like mini works of art. Half the time I choose whichever label speaks to me the most. I’m a sucker for great packaging. I feel like that industry has really embraced art and in turn, it’s totally elevated the status of it in our lives. Which may or may not be a good thing.
Some of the brands with artwork I love are Prairie Ale, Omnipollo, Mikkeller, Partizan.
If you could work with any brand, which brand would you choose? What would you do with them? What does the dream outcome look like?
I think it would be fun to do some labels for a line of beer or wine. Or brand a whole vegan grocery store. Like their logo and signage and packaging and uniforms and all. I’d want to help make it fun and desirable to vegans and non-vegans alike. As for a specific brand, I’d love to design some fun patterns for the children’s clothing brand Mini Rodini.
What’s your dream collaboration with a brand of your choosing? Who does it involve? Where is it unveiled? Why does it exist?
I have this dream of creating a retreat to bring together people who are doing interesting things, but in different fields, in order to share ideas/collaborate. People who might never cross paths otherwise. I think the world is moving into a time of rapid change that can feel almost chaotic, and it’s going to be important to create spaces for ideas to mingle and connect in order to solve problems coming our way. I don’t know where the funding for this would come from, so I think working in collaboration with a brand or a consortium of brands could make sense. They’d have to be invested in long-term thinking and the health of the world.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you do for a living?
I'm really interested in Jungian psychology and the different personality types models, like the Myers-Briggs and the enneagram. I think I probably would have pursued becoming a therapist or a coach or something along those lines.