I’ve been a huge fan of Soofiya Andry for a long time. In fact, I’ve been looking for the right reason to interview her since I started writing for Hey. This series on social media has finally given me the perfect excuse to reach out (via Twitter, obvs) and have a proper chat with Soofiya.
Activist, designer, lecturer and lately feminist icon, Soofiya Andry has built a social following full of personality and politics. Her latest work, Bloody Hell smashed its Crowdfunder target in a matter of days. I spoke to her about impact of social media on contemporary design.
Hi Soof, you’re an active presence on social media. Do you think it’s had any part in helping build your design career?
Yes, so much. Social media allows me to keep my finger on the pulse for design news, trends and more. It’s means I can talk to designers and absorb myself in a community. I can connect on a level that hasn’t always been possible. It opens up social circles and allows you to platform yourself. Often press can be quite elitist, but social media changes that, I can showcase myself and work in an autonomous and often more authentic way.
You and I have spoken privately about how both of our Design Twitter Bubbles are, on the whole fairly inclusive and ’safe’ spaces for women to voice their opinions. Why do you think that’s so when other areas of the creative industries (tech and gaming in particular) have been such toxic places for women?
Hmm…good question. I think it’s our design twitter ‘bubbles’ that might be the answer here. Perhaps if we expanded out it probably is exclusionary; maybe not in a direct way but on a more subconscious and institutional level? I’d like to see the stats for how many women big design companies and designers follow on twitter (and visa versa) it might be interesting? Maybe I’m cynical.
But…from my experience design as an industry, it is more able to recognise it’s own faults (we’re problem solvers, perhaps it’s in our nature to identity them?) so when you call someone out and open a discussion about things, like unpaid interns or the gender disparity, people want to learn and listen. Often there might not be enough solutions or people actively conducting change but the fact we’re open to talking about and not shutting things down makes it feel inclusive and somewhat safe. (Obviously I’d like to see tangible change, but that often comes with the time)
Your latest zine project Bloody Hell has been a huge success. You’ve been featured everywhere from Cosmopolitan to The Telegraph and the positive comments are still piling up. Do you think the project would have been such a success if you hadn’t already had an active social presence?
Bloody hell was amazing to work on. Yeah I don’t think I’d even gotten a fraction of what we did if I didn’t use social media. Aside from the ‘edgy’ nature of the publication I think having a good standing on social helped. (Also I’m firm believer in quality of followers rather than quantity makes a difference!) My approach tends to be semi-professional. I tweet about work and design alongside some lefty politics and what I had for dinner to the time I forget to wear pants and hated it. It makes you human, I think people want to follow humans not just a Guardian link tweeting machine. Because of that I think everyone wanted to help out a real person, making a real zine about a real issue; Often people say there’s a disassociation online and it’s not the real world or just be super professional all the time: but I disagree, it’s real, be a *real* person.
Also I’m closet extrovert, I like making friends! I took two pronged attack to this and life in general. I network/use social media a lot but I work pretty extensively to make friends and contacts with people outside that too. So when it came to launching the zine I got in touch with everyone from twitter pals to facebook friends and my old Uni mates to the awesome person I met a bookfair once in passing. It worked well.