An Interview with Emily Blass

I first came across Emily when she contacted me to license one of my paintings for an invitation she was creating. The resulting invitation was gorgeous and I have been intrigued by this talented designer ever since. I’m delighted to have her here with me for this month’s Artist Interview.

Emily Harwood Blass, Invitations, stationery, sweet peas, Anne Butera, watercolor, Kate Danson

Hi, Emily, thanks for chatting with me today.

Emily Harwood Blass, Kate Danson

Never having been to art school, I’m always curious about other people’s art school experiences. Can you share a bit about yours? Did you always know you wanted to pursue graphic design? Were there other disciplines that grabbed your attention? How do you think art school helped prepare you for your career?
Hi Anne, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your interview series today. I am a fan of your talents and I love that you have created this space to learn about other creative professionals.

My career in graphic design came about a bit circuitously. I attended a traditional four year college and moved to New York to pursue a position in advertising. Its funny how our paths take us through life in roundabout ways and quite often teach us skills we can use later. I worked at a large advertising firm, first through a year-long rotational training program and then as a new member of a small off-shoot group working in branded entertainment. While I quickly realized that my temperament was better suited to being on the creative side, I learned an extraordinary amount about the creative process, the ins and outs of production, working with clients, and project management. It was then that I went back to school to learn about graphic design.

Although I was in a program focused mainly on design, Parsons encouraged its students to attend classes in other concentrations such as silkscreen, letterpress, etc. all of which have influenced me. We were also taught to work outside of the computer first, using the computer as a tool, but most importantly, creating a concept that can stand on its own.
Emily Harwood Blass, Graphic Design, Kate Danson

Your portfolio showcases book design (including 2 memoirs by Diane Keaton), invitations, stationery, packaging and branding. Can you tell us a little about your design process and how it differs for different projects and clients? What type of design do you most enjoy? What’s next for your design studio?
I am currently working on a restaurant logo project and a book proposal, both of which have been rewarding partnerships. I feel grateful for every project that I am asked to design. I enjoy working with typography, and I appreciate projects where I can unfold a story and create a rhythm through pacing and color, such as in book design. I hope the future holds lots of different types of projects. I find that the most important piece with all client relationships is the fit. I feel lucky to have worked with clients who share a similar aesthetic and who enjoy navigating the creative process with me.

My design process usually starts with gaining a very specific understanding of the client's artistic style and goals for the project. Pinterest has been incredibly helpful because it allows designers to see precisely what type of style a client appreciates, which is often hard to describe in words. I work with clients in all locations, but when I have someone nearby I think it is helpful and fun to bring over samples of books, or paper materials I have collected over the years, to help inspire our collaboration.
Then Again, Diane Keaton, Emily Harwood Blass, graphic deign, book design, Kate Danson

You also share mixed-media collage pieces in your portfolio and on Instagram. How did you get started with collage? What inspirations or influences inform your collage work? How does your process differ when you’re working on a collage than when you’re designing?
Collage is an outlet for me. My interest in the medium began when I took a class a few years ago here in Los Angeles. It was purely meditative. Unlike design work, collage allows just doing and seeing where I end up. Even the art of tearing paper is calming. I love mixing textures and being playful with materials. I am inspired by simplicity, although I find I am attracted to different inspirations based on the day and my mood. I usually begin with a color palette and see where that takes me. 
collage, Emily Harwood Blass, Kate Danson

As someone who went from not keeping a sketchbook (and being intimidated by them) to being very focused on a sketchbook practice, I’m always curious about other artists’ relationships with them. Do you keep a sketchbook (or sketchbooks) yourself? If so, how would you describe your sketchbook practice? If you don’t, why do you think that is?
I think keeping a sketchbook is incredibly helpful. I do have a sketchbook, but these days I find that I rarely use it, mostly due to habit I suppose. It is something I would like to incorporate back into my creative process. I think it is helpful to see the progression of previous ideas and thoughts all in one safe place.
Emily Harwood Blass, graphic design, Kate Danson

Because one of my main focuses is on joy, noticing it and paying attention to life’s magic and beauty, I’m always interested in how other people handle down days and stressful times. What techniques or practices do you use to combat the dark days and find your way back into the light? Are creativity and art practice a part of your arsenal?
Collage is definitely a part of my cathartic process. I also love to take walks and listen to music. Movement repeatedly gets me out of darker days. I enjoy getting lost in a project at times as well. Working can feel meditative, especially when I have the time and am not under a strict deadline. From an artistic perspective, having some ups and downs is helpful in my's a way to express my emotion into something concrete. 
collage, Emily Harwood Blass, Kate Danson

What other creative outlets do you enjoy? If you suddenly find yourself with a free hour, how would you most likely spend it?
Similar to you, Anne, I love to garden. To me, taking care of flowers and playing with colors through nature is pure joy. I will admit I make a lot of mistakes and I am working on becoming a more patient gardener, but the process is fun for me and it is an outlet I learned from my mother and grandmother, which makes it seem even more special now that I am also a mother. I have two little girls and they like to help me water the plants and arrange flowers in vases. I promised them we would learn to grow carrots this year.
Emily Harwood Blass, Studio, Kate Danson

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today, Emily.

Dear readers, you can learn more about Emily and her work on her website and on Instagram.

Be sure not to miss the other posts in my Artists Series; they can be viewed here.

*Photos in this post © Kate Danson. Used with permission.


  1. A really interesting interview with some gorgeous photos. Emily is an inspirational artist/creator and a successful business woman - lots to admire and inspire. After having a recent bout of having to rest (after having a good run of being more able) I have had to find peace with the enforced rest time because as much as I want to be as dynamic as people like Emily I'm learning that I have to work with what I am. So in the question about dealing with down times I was especially interested. With the problem having been physical recently it does make it difficult to do many of the things that help my mood but I've been utilising meditation and visualisation and exploring my novel's world in my head when not able to write/edit.

    Hope you're okay hun and Matthias is doing well.
    Kat xx

    1. Hi, Kat, it's lovely to hear from you!

      I'm so glad that you enjoyed the interview and I do hope that you found some inspiration. Dealing with down times, no matter what they might be, is the trickiest part of all of this. I'm sorry to hear that you've been struggling with enforced resting lately, but I'm glad that preceding it was a time of feeling good. Your upbeat, creative spirit always inspires me!

      Wishing you joy and sending hugs back your way!


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