In the run up to our very first SR:D Interiors Showcase we chat with Ella Doran, award-winning British designer and one fifth of our illustrious judging panel. Drawing inspiration from pop artists and cultural icons around the world, Ella creates fresh designs every season adding to her extensive portfolio of home accessories and furnishings. Having ran her own business for over twenty years, she offers tip-top advice to aspiring designers and gives SR:D a true insider view into the life of a die-hard designer.

What inspired you to set up your own homeware business? 

After I left college I initially sold designs through a textile agency and often I would be lucky enough to see them turn up on a silk shirt or a furnishing or bedding collection. This intrigued me, but most of all it inspired me to write a business plan and apply for a Princes Trust Loan, so I could be involved in the creative and manufacturing processes and create my own products.

Where do you get inspiration from?

Artistically, the natural and manmade everyday world I engage with as I go about my day is a major source of inspiration for me, and I have been and continue to be intrigued by the work of the pop artists for their bold visual language and willingness to engage with everyday life. I also enjoy the ongoing creative dialogue that is taking place in exhibitions, on social media and in conversations with my creative friends. In terms of running a business, Marimekko is a company I have always admired for their process and collaborative spirit.

What do you think is key to a long lasting career in design?

A lasting passion for what you’re doing, openness to continually learn about new technologies and processes and a strong network of people who support you. You have to be able to handle competition in a constructive way, especially when you’re starting out. Ideas and trends do circulate and as I am in my second decade of running my own company, I can see the cycles more clearly, so I feel less challenged by the celebrated ideas of the day than I was at the beginning of my career.

What is the most important piece of advice you have ever been given?

Play to your strengths. Employ people better than you at the job you want them to do. Remember to enjoy the journey.

What has been the biggest hurdle in your design career?

To build my business as a mother of two young boys.

How do you overcome a creative block?

When I was younger I used to pick up a book or go to a gallery to immerse myself in another artist’s work for inspiration. Today I trust the process and relax into the apprehension that always accompanies the start of a new project. I often take a walk; being in nature can change my mood instantly and reminds me about what really matters amongst what can be hectic times.

Who is your favourite designer and why?

I wouldn’t say I have a favourite designer, as there are so many creative people who are producing amazing work.

What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?

Work hard and get out there to talk lots about what you are passionate about! Learn to articulate yourself well, good communication is important! A good eye, and the contacts you make from the start are all worth their weight in gold. Treasure them. There are lots of organizations out there to support the creative industries – so tap into them!

There are still free tickets left for our SR:D Interior Design Showcase, get them now by clicking here. Looking for even more advice and insider knowledge? Join our Design Experts In Discussion at the Vision Building, Dundee.