Who's That Gal: Allie Runnion, Graphic Designer & Illustrator

Last week, Meredith, Suzanne, and I caught up with a hometown friend of mine, 

Allie Runnion

. I've always admired Allie's artistic talent and keen eye for vintage treasures - but we were curious, how does a 26-year old artist balance life as a young professional? We meet Allie along the

Rose Kennedy Greenway

, grabbed some

free spaghetti from the Prince Pasta

truck and chatted all things art, design, and thrift!

What exactly do you do as a graphic designer?

I design a wide variety of materials such as logos, posters, book covers, magazines and brochures, as well as websites.

I especially love designing logos. I love the challenge of finding a very simple solution to a complex problem. You know it's successful when the idea and visuals click into place, and it just works. The firm I work for currently does a lot of design for larger financial companies such as Fidelity. Although sometimes these projects can be very restrictive, I find that such constrictions often push me to think more creatively yielding better results.

Where do you turn for inspiration?

I love


! I'm constantly collecting visual inspiration on my boards. I've found the key is curating a good set of feeds to follow. Instead of following too many friends (via facebook), I follow other designers and bloggers who post visually interesting things. A few of my favorites are Diana Moss of


, and Mallory McInnis of


. I also keep boards of photographic reference for my drawings and for specific projects, as well as color and stylistic references. I'm drawn to anything with a ‘50s and '60s vintage vibe.

Aside from digital, what is your favorite medium?

Painting. Unfortunately, painting takes a lot of time, so I haven’t been able to do as much as I'd like since college. In school I developed a way of working in acrylics, where I would use sandpaper to rough up the surface in between layers. More recently I’ve been working on a series of charcoal drawings. I'm lucky to have a studio space in my apartment in Cambridgeport, so I’m able to dedicate a bit of time every day to work on my drawings.

How have you evolved as an artist since graduating from RISD in 2009?

Slowly. I have worked hard to gain more experience in graphic design and build a solid design portfolio, so while I have grown as a designer, my illustration skills have taken the back burner. I had so much more time in college to focus on my painting and drawing. I’d love to be able to get back to that level of production, but right now it is difficult to balance with a 9 to 5 job.

What are your personal goals as an artist?

My goal is to get to the point that I'm consistently making good work that plays to my strengths. I feel like there is so much left to explore before I really know what those strengths are. I'd love to eventually be a pattern designer or a children's book illustrator—or both!

We follow you on instagram and love seeing your latest vintage finds!  And, as it turns out, we are about to head to Brimfield. What tips can you give us for finding the coolest flea market treasures?

I’m going too! I like to go on Sundays because I seem to find the best deals. Since many of the dealers are beginning to pack up shop, they'd rather give you a good price than take it back home. Many of the booths even have 50% off sales. Of course, you get last pick, but it depends on how serious and specific you are about what you are looking for. Avoid the tents that look too “done up”. Chances are that if a tent looks like the inside of an Anthropologie store, the prices are pretty high (although they can be a great source of visual inspiration!). Another way to avoid overpaying for anything is to set limits for yourself before you even get out of the car.

What is your favorite vintage find so far?

Over the years I’ve compiled a collection of bakelite flatware piece by piece. I love the mixed colors and how each piece is unique.

Any favorite vintage-hunting spots in the city or surrounding area?

Haha, honestly, the Salvation Army on Route 1 in Saugus has great stuff. It's far enough away from the city that it doesn’t get too picked over. I also grew up going to the Todd Farm Flea Market in Rowley on Sundays, and I try to make it up there a few times each season. (Go early! The dealers start setting up as early as 5 AM!)

What is your favorite museum/gallery in Boston?

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

. They have a great collection of Sargents!

How has Boston inspired your work?

I don't know that it has directly inspired my work, but it's a definite part of me since I grew up in the Boston area. I love the character of different neighborhoods in Boston—Cambridge/Somerville, the North End, JP, the South End. It is such a great walking city, and there are always new areas to explore.

We know from your webpage that you love dogs, do you have a favorite breed?

Labs or lab mixes, but I pretty much love all dogs! I was able to foster a couple of rescue pups a few summers back and it was the greatest experience. The only downside to my great apartment is that I can't have pets!

- Cameron