Name: Polly Vadasz
University: Illustration @ Leeds College of Art
Super power: Sighh Designs shop owner
Saving the world: one phone case at a time…
Sassy pencil cases, “My brain is big enough” revision tattoos, honest student shop tote bags and phone cases that read “I need to stop being such an arsing perfectionist”: meet the uber cool student behind Sighh designs as she works out balancing a jobby (job+hobby), a degree, AND the weekly food shop.
When Polly was only 15, she was putting out her drawings on instagram to positive feedback. After making 10 phone cases and selling them on Etsy, she made some more…and more. And so Sighh Designs was born.
After a gap year to work on her shop, Polly enrolled at the Leeds College of Art to do Graphic Design which didn’t benefit her shop as much as expected, so changed courses to Illustration. She is determined to keep Sighh going:”Hopefully Illustration will really help develop my style so that I can continue to bring out more ambitious products.”
“Sighh has always been a creative outlet, it’s what I find fun, it’s a hobby…a jobby. It’s really good that I’ve managed to have a creative outlet that’s also productive I guess. It keeps me sane.”
When we talk about balancing uni life on top of extra-curriculars (never mind a successful business) Polly emphasises how easy it is to slip into focusing on a social life. She admits that for the first 2 months of uni she concentrated on building a life for herself: “I went fully into freshers. I really focused on friendships and getting to grips with the course. It’s important to prioritise different things at different points so you never let anything slide.”
At this point she had managed to build up Sighh to a point where it would run without much input. To be free and have a life away from it, she says “it’s all about strategy, building up a rhythm that you are so natural with that it can slide into every day. You have enough hours it’s just about what you prioritise.”
Being at University has influenced her designs but perhaps not in the way you’d think. Her quirky style remains the same, but she admits to being more methodical now.
“I bring out less products than I would on my gap year or before, but I work on them, research them, and spend weeks doing them, as if they were uni projects. I went to uni to get a design process, as they teach you to take on briefs instead of me just drawing or doodling.”
The student focus to the products on www.sighh.co is obvious. Polly thinks about the goals of her target market, and says: “I try and promote a really hard-working, creative person as the ideal customer, through products like motivational prints. It’s all about inspiring people to be better, because that’s what I tried to do when I started uni – work really hard and make the most of my time.”
Her student-aimed products include notebooks, budget planners, revision planners, and exam season temporary tattoos. Student life “is so inspiring; I like the little ironies of being a student. I find inspiration in passive aggressiveness, as seen with the Halls Sweet Halls prints.”
The sarcastic student sense of humour is ever present – who hasn’t said ‘I totally have my life together’ at one point when it all gets too much? Her reason for making these is “to motivate people, with positivity and fun sarcastic stuff that students have to go through.”
“Students have so many different emotions and they’re so fun to tap into for different products. I also think you need nice things around you when you’re going through stress. You need motivational prints on the wall, you need a nice notebook to write in to inspire you to do work. That’s the stuff that I would have liked to have, so I want to make it.”
Polly’s student must haves
- Tote bags. “Tote bags are so easy, you can have them slung over your shoulder with your hand bag.”
- Work stickers. “Customise any book – favourite diary, or other style of book to write in with fun stickers.”
- Today’s activities/revision planner. “I’m doing it now for every hour of the day but need to figure out how to lay it out. I also want to do a meal planner, but they’re only future products probably so keep an eye out.”
The best time to start is now. Take advantage of the facilities around you, Polly advises: “Especially as an arts student, you have screen printing facilities and cheap printers around you so it’s really easy to make small batches. Whereas if you’re trying to outsource you have to buy really big quantities, so it’s harder to start.”
Sighh clearly isn’t just a side job, as Polly seems determined to continue after her degree: “People say arts students can’t get jobs, whatever. It’s a big fear not to have a job when you finish uni but if you make one yourself then you feel secure. I feel like I absolutely want to keep it going. It’s such a valuable opportunity and I’ll be really pissed off if I let it go.”
The future goals of Sighh Designs is to become a studio with other people working for the brand, but Polly doesn’t want it to be her whole career. The dream is to have people buy directly but also sell to other companies. Polly sighs as she pictures her designs on the shelves of Urban Outfitters.
“Just imagine being in urban outfitters, I’d be so happy. I really hope I can get stocked, that would be really really cool.”
Her advice for students is be well rounded and not give up on your passions. Most importantly, to never think of yourself as “just a student.”
“You are a young creative or you are a young person in the industry you’re learning. You’re still worth it, you might not have the qualifications but you still know these skills and can do things. So just try. May as well start now.
Polly doesn’t put her student status in her bio to stop peoples perceptions of the label, and advises it to anyone wanting to feel more confident in taking on work or putting yourself out there. “You can’t feel less of yourself because you’re a student, everybody has to learn at some point.”
For now Sighh Designs is moving out of the studio and back into the creator’s second year bedroom to inject a little more fun into it and so Polly can use her down time to do what she loves.
Polly summarises: “Being a Super Student isn’t being crazy and doing 5 peoples work at once. Manage your time and your priorities. Make sure it stays fun and don’t spread yourself too thin.”
There’s no doubt that Polly Vadasz fits into our ‘Super Student’ category when she answers our question “What do you do when you hang up your cape?” with “When do you ever hang up your cape? You go to sleep!” She calls Sighh a jobby because it is what she loves to do in her spare time, designing new products as relaxation. “When you’re doing something you really really love, it doesn’t feel like work – that funny quote” she laughs at her own sarcasm, though perhaps realising it’s true.
Beth Hurst should be reading for her English Literature and Creative Writing degree at the University of Warwick, but is probably watching Suits. She enjoys green tea, tap dancing and things that glitter.