Ngaio Parr, Founder & Director

Photo by  Elize Strydom

Photo by Elize Strydom

Ngaio Parr is our Founder, Director and fearless leader. She dreamed-up Make Nice as a freelance designer, illustrator and business-lady with too much on her plate. When she isn't pursuing all her creative practices she's usually at the beach.

What do you do?

I like to do a lot of things at the same time. I’m a multidisciplinary designer, illustrator, and curator and work with clients like Redbull, Young Henrys, Triple J, and Thames & Hudson from my independent studio. I’m also the founder and director of Make Nice, and teach at the University of Technology Sydney.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

What’s the worst that can happen? Always give me that extra boost when I’m scared of something new.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

My first degree in Fine Arts (Visual Arts) really shaped the way I think and work. Amongst many other valuable lesson it taught me to follow my interest, to think (and write) critically, to get outside my comfort zone as often as possible, and to make things happen rather than waiting and hoping they will. Without these skills I would definitely not be where I am today.

Midway through my second degree (Design) I saved up enough money to do an exchange at the Rhode Island School of Design. If you don’t know it – it is one of, if not the best design school in the world, and it really opened my eyes and challenged me in the best way possible. That time informs how I structure my day, my design process, the projects I want to work on, and most importantly, how I teach.

I’m not one to look back after I’ve finished a project, and I vividly remember a good friend sitting me down after Make Nice and telling me to think about what I had achieved. I’m so humbled and proud to have created such a wonderful event and community (with the help of a village). Make Nice is a big milestone on my path.


Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?

The first time I saw Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie in the flesh, reading Johanna Druckers Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity,  listening to Paul McCartney perform live after loving him from afar since I could walk (so many tears!), and reading Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic.

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

I’m going through the roughest year of my life so I’ve been listening to a lot of really sad music. Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy, and Laura Marling’s Semper Femina, and I’ve been giving the new Fleet Foxes track Third Of May / Odaigahara a real work out too - it is perfect to listen to on repeat while you are in a plane, hovering above the clouds.

I’m usually all about crime shows (Law & Order forever) but at the moment I’m really into Riverdale (for escapism and Jughead), Big Little Lies (for everything), and Designated Survivor (for wishful thinking on behalf of my American pals).

As for reading I’m still getting through Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, and have Shrill by Lindy West and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi on the boil too.


Photo by  Elize Strydom

Photo by Elize Strydom

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

I have a little illustration project with a dream client which is right up my alley, a series of magazine covers I’m kicking off for a lovely publication, and a book design with the lovely folks at Thames & Hudson. I’m speaking at a couple of conferences coming up and am excited about that too!

What is your dream project?

I have too many! I would love to design and illustrate for some publications like Riposte Magazine, Apartamento, Broadly or TIME; to draw and install a mural work; to do more book covers; to create illustrations for a fashion label like Romance Was Born; to have an exhibition of my drawings; to design a publication for the Walker Art Center; to write a book for creative women; to work with some of my favourite musicians on their packaging or posters; to travel for projects more; and to speak at more conferences and events for starters.  But really, any project that involves powerful, engaged, and intelligent women (Miranda July, Karen O, Adi Goodrich, Jessica Hopper you there?!).

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

Make Nice made this all happen! My team at Make Nice amazes me with their talent, generosity and wit every single fucking day. And our community is better than I ever could have dreamed. I’m constantly getting message from amazing women around the world who are generous in their knowledge, time, and opinions.

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

My superpower is planning holidays.

What places are important to you?

Endless Summer is the dream for me - I'm a true Queenslander in that sense. Sydney (Clovelly), Gold Coast (Burleigh), Kauai, Los Angeles and New York in spring/summer are my happy place - and anywhere else you can smell the salt in the air. I'd also love to visit Tangier - I feel like it'll be magical.

When I’m not travelling I’m a real homebody and I largely work from my home studio so it is important to have the right balance and feel good in the space. Calm and bright, with lot of plants, plenty of artwork, and music always.

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

Well, I created Make Nice so I feel like I’ve already showed my cards on this one!

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

I helped write these questions so this is rigged.

How can we find our more about your work? and @ngaio_ on everything else.

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?  

Lisa Hanawalt - I love her (from afar in a non-creepy way).