Photography by markbway

Floyd Johnson, founder of the budding brand Ohio Against The World, is a firm believer in strengthening his community in any way that he can. Since he began OATW in 2009, Floyd has created an amazing platform for Ohio that reaches far and wide. From the time that he was creating out of his apartment he’s always tried to keep things as local as possible, allowing those around him to grow with the brand.

Now that OATW has expanded beyond the apartment and is collaborating with great companies like Hoist, Floyd still manages to shine light on Ohio’s talent. For the design of the limited edition hydration drink’s label he called on the amazing young designer Lauren Dorman who has worked with the brand on designs in the past. I had the opportunity of speaking with Lauren about her approach for the design, remaining relevant in Ohio, what she has her hands in now, and more. Read our conversation below.

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VANICE ALEXANDER: Can you tell Ohio Streets who you are?

LAUREN DORMAN: My name is Lauren Dorman and I’m a designer and front-end developer based in the Midwest. Toledo is home, but I’ve bounced around the Midwest quite a bit. I cycle, attend an insane amount of concerts, travel as often as possible and teach in my spare time. I’m a selective freelancer. I like pseudo-science and pseudo-elements.

How and when did you become interested in design and front-end development?

I became interested in design at a young age. I asked my mom for Paint Shop Pro 8 for Christmas when I was 12. That was my first introduction to digital design. I was a really weird kid, so I started creating signatures for the forums I would post on. Music forums, Sole Collector, you name it. I found myself picking it back up in high school as a hobby, got pretty good at it and landed a few freelance jobs from family and friends. Front-end development came into the picture about 3 years ago. I was working a job as a print designer and they needed help with their website, so it was a natural evolution. I always loved type and layout, development felt like second nature. I was self-taught, using Treehouse, CodeSchool and other tutorials to consume all that I could. The rest was history.

Did you know that this was the career for you back then? If not, when did you realize it?

I had a really bad case of imposter syndrome starting out. It took me a while to figure things out. It wasn’t until I graduated from college and started my first job at a start-up that I really knew. I was given the opportunity to break a few things, which required solutions. That’s what I love most about development, solving problems.

I’m not too familiar with your industry, but it does appear to be a male-dominated field. Have you had any challenges that you’ve had to overcome being a female in this business?

In general, people tend to make very sexist comments, but I don’t mind correcting them or bringing it to their attention. Right now, we’re in a strange time in the web industry because companies are aware that it’s male-dominated. Sometimes I feel like I’m being treated as a commodity. “Look, we hired a black person” or “look, we hired a woman.” Not to mention that I’m queer… I’m a triple minority and tech companies want diversity right now. It’s a weird space for me to be in sometimes.

Sometimes I feel like I’m being treated as a commodity.

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Your style is very clean and sleek, but with just the right amount of edge to pop, I’m a fan. Who or what are some of your influences when it comes to your design work?

I’m inspired by salads. They’re colorful, well-balanced, simple and easy to consume. Eat more salads.

I know that you lived in Chicago for a while before moving back to Ohio, do you feel like that city had an influence on your work?

Absolutely. I was influenced by the people around me more than anything. It changed my entire work ethic. I’m from Toledo, where most people find their happy place and never leave it. In Chicago, people bust their ass and work hard – that changed everything for me. I was fortunate enough to work with a lot of talented people while I was there. I spent some time working at Fat Tiger Workshop with Joe, Terrell, Vic and the rest of the team. Their work has always inspired me. I’m glad I was able to contribute and work under such a cool umbrella during my time there. I was exposed to a lot.

You’re behind some of the best designs in Ohio, from your CourtesyOf flyers, the OATW bomber jacket, your work with AnimalXHouse and more. Now you’re collaborating with Hoist, that’s huge. Congratulations! How’d that come about?

Floyd had been in talks with Hoist about a collaboration for quite some time. When it came time for OATW and Hoist to team up, he wanted me involved. It’s essentially a limited edition, artist series bottle for the MLB All-Star Game. And I’m super grateful for the opportunity. I’ve been in awe working with Floyd, honestly. We help bring each other’s visions to life. We have a really great working relationship.

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What was your approach for designing this?

I honestly just wanted to have fun with it. I wanted it to be playful and bright. Something that could be displayed as art. It started with a sketch of wave forms and it transformed into something that feels nostalgic. It reminds me of summer as a kid. Remember Super Soakers? A Super Soaker 2000 is like $100-$150 on eBay. That’s insane to me.

Remember Super Soakers? A Super Soaker 2000 is like $100-$150 on eBay.

Are you working on any projects at the moment?

I have quite a few projects underway. I’m working on a few internal projects with AnimalXHouse and gearing up for OATW’s Fall/Winter collection as well. It will be unlike anything you’ve seen from OATW in the past, so I’m really excited to have a hand in it. I have a few other collaborations and personal projects in the works as well, but they’re under wraps for now.

How have you managed to stay active within Ohio’s creative community? A lot of people struggle with that because the scene is on the smaller side.

I take the time to listen to people and their ideas. If you’re working on something cool, I want to be a part of it. I’ve always been the type of person to reach out to people that I admire. I approach people with my thoughts and ideas. In turn, a lot of people come to me for advice when they’re working on certain projects or need an honest opinion. Those are the type of relationships that I like to build.

Things seem to be shifting within Ohio’s culture, slowly but surely. How do you feel about where Ohio’s heading?

I say this all the time, but I really mean it, I love Ohio. There’s a Forbes article where Mark Zablow says, “The amount of swag coming out of Ohio is at the same level of anything in New York or LA.” I was glad that someone who wasn’t from Ohio put that in writing. It’s true. Our culture is constantly growing. We may be behind in some ways, but the progress we’ve made over the past few years has been inspiring. Ohio makes me proud.

Mark Zablow says, “The amount of swag coming out of Ohio is at the same level of anything in New York or LA.”

Do you have any advice for the budding designers reading this? Maybe something that you wish you had known when you first got started in this business. 

Start making the work that you want to create now, even if you don’t know how. Don’t create limitations for yourself. Trial and error and failure – they’re all good things. Work hard, work often.

Thanks so much Lauren. 

Come celebrate with Lauren Dorman, Ohio Against The World, and everyone else involved in this project this Saturday. 

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