With the unveiling of American Girl’s “Create Your Own” line, girls have the opportunity to design their own one-of-a-kind apparel and accessories. What better opportunity to hear from two of American Girl’s designers! Annie Nguyen, an AG product design manager who holds a BFA in toy design, and Rebecca DeKuiper, an AG project designer with degrees in apparel design and a passion for toy design, have the combined experience of 25 years in design at American Girl! Here, they share some of their joys and insights related to the process of creating innovative and unique projects. Read on and be inspired!

Q&A with Annie and Rebecca


To begin, what drew you to design?

Annie: I’ve always loved making things and working with my hands. As a child I spent hours making a dollhouse out of cardboard and paper.

Rebecca: My grandma taught me to sew when I was young. I always wanted to make my own clothes but I never wanted to use a pattern. Most of the time my sewing projects were a disaster, but I still loved creating something new.

I also grew up with a Kirsten doll that I loved. I was constantly making things for her. Getting to design for a brand that was such an important part of my childhood was a dream come true!

Where is your favorite place to work?

Annie: My dining room table. I love being in the hub of the house: there’s so much energy.

Rebecca: Anytime I can work outside is a good day!

Rebecca

“When I get so involved in designing that time flies by, I know I’m doing something right.”

How would you describe your creative process?

Annie: Methodical Randomness. I like starting from a point of view and following a process, but sometimes my brain leads me down unexpected paths. I begin by gathering inspiration and creating mood boards. From there the designs start to take form.

Rebecca: It’s a lot of trial and error. I never really know exactly where something is going until I start playing with it. When I get so involved in designing that time flies by, I know I’m doing something right.

“Seeing the joy our products bring to girls really inspires me”

Rebecca

What inspires you?

Annie: Everything inspires me! When you pay attention to the world around you, inspiration can come from the most unexpected places.

Rebecca: I love seeing what our customers do with our products. There are so many creative and talented AG fans out there! Seeing the joy our products bring to girls really inspires me to keep coming up with new and exciting things.

What is the best thing about working in design?

Annie: Being able to create every day! Nothing brings me more joy than designing!

Rebecca: I love the challenge of creating something completely new. It’s also really rewarding to see the products you designed have a positive impact on girls’ lives.

Annie

“You might spend all day working on something and feel like it is not quite right.”

As a professional designer, what is one thing about your field that might surprise nonprofessionals?

Annie: Some days you get creative block. You might spend all day working on something and feel like it is not quite right. Then the next day you start from scratch and design the perfect thing in an hour.

Rebecca: That the work doesn’t stop when a design is created. We want to make sure the design vision stays intact all the way through the process of getting it to the customer. That means reviewing samples, approving photo shoot images, reviewing story ties, and so much more.

Finally, what would you like to tell girls who are interested in design?

Annie: There are so many disciplines of design. Try a few, and find one that brings you joy. Ask for, and be open to, feedback: everyone has an opinion or perspective to share, and sometimes it can make your design better.

Rebecca: Explore as many creative outlets as possible. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake; sometimes that leads you to something even better.