The Good Life According to Design: A Talk with Digital Artist and Creator of Bon Bon Vie, Shari Neal Monday 29 August, 2011

Shari Neal is making the big leap, and her art is moving her forward. A front-end web developer at an advertising agency, she recently resigned to run her graphic t-shirt company, Bon Bon Vie, full time. Shari is a “self-proclaimed t-shirt addict, web developer and sometimes art director/designer … after she realized that she could […]

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Shari Neal, "Brown Skin Lady" Tee

Shari Neal is making the big leap, and her art is moving her forward. A front-end web developer at an advertising agency, she recently resigned to run her graphic t-shirt company, Bon Bon Vie, full time. Shari is a “self-proclaimed t-shirt addict, web developer and sometimes art director/designer … after she realized that she could design and wear her own stuff instead of spending her whole paycheck on t-shirts” she launched her own company that is now known for it’s fun, clean aesthetic. Born to Belizean parents and raised in Chicago, she is a proud city girl and Brown Skin Lady. Through her art, and graphic tee company, she communicates love for self, roots and the good life. Here, she discusses her love for graphic design and growth as an artistic entrepreneur.

As I mentioned, we love what you’re doing with Bon Bon Vie! Where does the name Bon Bon Vie come from? What do you want your brand to represent? 

Thank you! The name Bon Bon Vie comes from a song of the same name by T.S. Monk (Jazz legend Thelonius Monk’s son). A music nerd friend of mine introduced me to this song a few years ago and I’ve been a fan of it ever since. Also, Bon Vie means “Good Life” in French and I felt like starting this business was my opportunity to build my own good life.

I wanted my brand to represent positivity, pride and self love. I want my customers to feel good about wearing my tees.

What do you think has been the biggest challenge in developing Bon Bon Vie? 

The biggest challenge has been starting a business with absolutely no business background or education. When I started this, I only knew a little bit about screen printing and the t-shirt/apparel industry, so it was a pretty steep learning curve. But, I did insane amounts of research and reading to get up to speed. In the end, I think being naive about some things may have worked to my benefit.

Bon Bon Vie, "Entrepreneur" Tee

Sometimes when you know a lot about something and the risks involved, you may not take as many chances. Since I was kind of jumping in blind, I just went for it and luckily everything worked out.

How did you become interested in graphic design? Do you remember the moment you knew you wanted to be a graphic designer?

I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer in college, but I was already a Journalism major with an emphasis in Advertising at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I didn’t want to change my major and be in school any more than 4 years, so I just finished the path I was on and did graphic design on the side.

In college I ended up getting 2 campus graphic design jobs, so I was still able to get a design education even though that’s not what I initially went there for.

How would you say your personal design aesthetic has changed over time?

I would say my aesthetic has become a lot cleaner and simpler over time. When I began designing, it was easy to get caught up in trends and focus more on what cool effects I could use in Photoshop and Illustrator than actual ideas and concepts. Now, I tend to lean more towards simplicity.

Who are some of your favorite graphic designers?  

I really respect a lot of designers that did their thing back in the day before computers. Some of my all time favorites are Saul Bass and Herb Lubalin. Currently, my favorite designer is Vaughn Fender, his work is so much fun.

You are a proud Chicago girl. How does the city inspire your work?

Shari Neal, "Rep Chi" Tee

Chicago inspires me just by being Chicago. City life is all I really know. Plus, Chicago has some of the best architecture and museums in the world–it’s impossible to not be inspired here.

Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?

To me, living unchained means going after your dreams and not letting anyone or anything hold you back.

Make sure to visit Shari’s online store and check out Bon Bon Vie on Facebook and Twitter. She will be vending at Cola Con in South Carolina on September 2nd–if you’re in the area stop by and say hi!

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3 Comments

  • simone says:

    Awesome. I’m a huge fan of Bon Bon Vie & glad to see Live Unchained highlight Shari’s work as “art”

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