Abigail Muir is an independent designer based in Brooklyn. She’s also the co-founder of acclaimed studio The Couch, which at the time of its operation (2017-2019) had amassed an impressive roster of clients including Recess, Casper, Pentagram and Codecademy.
Homeschooled amidst orange groves and water creeks in Florida, Abby first went online when she was eight years old. It didn’t take long for the web to become her safe haven and passion. Looking back, she describes the internet of those days as a drastically different environment than the one we’ve grown accustomed to since, noting a looser, more experimental platform. “There was no established visual language like there is today, and the user experience was non-existent,” she says. “It was interesting to see the expressive ways people were communicating and designing their own little corners of the internet.”
Abby got her first website design gig at age 10, when her dad asked her to create a marketing website for the company he worked at. With very little experience, she took on the challenge with pride, laboring over everything from the site’s navigation icons to its front-end development. “I just loved the idea that there was a company somewhere in the world whose webmaster was this 10-year old in their parents’ living room, figuring out FTP clients for the first time,” recalls Abby.
“It’s exciting for me to help people find success in a way that feels meaningful to them. I think that's why I like my job.”
A people-first take on business and design
Abby’s first lessons in the power of design started as early as fifth grade. At that age, she went from being homeschooled to attending public school, which made her feel out of place. “I had no sense of what was culturally relevant or popular,” she explains, speaking of her school peers.
“They were using all these different signs and symbols to self-select into social groups. I remember noticing different designs that you could have on the back pocket of your jeans, which were critical and decided a ton about your social life.”
While admittedly, these thoughts weren’t as clearly articulated in her elementary school days, Abby now sees these events as her first encounter with branding and the effect it has over people’s lives. “Ever since then, I've been really interested in the semiotics that shape social situations.”
She went on to explore these topics further in college, majoring in strategic design and management. Today, her practice merges her business background with her take on the cultural role design plays in our lives. With this perspective leading the way, Abby starts each project by asking her clients detailed questions about their work, their most successful ads, and their customers’ top requests.
Her clients’ responses serve to inform her design choices, elevating the business’ needs and addressing its pain points through design. “I think that a lot of those things can be solved through a website. People can find information for themselves if you make it available for them,” she remarks.
Helping businesses thrive through design
With a self-made career, Abby is grateful for being able to support her family through her work. “They worked hard in order for me to get where I am,” she says. “Being able to give back and support them is a huge source of inspiration for me.”
Aside from her family, Abby is just as devoted to empowering the people behind the brands she works with. “It’s exciting for me to help people find success in a way that feels meaningful to them,” she says. “I think that's why I like my job.”
In fact, Abby wishes for her design work to spark a chain reaction of success and positivity. “I hope that the businesses I support are able to provide opportunities for other people in their spheres: the people that work for them, the people in their communities and the people working on the manufacturing side.”
Working with startups and small to medium-sized businesses means that Abby is constantly in conversation with those companies’ founding teams. She’s interested in hearing their personal stories and learning about their motivations, problems and passions. “That’s definitely what makes my work interesting,” she explains.
Lowering the entry barrier to creativity
Abby’s professional portfolio website is on Editor X. Speaking of the platform, she’s appreciative of how “it lowers the barrier to entry for people to craft their visions and build their businesses from the ground up on their own terms, even if they’re not designers or developers by trade.”
The tools that are available for young designers today get Abby excited for being part of a new generation of creatives. “The access, ability and flexibility that you have with your work and how you share and publish it, is incredible.”
The websites Abby designs are usually clean and uncluttered, straying over from an overly stimulating experience yet still captivating with a unique spark of personality. “I think that authenticity is really fun, because a lot of websites are super sterile,” she says. “Little informal moments make it feel like there are real people behind the website.”
And for Abby, it’s the people that it’s really all about — those who end up using the website, and those whose businesses, dreams and livelihood are behind it all.
Watch more of Abby’s story in the series: Design’s New Wave.