Ollie Ennis


Ollie Ennis is the Senior Creative at SMAKK, a branding and marketing agency focused on wellbeing. Over a creative career spanning furniture making, publishing, studio art, web design and branding, Ollie has applied their voice and talent toward championing powerful ideas. Merging an interest in culture and the ways people think with design, their creative process involves truly understanding the needs of people and communities. At SMAKK, this has resulted in category-redefining work, from independent sexual wellness newcomers to multinational brands like Burt’s Bees, Bioré and Shiseido. This includes work for Barb, a LGBTQIA+ founded haircare brand for women and non-binary people with short hair and branding for Brooklyn arts org BRIC and its celebration of 50 years of Hip-Hop.

Outside of SMAKK, Ollie remains a mentor, creating space for those that don’t otherwise see themselves represented in the cultural tapestry. Beyond providing pro-bono design services for queer initiatives, they volunteer for local grass-roots organizations and events and run a monthly crafting club dedicated to fostering connection within the queer creative community. They have also spoken at the Shillington School of Graphic Design on how to carve out a space as a trans and neurodivergent person within the design industry.

Tell us how and why you became involved in socially responsible communications, any thoughts on why design can be an especially effective tool for this goal, and, if you wish, give us an example of a project of which you are proud.

As members of society I think we all have a relationship to the way communication is shaped. It’s a collective project and unfortunately one that is inclined toward the drab influence of the homogenous majority. It feels, to me, that the project of responsible design is to offer something that sparks aspiration outside those limiting confines.

We can work with resident scholars, channeling the structural roots of Hip-Hop to codify programming that encourages viable and collaborative pathways through creative inspiration. We can choose to advocate for the pleasure of post-menopausal bodies across wellness categories that hardly dared to whisper the subject. We can use the visual roots of protest and radical Black joy as an entrypoint for luxury in aisles that have never celebrated textured hair. We can open the door for the exalting effect of varied gender expression — the list goes on.

There is a universality to the medium of communication that invites inclusion. By espousing a commitment to responsibility alongside mission-driven organizers and founders, we are able to sew disruption into the ordinary tapestry of experience.

Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces, does this moment in time present any special opportunities, urgencies, obstacles to designing for good?

I think there is a tremendous urgency for responsible motivation within our industry. We have come to experience our environment through a dizzying degree of material saturation, such that it is hardly dramatic to say most people contend with their world through the veil of design’s influence. Within that, there is an agency afforded to those willing to wrestle with the realities of our condition — choosing to influence the course of its momentum rather than succumbing to denial, relinquishing our pathway to a more ethical future.