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womens history month hero image graphic all too well
womens history month hero image graphic all too well
Photo by Emily Kelley

Ekelleydesign: Ain’t That The (Best) Thing You Ever Heard?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Meet Emily Kelley: after a passion project that started three years ago blew up on TikTok, Emily has created a successful small business selling her original designs on stickers, apparel, and prints. Her most famous pieces are inspired by Taylor Swift, and her TikTok account @ekelleydesign has an incredible 137,000 followers and 8 million likes, along with nearly 12,000 followers on Instagram @ekelleydesign. She’s successfully found a way to combine her passion for drawing and illustration with her love for pop culture to create her own business, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with her to talk about her journey. 

HCUCF: The Taylor Swift project blew up during quarantine and you’ve amassed 8 million likes on TikTok from the illustrations you were doing. Can you describe your initial reaction to how the project was received? 

Emily Kelley: Absolutely surreal, waking up and finding that a video I’d posted had so many likes and comments and finding out people wanted to see more of it was truly so surreal. I’d wanted to illustrate and design more and thought that given the circumstances of quarantine this would be a perfect time to do that, and Taylor’s music had also been on my mind and so I just started to design. 

HCUCF: Can you explain your design process? 

EK: Chaos. The process is very chaotic and usually the inspiration will just hit and I immediately have to write something down or sketch it out. I have piles of notes in my sketchbooks on how I should do something. There are moments when I have my “Taylor Swift moment” and will wake up at 2 a.m. to jot something down. There’s no set timeline, it could take an hour or it could take six months to finish after I have the initial thought. 

HCUCF: Is there a specific design that you did that sticks out to you the most?

EK: Yes, the album flowers illustration was one that I was proud of because it was a departure from what I’d previously been doing when I was only illustrating the songs. Followers on my page responded really well to the album flowers and I realized that I could create more designs that weren’t super specific to a song because people still wanted to see it. Additionally, the All Too Well illustration was one I was very proud of because there was so much pressure from the start of the Taylor Swift project. All Too Well is one of my favorite songs and is one that is so special and important to the fans, and I was receiving so many comments and emails asking when I was going to do an illustration that I felt so much pressure to get it right. I knew that I couldn’t just draw a scarf, and so when the idea came to me and I was able to finish the design I was so happy to see that there were so many followers and Taylor Swift fans that liked it, and so I’m proud of that design as well. 

poster with 1 flower for each Taylor Swift album that lists the album name and release date
Photo by Emily Kelley
All Too Well illustration graphic
Photo by Emily Kelley

HCUCF: I feel that because Taylor Swift has such a gift of storytelling, and is so detail-orientated, she’s one of the best people to draw inspiration from and that’s something that I think small business artists like yourself do a great job capturing — would you agree?

EK: Yes, Taylor has so many details and little Easter eggs within her music for the fans to find and I think that because I’m a fan I’m aware of the Swiftie references that fans are looking for. So many small businesses are run by fans and so they know what the fans want and that’s why so many are doing so well right now. In my own experience I know that when I was designing the Taylor Swift fantasy map there were so many locations and references from songs, but I know I probably still missed so many even still. I love that in my song illustrations there are some little references as well that Swifties would understand and after a few glances they can have the “AHA” moment and realize what lyric or symbol I was trying to capture from the song. 

ntasy map graphic inspired by places that Taylor Swift writes music about
Photo by Emily Kelley

HCUCF: What’s your favorite song and album? 

EK: Lover is my favorite album but Red is one that’s very nostalgic to me. Lover is the album that brought me back into the Taylor Swift stan culture. It’s possible that Midnights could be my favorite too but it’s still too early to tell. As far as songs, I love “All Too Well”, “Cruel Summer”, “Treacherous”, and “Maroon”. It’s so hard to pick just a few, though. 

HCUCF: You were able to see Taylor on opening night in Glendale, and then for her second show. What was that like?

EK: I felt every emotion ever. It’d been 10 years since I last saw her in concert and I was so nervous. On the plane ride there I couldn’t even eat and didn’t relax until I was physically sitting in the stadium. As soon as she started singing it was the best experience. There was truly nothing like it. 

Photo of Taylor Swift in a blue dress with \
Photo by Emily Kelley

HCUCF: What are some of your goals for the future?

EK: I’d love to work in the music industry for any artists doing more designing — specifically merchandise. I think It’d be so cool to see people wearing my work. As an artist I’d like to branch out and work on more projects so that I’m known for my own style beyond my Taylor Swift work. 

HCUCF: Your platform is so inspiring because you’re combining your passions and doing something you love while making others so happy — what advice would you give to anyone who’s thinking of starting on their own creative journey? 

EK: Even though this sounds cliche, there’s no harm in trying and if you love something, it’ll be obvious. I love what I do and what I want to do is create art and people can see that and so they appreciate that and will support you. It’s the best feeling knowing that I get to do what I love and people are enjoying it and so all I can say is try it!

Hailey is a junior at the University of Central Florida pursuing a degree in marketing and a minor in mass media. Besides writing, her hobbies include keeping up with celebrity gossip, reading, making collages and watching TV. She cites her biggest inspirations as Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Blake Lively, but deep down knows that some days you just wake up feeling like Nick Miller.