I’ve never considered myself to have an illustration style. That felt like something that was reserved for “proper artists”. I’m just someone who was goofing around and had a side hobby. But recently I’ve had lots of comments from other people on “my style” saying how distinctive it is, or that they wanted something commissioned in that style. For me, that was a bit of a revelation. But going back through my work over the last few months I do have a style – you can see it just from Instagram – and it’s so exciting. So I thought I’d share some thoughts on finding and having a style, because it’s been something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

The Story Behind: My Greeting Card Designs

So how did I get here? The style I have now wasn’t so much developed out of a choice of a set process it’s come more from making so much over the last year and finding a way of working that I really enjoy. I guess the age old idea that the only way to find your style is to put the work in is true. You can really see the difference between what I was producing a year ago, say in my alphabet series and the images you see on my blog and Instagram now. There’s a certain quality of line and an obvious colour palette which I think is probably which ties my work together most obviously.

As I said I always wanted to have a style, growing up I would see illustrator’s whose work you could identify instantly and whose work really came together as a consistent body of pieces. Their styles not only made their work identifiable their style really added something of their own personality and character into their pieces when if they were on vastly different subjects or commissions.

My Colour Challenge

However, now that I kind of have a style I want to change things up a bit. I love having something consistent and identifiable but I don’t want my work to become static. That’s part of the reason I’m doing the 10 week colour challenge I recently wrote about. I want my style to grow and evolve with me a bit more, I don’t just want to be black lines on an off-white background. So I’m thinking of playing with materials and colours, or perhaps stylising my lines more and keeping my colour palette. I want to experiment.

As I was feeling kind of hesitant about that experimentation because I don’t want to lose the style I’ve put so many hours in to create. So I went back through the work of those artists I used to, and still do, take inspiration from. I dug through their archives, and even the ones I thought of as being so distinctive have changed year on year, sometimes only subtly but they’ve certainly refined and evolved. That was such an exciting revelation. Style doesn’t have to be fixed at any point, it can change with you.

The Story Behind: My Zine

So I’m going to just keep working, and playing and hopefully the next stage of my style will creep up on me just like this one did. Also, if you see some wildly out of character pieces in the next few weeks and months know that I don’t plan on being a completely different illustrator but one who has the scope to work in a new way.

This is the third and final installment of my mini-series about my room (read parts one and two). I’m closing the series, for now at least, with a bit of an insight into how I used design thinking to shape my room and make the most of the space, as well as some top rental room renovation tips.

First off, I thought it would be worth doing a quick recap of what design thinking is, in case you haven’t come across it before. Design thinking is all about taking a user-centric approach to a problem and then solving it in a hands-on iterative way. You focus on the real user to build something they actually need, rather than what you think they need. Taking this insight and working with it iteratively, prototyping and testing means you fail small and often as part of a process rather than dedicating a huge amount of time and resources to a project that might have an underlying flaw you hadn’t noticed. This process can take slightly longer at first, but it becomes more time and energy efficient overall because you work out more of the kinks at the start. If you’d like to know more about design thinking, check out the full post I wrote about it. 

So how do you apply that relatively abstract concept to designing your space?

  1. Work out how you use a space – live in the space for a while. Where do you spend the most time? Is there anything you can’t do that you want to? Is there anything you don’t need?
  2. Start with the bare minimum and find out what you need as you want to reach for things – can you hack a solution to see if it will fulfill your needs, can you prototype the solution you want to see if it works?
  3. Test before you buy – measure your space and get a feel for what will fit, and try things in store – especially if you’re buying furniture.
  4. Research the most user-friendly option – write up a list of requirements and shop according to those rather than blankly looking for a chair within a certain budget – what is that chair for? What do you want it to do? Where do you want it to fit?
  5. Consider the future life of your space – what you need your space to do will evolve with you, make sure you consider your future needs/changes when your designing. Where possible make life easier for future you.

In practice, what this meant for me was living in my space for a while before I started really getting into designing it and buying any new pieces. There are some things in my room that are completely fixed, my bed can’t go anywhere, the shower and sink and plumbed in, I’m not sure I could fit my desk in another space even if I tried.

But when I moved in there was a second desk in what is my living area, there were no drawers in the wardrobe, there was no extra shelving, there were no towel hooks and there certainly wasn’t an armchair. For the first few weeks, I worked out what I needed and what I didn’t, and started by priority. I needed somewhere to store my socks stat. The second desk just got in my way and I never touched it because I preferred the natural light in my office. I wanted some more shelves to store bits that I reached for a lot whether that was paper or face wash.

Illustrated Room Tour

The big space design project I’ve been working on is the seating/living area. I started with a minimum viable product (MVP) solution which was a floor cushion. It gave me somewhere to sit and was easy to put away to give me extra space. But after a while, I found it wasn’t comfortable enough, and I didn’t get any joy out of sitting on the floor – I wanted to feel like a grown-up. I trialed using my desk chair but it became a pain point for me to move the chair and not to have the separation of work and rest. So, I knew I had to find another solution. I wrote a list of user (my) requirements that included: something big enough that I could tuck my feet up, something light that was easily moveable for when I leave, something that was neutral and not too bulky to fit with my space. I also knew I would need a side table for tea and books because I would always have them with me when I sat down on the floor. Then I did my research and found a chair and table I thought would work. Then I marked out the space it would fit in with washi tape and attempted to move around it for a week to check it wouldn’t hamper my routine. Only then did I buy my new chair, and you know what it’s absolutely perfect for what I needed (and within budget).

And finally…here are just a few extra rental room renovation top tips:

  1. Find out what you’re allowed to change – check your contract before you do anything substantial
  2. Command hooks and washi tape are your best friends
  3. There’s a lot you can do with soft furnishings – rugs make rooms more homely. Changing your bedding can change a room try something more neutral if a space is too loud or small, or picking a statement colour if the space needs a little life. New curtains (as long as you hold onto the old ones) can be used to let more light in and can almost be as good as repainting
  4. Measure your doors before you buy any furniture – this is just a general life thing
  5. Use lighting to transform a small space for different occasions – I have a working light, a daytime light, and a set of evening time lights (aka fairy lights) which help me differentiate the space for different uses without having to really change anything

How have you made your room your own? Would you like more mini-series like this?

This is the second post in my mini home series. Now you know the lay of the land, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite design pieces that really make the space feel like it belongs to someone who’s slightly cooler than me!

THIS PAINTING

The most obvious piece to talk about is the biggest piece of art work in my room. It’s a mixed media piece that I picked up at one of the Ruskin Art School sales when I was living in Oxford. When I first saw it, it instantly made me feel. It reminded me a bit of the work done by Chad Wys who I’ve been a huge fan of for a long while, but it has something slightly more delicate to it. It’s quite a muted piece so it works really well in my space and helps keep my room a calm sanctuary-like space.

MY JENNY SAVILLE PRINT

Another favourite that I picked up in Oxford is a postcard sized Jenny Saville print. I had an A2 size poster print of this on my wall all 3 years when I was in Oxford, and made sure I picked up a smaller size so I could carry it with me in the future. I picked it up from Modern Art Oxford, which was somewhere I spent a lot of time – I used to have a standing Saturday lunch date with myself in their café. The gallery is right next to my old college and I volunteered there for about a year too. So, it’s a print that’s attached to a lot of memories as well as being of an absolutely stunning painting. I could happily live in a room covered in Saville paintings and never get bored of them.

MY UGLY KEATON HENSON CUSHION

This kind of ugly King Charles Cavalier print cushion by Keaton Henson is quite a new addition to my room. It sits on my desk chair and keeps me company. For some reason the illustrated pooch and I feel like kindred spirits, I fear that if I had a patronus that he would be it. I love the way that the cover harks back to those porcelain dog figurines in a weird and distinctively Keaton way. Twists or hand crafted takes on classics make up a lot of my favourite designs.

MR BINGO’S HATE MAIL

I managed to pick up a copy of Mr Bingo’s Hate Mail for £3 at Urban Outfitters by chance after looking at it longingly for a number of months, and it’s a definite contender for bargain of the year. If you haven’t heard about/seen/already bought it, Hate Mail is a collection of illustrated hate mail that Mr Bingo sent on vintage postcards to willing weirdos. Not only is a great coffee table book to impress friends and visitors (perhaps not your mum though) it’s also a great pick me up. Whenever I need a little cheering up, or someone has really irked me, I reach for it and flick through to find a new postcard design.

MY KAYE BLEGVAD RINGS

Okay so these aren’t really homewares, but they are design pieces that are often in my room (because I am) so I’ve decided they count, and I’m in charge here. I own four rings from Datter, which is the incredible Kaye Blegvad’s jewellery line, and there’s still so much more that I want. They are by far my favourite pieces of jewellery and I’ve received so many lovely comments on them. All of her pieces really feel crafted, they’re slightly irregular and the marks on them have a lovely distinctive line to them. They are oldest to newest as you go left to right, with the oldest being about 4 years old now. They’re the kind of design pieces where their character and the care that went into making them rubs off on you (literally and metaphorically) to the extent that I now don’t feel like myself without them.

THIS LITTLE BERLIN BEAR

Last but not least I want to talk about the Berlin Bear I got for my 21st birthday that’s on my bookshelf. I was born in Berlin, and when I was younger (I think 13 or so) my family went back for trip so that my parents could show me all of their old haunts. While we were there, there was one of those city-wide art projects on where a load of artists are given the same blank statue to decorate and make their own. In this case, a selection of countries (perhaps cities – it was at least a decade ago) were given Berlin bears to decorate. I was obsessed with taking pictures of every single one I found and documenting it. That might have been the start of my interest in trying to find the design in every city. So, when I turned 21, my parents got me the Berlin version of the bear, which I still love now and reminds me of them and that trip. 

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while or even just glanced down my Instagram feed you will know that I don’t really use a lot of colour in my work. I feel like that line based monochrome style makes my work more easily identifiable and I just generally feel like it gets across the point I want in the simplest way possible, which is my favourite way to do anything.

But recently, the pieces that have been catching my eye the most use more colour. I love George Greaves and Manjit Thapp and Faye Moorhouse. They’re all so different but they all use colour so well. I love seeing rich hues and textures working together. I love seeing how colour can bring an image to life. And I used to use a lot more colour, throughout my school career the works I was known for were coloured pencil drawings like the one below.

So, I’ve decided to take a step out of my comfort zone and set myself a challenge. For the next 10 weeks, I am going to create at least one fully coloured piece every week. I’ll be posting everything I make over on my Instagram so if you’re not following me there, what are you waiting for?!

I’ll also be doing a recap at the end of the 10 weeks here, to share what I’ve learned and a few of my favourites.

To kick the challenge off I thought I’d share my first piece with you here before it goes up on Instagram.

I’m really excited to see where this challenge takes me and to see the new kinds of work it will allow me to produce, I’m thinking there might be more scenes, new styles of portraiture and even some more detailed work.

I’m thinking these kinds of challenges will become a bit more of a regular thing, to link in with my goal of trying out more new things and learning some new design skills. I’d love your feedback on if this kind of stuff interests you and if you’d want to see more of the behind the scenes, or if you’d prefer just to see the outcomes on Instagram.

This blog is about design of all kinds. It’s about illustration and graphics, as well as designing your life to be something that works for you. And an area of my life I’ve been working to design over the last little while is fragrance. Seems strange? Well, let me get scientific for a moment.

Dr. Rachel Herz at Brown University in 2004 found that a group of five women showed more brain activity when smelling a perfume with which they associated a positive memory than when smelling a control perfume they had never before smelled. The brain activity associated with the memorable perfume was also greater than that produced by the visual cue of seeing the bottle of perfume.”

– Sabrina Stierwalt, The Scientific American

Anecdotally, I whole heartedly agree. Certain perfumes take me back to very specific moments in my life, whether those scents were mine or someone around me. Estee Lauder Pleasures can’t help but make me feel like I’m 8 again following my mum around, and Elie Saab Le Parfum brings back terrifying memories of being 18 and on a gap year that I didn’t want.

As soon as I discovered that link between scent and memory, I’ve been trying to design scents around my life to make my memories more tangible. I’ve picked up new fragrances every time I’ve had a major change in my life, or at least when I’ve needed one.

So, I thought I’d share a few of the scents that I’ve used to define the past few years and some of the design that went into them, because so much of what makes a fragrance what it is the design that goes into turning it from a scent into a luxury.

Estee Lauder – Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia

This is my “signature fragrance” if I can be pretentious enough house a phrase like that. It’s the first fragrance that made me feel grown up. It was the scent that I wore on my first trip to America to visit some of the best friends I have ever, and will ever have. It was the fragrance that I wore when I started going out with my boyfriend. It’s what I wore when I graduated. It holds so many memories, it set the scene for me to define myself as a grown up. I changed an incredible amount through my time at university and my time wearing this perfume. It smells heavenly and the hammered gold cap on the bottle is supposedly inspired by jewellery given to Aerin Lauder by her grandmother, Estée Lauder, which makes it feel precious and that little bit grown up.

Jo Malone – Nectarine Blossom and Honey

This was my moving to London perfume. Peaches are my favourite summer fruit and this perfume gives me those summer feelings, it’s bright and fruity and sparkly. It’s a scent that smells like happiness and fresh starts and it helped lift my spirits in what was quite a tumultuous time.

Diptyque – O’Fresia

I bought this one when I needed to start over, at the beginning of this year. I wanted to feel like someone new when I stepped out of the door, so I moved from fruity to floral and it did the trick. This I think will be the scent that brings me back to my grad scheme. I, like pretty much every blogger in the world, love Diptyque’s packaging. Their typography and illustrated bottles feel really special, and really make you feel like you’re treating yourself when you wear it.

Diptyque – Do Son

This one is a more grown up (warmer, softer, a little more skin-like) version of the Estee Lauder. I got it in a roller ball to take on holiday and in my bag with me for special occasions. It makes me feel dressy because I mainly wear it for evenings out and like I’ve been out in the sun all day without all of the sun tiredness because of all of its holiday wear. It’s the perfect pocket pick me up.

Clean Reserve – Warm Cotton

My current daily fragrance is Clean Reserve’s Warm Cotton. It smells exactly like you would expect, like fresh sheets. I wanted something simpler for everyday and Warm Cotton the bill perfectly. It also puts me in a really productive and accomplished mindset, because I always feel on top of my life (rightly or wrongly) once I’ve done my laundry. When it comes to bottle design, I love Clean’s dedication to eco-friendly packaging, especially as I’m trying to be more conscious in my consumption and reduce the waste that I put into the world. So, it’s a fragrance that not only smells lovely but fits into the life I want to design for myself.

Is there a fragrance that takes you back to a specific time or place?