After my post on my commission process to help explain some of the things on offer in my shop, I want to spend a little bit more time here talking about my work, and how it actually gets done. So, today, I’m going to talk you through a recent illustration project I took on at work for my old grad scheme website.

As a quick bit of background if this is the first post of mine you’ve read, last year I was a part of the Engine Graduate Scheme. The Grad Scheme is a year-long look into the world of marketing and communications, which comprises of four three-month long rotations in various best in class agencies covering everything from consultancy, to sport sponsorship, to events, PR, data and, of course, above the line advertising.

Every year the most recent group of grads take over the website, so this year it was our turn and we wanted to give the site a bit of a spruce up. The first step in this process was moving to the Engine Group site, from our .wordpress site. Then we moved onto content and visuals, which is what we’re talking about today.

So how did we go from a need for a new style to the site that’s up now?


First off, we came up with a bit of a brief, which was relatively informal and more of an agreement between ourselves as to what we wanted. We knew that we needed something fun and colourful and that suggested we were a more creative scheme than the visuals we had before.

As well as deciding what we wanted we also had to work out what our limitations were. We knew we weren’t going to be able to get any new photography done, so we decided to go with something illustrated. We were also limited by the structure of the web pages on the Engine site, which meant we were mainly just working with set header images.

But we also knew we’d need designs that could work for our social media in terms of branding and generating content later.


The ideas for the images bounced off the copy, for example, the sweets in the companies page came from someone describing the choice of placements as a bit of a pick and mix. The one image I really struggled with was the scheme page, so we came together as a group (over WhatsApp because I had a meltdown at 10 pm) and tried to come up with the simplest image for building we could, which turned out to be children’s building blocks.


Then we got to my favourite part, the illustrating! I started by gathering reference images for the portraits, then drew from those. I also found references for the hands and the sweets in the companies header. Once I’d drawn the outlines of all of the images I came up with a colour palette. I started with the red of the Engine logo and worked from there, adding a darker version of the red, two shades of the blue, and the yellow for highlights. I stuck to this palette for everything other than the skin tones, and I think it really ties all of the images together.


As anyone who has ever made a commission like this knows, the work isn’t actually done until it’s signed off and on the site. In order to get sign off, I put the designs into very basic web page scamps in powerpoint, to give an idea of how the pages would come together. Once we’d made all of the amends to the copy and visuals we needed to, I worked with the guys who run the Engine site to get everything live which included editing sizes and doing a few tests on a staging platform. I also made versions of our imagery for the scheme Facebook and Twitter.

If there’s something you’d like to work on together, or you just want to say hi, feel free to drop me a line!

I know I’m a little late to the game. But I know that there are probably some of you out there who are still looking for gift inspiration, if not for Christmas then for new year birthdays. So without further ado, here are some of my picks for gifts for creative types.


So you all know I love Adam JK. Things Are What You Make of Them is his latest book and it’s incredible. It’s the pep talk we all need from time to time. It’s chock full of great advice and support. Each page is in full colour, and is perforated so you can save it for later or even share it. This is the gift you’re going to want to get two of, because there’s a good chance that as soon as you start reading you won’t be able to give it up.


Travel is one of the best forms of inspiration, and while in the age of the smart phone you might not necessarily need a printed travel guide these ones are so gorgeous that your recipient is really going to want one.


Give the gift of learning. Picking up new skills is essential, but it can easily be overlooked. So vouchers for classes work as a great reminder, and give someone the opportunity to expand their horizons and their practices.


So who doesn’t love stationery? Keep your loved one full stocked throughout the year with a stationery subscription. There are plenty of good ones out there. In particular, I like the Paper Gang by Oh Deer and Post by Katie Leamon. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.


It makes sense that artists love art. Getting someone a print by a maker they love is a great way to show you care, and to give them something that they’ll look at and think of you every day. You can even support a good cause or two, by buying prints where the profits are given to charity or inspire social action like The Good Cause.


The studio can be a lonely place. Get your friend a little company.


So one of the best things I’ve bought this year are a pair of noise cancelling headphones. If you’re feeling a little spendy, they’re an incredible gift. They’ve helped me focus and kept me on task and sane throughout so many hours of work this year.

Christmas gifts are always best when they’re personal, which is where my new commission options come into play. If you’re looking for something special for someone you love, giving them a piece of art they can treasure, display, and use is really lovely.

In my store, you can now buy pattern, and illustration commissions as well as portraits so the options are really endless. My prices start at just £15, so you should be able to find something within your budget whatever it is. Plus, I have a few spaces left in time for the holidays too!

I’ve had a couple of questions, so I thought it was worth sharing my process for individual pieces*, even though it’s super-duper simple.

*If you have something bigger you’d like to work on please do get in touch and I can let you know what else will happen!









Step one is always you getting in touch with me. You can do that by buying a set commission like a portrait or a pattern through my shop, or sending me an email (or even tweet me) if you’ve got something a little different in mind or if you’d just rather reach out that way.


Then we’ll have a chat about what you want, I do this no matter how you’ve got in touch. This stage is really important to me because I want to make sure that you end up with something you’re really happy with. I’ll ask you what you’re planning on doing with the commission so we get all of the tech specs right, I’ll ask you about what kind of an outcome you’re after, and depending on the kind of piece I might end up asking you about the kinds of work you like and what your style is. This is where I’ll send you a contract if it’s a bespoke commission, and if it’s a large piece ask for a down payment.


If you’ve bought a portrait commission, I’ll ask you to send me some reference photos, because I unfortunately can’t sense through the computer what you or your friends look like. I’ll probably mainly work from one, but I prefer to have a couple to choose from so that I can properly get a sense of who I’m drawing.


This is the stage I enjoy the most if I’m honest. I can’t tell you exactly how long it will be here, as it depends on the kind of piece and how busy I am, but it’s something I’ll let you know in our initial discussion. As a general rule of thumb, most portraits or simple black and white (grey) illustrations will take about 3-5 working days.


Once I’m done I’ll send you over a proof to check you’re happy with it. While 99% of people are because of that up front discussion, but if you’re not I’ll do the necessary tweaks, and then send you back another proof.


Once everything is signed off I’ll send you your illustration.

If you’ve bought a set commission like a pattern I’ll mark the product as shipped, so only then will the PayPal payment be finalised. If you’ve set up something bespoke I’ll send you an invoice.

One of the goals I set myself for the next year (of my life, rather than calendar) was to learn some new skills. There are a whole range of things I want to learn about from calligraphy to how to create animations digitally, but I’ve started with taking some time working on my design thinking skills. Along with a lovely group of colleagues I started Ideo’s human-centred design course.

The course is an introduction to design thinking essentially. It covers everything the theory of design thinking as well as leading you through a test project where you get to gain some hands-on experience of every stage of the design process from research to concepts to prototyping and actually making the thing. IDEO, a global design company who create positive impact through design, lead you through each step and give you tips and advice from their years of experience. It’s a completely free online course, that runs quite a few times throughout the year, so if you find anything in this post interesting at all I’d recommend it. It’s intended to be done as a group, so you might need to round up some friends too.

But what is human-centred design? According to Ideo it is a “process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs. Human-centred design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out into the world”. I’ve done a whole post on design thinking more generally that goes into a bit more depth, but in a nutshell, that’s the crux of what you need to know.

The human-centred design process follows 3 stages, that Ideo call inspiration, ideation and implementation. Where I work we call them discovery, design and delivery, but they cover the same ideas, as explained in the diagram below.

The first stage in making people the centre of your design universe is to engage with them. This user research phase is the part of the process I’ve had the most experience with at work, so I thought I’d walk you through it a little bit and give you some ideas for how you can apply the techniques to your own life, even if you’re not running a big design project.

User research can come in many forms with the most basic you might think of being desk research and interviews. But there are so many other ways to find out how people really behave. Observing how people go about their day to day lives can give you real insight into their unfiltered actions. You can also create diaries and have people share their thoughts and feelings, or work with your users to build something really hands on to see how they think. As well as researching the direct users of whatever you’re working it can also be fruitful to look for people doing whatever you’re looking to change well already in different sectors – find a group shows great team work, or an education process that’s really effective, or a product that service that caters really well to people with a specific need.

Human-centred design can be used to help you create products, services, spaces and systems. Those four areas cover a whole range of things that are super interesting, even if you’re not doing this for work. Here are just three:

  1. Could you use human-centred design to make your home work better? If you kept a log or a map of how you/your family use your space, you might find out that some areas are working better than others, and that there are some pain points that might be easily fixed. I’ve done this in my room in my bit of kitchen space, and little things like rearranging my cupboard so the things I use the most are easiest to reach has made such a difference.
  2. Could you use these methods to improve your commute? One of the first tasks in the course is to research your team’s commutes and work out how they could be improved. This is something anyone could do, either on your own by mapping out your journey or by getting someone else’s perspective by having a friend interview and vice versa.
  3. Could you improve how you, and your team work by researching the way that people actually handle their day to day tasks? Is there a better way to fulfil their needs so that everyone is at their best?

I’m planning on turning this into a bit of a running series/theme, so I might go into a bit more depth on how to get useful information out of people interviews, as well as some thoughts on the other stages of the design process. Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to read about though!

I know I’m super behind in doing this but I’ve finally updated my shop ready for the festive season, including some new card designs!

As I’m still starting out in this game I only wanted to design one set of cards this year, a Christmas card and an updated Thank You card just in case Santa stops by.

I kept the designs themselves line based, going back to the kind of work I love. But I still wanted a little bit of festive cheer. That’s where my new love/hate relationship with gold foil comes in. I love how shiny and magical these cards are. I didn’t quite love getting the artwork uploaded as much, but it’s all a learning process right?!

I basically just designed the cards I wanted to send out this year, and I’m so pleased with how they turned out. I can’t wait to send them out to my friends and family, and hopefully to you too.










I’ve also updated my commission options because I’ve had few requests for things that weren’t up there. So now you can get group and couples portraits as well as custom patterns.

Gifts are best when they’re personal, and nothing says personal like having your face all over something. So get your Christmas orders in soon, because I only have a limited number of spaces before I go home for the holidays.

Plus, if you needed any more of an incentive I’m offering free shipping on all orders over £25 with the code SANTASHELPER