Lately we’ve been interviewing designers whose work we really admire, and one such designer and illustrator is Owen Davey. He was kind enough to agree to be interviewed about how he got started, his approach to illustration and his experience with designing for a (hugely successful) iPad app – thanks for the interesting answers Owen!
Can you give a bit of a background as to how you got started as a designer?
I basically followed the standard education route. After doing a foundation year, I went to Falmouth University and got myself a first class BA(Hons) degree in Illustration. This taught me many of the necessary skills and knowledge about the industry for me to start contacting clients. My first job was actually for The Guardian, which was amazing. It meant that I could use that as a name drop to get myself more clients. Editorial work was the main bulk of my earnings for the first few years. That and picture books. They work particularly well together; one is fast deadlines and quick turnarounds, while the other you have to invest more time in and produce a large body of work. Everything has sort of grown from them really.
Where do you get your inspiration from, and which other designers work do you admire?
I admire hundreds of other illustrators and designers work to be honest. I use social media a lot and am always blown away by the talent out there, which makes me work as hard as I can to produce stuff that can compare to that quality. Inspiration tends to be from nature when I’m left to my own devices. It’s just incredible and vast and varied. And I love the feeling I get when I immerse myself in nature too.
What are some of your favourite illustrations that you’ve created?
I suppose I’m most happy with my two picture books for Flying Eye Books, ‘Smart About Sharks‘ and ‘Mad About Monkeys‘. I didn’t really know if I could do non-fiction stuff, and was really proud of the results I got, and the responses they’ve been getting.
You’ve developed your own style which is something that I think a lot of designers struggle with – was developing your own aesthetic a conscious decision or did it happen naturally?
Yeah this is an odd one really. I think a lot of people have their own style without really realising it. The most important thing with style is how you see the world I think. Illustration is a little glimpse into somebody else’s perceptions of the world around them. Stylisation, for example, is usually to do with simplification, which comes from choosing what are the most important features and highlighting them. Different people will perceive these in different ways, and so, there’s your style, right there. My difficulty with my own work has been more to do with rendering. What do I use to finish my piece off? I used to do loads of painting, and then I worked digitally but used a brush pen for lines, and then one day I got sick of my line, so basically decided to stop using it, and just concentrate on the geometry. My ‘style’ is constantly evolving. If you look back a few years, my stuff is quite different, but it’s been gradual shifts to where it is now. Constantly evaluating what I’ve done and how I might be able to improve upon it.
You were the illustrator for the iPad App of the Year The Robot Factory – was it more challenging creating the artwork for an iPad game compared to non-interactive designs?
It was hugely challenging to create that app. The logistics alone were insane. I had to create so many objects and parts for so many eventualities. There is still so much content for that game that hasn’t been released yet. I’ve got a massive bank of stuff that I produced for them.
What tips would you give to someone looking to get into design?
Just do it. Practice is the only way anybody can get good at anything. The more you practice and experiment and push yourself, the better you become.