Meg Robichaud is a designer and illustrator based in Vancouver. I’ve been a fan of her work for ages and I love the distinctive feel and style that her designs have (which you should check out on Dribbble). Meg very kindly agreed to be interviewed and we’re thrilled to have her here – find out how she got started with her career, what she thinks of freelance life and where she gets her inspiration from.
First, could you give us a bit of a background about yourself?
I’m a 25 y/o freelance illustrator/designer living in Vancouver. I graduated from the Art Institute of Vancouver’s Graphic Design & Design Foundations program (read: print design), after dropping out of civil engineering & kinesiology at the University of New Brunswick. I grew up in Hampton, New Brunswick (the east coast of Canada), where my incredible mother cultivated a love for all things pretty, creative and messy. I kind of stumble over my words every time someone asks (since it’s a little bit of everything, plus whatever comes my way that I haven’t tried yet). In the least long winded way I can think of: I’m an illustrator/icon/iOS/e-book/web/print/information/ designer? Anyway, I really like to draw things on computers.
When did you first realise you wanted to work as a designer?
It’s actually a really concise moment that I decided I wanted to be a designer (well, at least pursue something creative). Before going to design school, I studied Civil Engineering at the University of New Brunswick for ~3 years (there’s some Kinesiology in there somewhere too). There was one class that I was particularly
bad terrible at is called ApSc – Applied Science aka really really stupid physics. After going to every help session, getting a tutor & doing anything else I could think of to pass that class.. I fully bombed the exam. Test anxiety, answer 1-1.5 questions, throw up in the exam room kind of bombed. When I went to talk to my friends about the exam later — they didn’t understand why I struggled. They tried to explain the answers to me, but struggled to reason it out, because these things just make sense to them.
Later, I went to a life drawing class and did exceptionally well. When I tried to explain what I was doing to my friends, I struggled to reason it out, because these things just made sense to me.
Oh. WHAT am I doing in engineering?
How did you get started on your career path?
Not discounting everything that I learned at The Art Institute of Vancouver, I think the first thing that got my foot in the door was Growlab, or more specifically the first cohort: Ecquire, Matygo (now LearnDot) & Placeling (RIP). I was fresh out of school, and they were fresh in the startup scene. Match made in heaven. I’m really grateful to them for taking a chance on me without any real work in my portfolio. Once I started sharing the work I did for them, I officially had a freelance career.
You’ve been freelancing for a while now – what do you like best about freelance life? And is there anything you dislike about it?
My favourite perks are the obvious perks: flexible schedule; work from anywhere & sleeping in. I work quite erratically, once I’m on a roll I won’t notice that I just worked for 9 hours and now it’s 4am (and have the option to sleep in the next day). I love working from coffee shops, and getting to know everyone else who works from a coffee shop. I love working from home in stretchy pants just as much. And of course, there’s the impulse plane tickets.
The one thing I find I’m missing as a freelancer are the intangible perks of working on a single project. The sense of ownership & pride. The quality of work you can produce when you are constantly iterating on one thing and only have one project churning around in the back of your mind. As a freelancer one of your biggest assets is your understanding the value of a fast turn around. Your job is to get in, understand the problem, and get out as quickly as possible. When you’re doing that for 4-5 clients at a time, you’re just the hired help, it’s their baby. It’s hard to have a lot of sense of ownership, and without that, you just can’t agonize over it the same way.
What design work inspires you? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspired is such a loose term, this is a tough one to answer. I am really inspired in that awe-struck way by the design work that is totally different from anything that I would ever come up with (and I probably couldn’t figure out how to do, even if I wanted to) (see: every designer ever that also codes their UI). I am really inspired in that “I really hope some of this sinks in” way when I see other illustrators with entirely different styles from mine (see: Rogie King, Dave Mott, Justin Mezzell). I am really inspired in that “holy crap that’s a lot of work/dammit why didn’t I think of that” by the design work that bears a similarity to mine (eg. Nick Slater, Ryan Putnam). I guess inspired isn’t the right word, I’m just adding it in front of the thoughts I have when I see design work.
Maybe Hopefully I’m just always inspired?
I know you’re asking what I draw from artistically, places/people/things and the like, and I do have those answers (well, sort of, about as badly articulated as the design work that inspires me) but I’m going to ignore that for a minute, if that’s alright. You know that kind of stop-what-you’re-doing get-up-and-start-something kind of inspiration that every creative is chasing? I think it comes a lot more from encountering other peoples attitudes, and positive outlooks on their life, opinions and work. Hearing Jessica Hishe talk about procrastiworking, or reading about Zefrank’s enlightened ramblings are where my best work comes from. Scrolling through “design inspiration” blogs doesn’t compete with being in the mood to make something awesome.
Okokok, to answer your question, I use dribbble to follow what’s happening in the design community, but if I’m making something specific I try to stick to photographs (too afraid anything else I look at will get stuck in my head).
If you had to pick favourites, which of your designs do you like best?
Well lately I suppose I’m really enjoying the illustrations I’m doing for the quicksprout e-books, you know that one colour scheme I have somehow claimed as my own? All of those. I suppose to you that looks like my entire body of work. If I’m to just pick a few of those illustrations, I think it’s the machines – the rolls royce, the challenger, the soyuz – anything where I get to be obnoxiously detailed (usually made up details). I get lost making those details for hours, and it’s always the best part of my day.
Lastly, do you have any tips for anyone else looking to start a career in design?
Holy cats. So many. Let me try to keep this quick, an easy one you can start right now. Be nice. Make friends. Twitter is a magical place if you just take advantage of it. You can literally ask your heroes anything you want, and there’s a good chance they’ll answer.