Experimentation is Abby Byrne’s watchword. “I like to mix up the time spent on and off the computer, and I think it’s important to experiment and see what new things can be achieved through making mistakes and celebrating them,” says the graphic designer, who graduated from the University of Brighton just last year. “I don’t have a set style, but simplicity definitely leads my design work.”
Josef Müller-Brockmann is a constant reference point, and Byrne says Cristiana Couceiro and Saul Bass are also major influences. “Their layouts and playful aesthetics are something I like to achieve in my own work,” she explains. “Everyday life is also hugely inspiring – there are plenty of times when I’ve been on a walk, come across something new and thought, ‘how can I make that into a project?’ Until my ‘Street lights of Brighton’ project I didn’t take much notice of them, but now I can’t stop looking at them and am currently collating a street light archive.”
What’s next? “To keep learning. I’ve learned so many new skills since graduating and am applying them all to my work – only bigger and better things can come from this,” says Byrne. “The most exciting thing is I’m not sure what’s next.”
Designer and art director Daniel Powell is on the move. “I’m travelling, meeting designers around the world and seeing how different cultures work within the design industry, as well as working freelance,” he explains.
Powell draws inspiration from a wide variety of sources (“One day it could be exploring a new process, the next it’s the books I’m reading”) but describes a particular affinity with the avant-garde movements of the 20th century, particularly constructivism and De Stijl. “I think it’s because I have a romanticised perception of them actively trying to change the way we perceive the world.”
Powell describes his work in terms of a process rather than a style. “A guilty pleasure of mine is to include subtle and sometimes cryptic layers in a design, referencing ideas and concepts based around the subject matter of the project,” he adds.
Current endeavours include the identity for a fashion exhibition: “In my personal work, I’ve been exploring context online and how print can translate into an interactive space – and how digital can translate back into print.” He is looking for interesting projects and collaborations, and is keen to do more art direction. “I want to make an active difference to the creative world, and maybe one day pass on what I’ve learned.”
“I want my work to be contagious and engaging,” says Will Bryant, who is currently juggling an MFA in studio practice at Portland State University with commercial illustration commissions for the likes of Nike, Fiat and The New York Times. “Sometimes it’s meaningful and sincere, and other times it’s somewhat irreverent and silly.”
Originally from Texas, Bryant arrived in super-hip Portland via a graphic design degree at Mississippi State University. “The spark came when I had a class with Kate Bingaman-Burt and she brought Mike Perry in, around the time he was leaving Urban Outfitters,” he recalls. “I showed him the one drawn piece I had in my portfolio and he said: ‘This is awesome, do more of this’.”
Bryant has amassed an impressive client list, ranging from Converse, Levi’s and Ray Ban to Ogilvy & Mather and The Polyphonic Spree, and he remains a member of the Austin, Texas-based collective Public School. His inspiration chiefly comes from nostalgia, language, the senses and pop culture. “I really admire the way Wayne White, Gary Panter, David Byrne, Mark Mothersbaugh and Andy Warhol infiltrated everyday life with their art and personalities,” he says, citing Push Pin Studios as another major influence – along with 90s basketball, mid-century children’s illustration, and pictures of his cat. “Music has also been a huge influence on my work and my workflow. I used to throw ridiculous-themed dance parties and run a music blog with friends.”
Graduate study means Bryant is “in a bit of an incubator right now. I’m rethinking everything. The first term was extremely challenging – coming from a more commercial grounding in design and illustration, my work has always been personal, but contemporary art has more layers. I’m trying to pinpoint why I’m into the things I’m into.”
As well as taking on more commercial artwork, he hopes to carry on teaching and experiment further with his own creative practice. “I may be a grown up, but I long for playfulness and the nostalgia of childhood,” he explains. “I embrace humour in everything I do. These tenets of how I live my life directly influence how I consider my work.”
Shortly after graduating, Katie Scott found herself in the running for an NME Award when her sleeve illustration for Bombay Bicycle Club’s third album, A Different Kind of Fix, made the Best Album Artwork shortlist in the 2012 awards. Scott’s work is largely inspired by scientific illustrations “with a familiar but fantastical edge,” she says.
“I did a project about a year ago where I looked at old scientific illustrations that got it wrong. So this wasn’t fact, it was very speculative, and the idea was that if you had a theory and drew a picture about it, you could claim science as fact when it wasn’t.”
Now based in London, Scott enjoys looking at old science books and botanical drawings, and says she loves visiting botanical gardens, such as the conservatory at the Barbican. “I find a lot of inspiration looking through books and archives, but I also like going and sitting in a greenhouse.”
At the moment, she’s designing some packaging for an Australian wine brand via branding design agency Voice. She’s also keen to break into textile design, as she feels elements of her work would translate well into this area. “I would really like to do some repeat pattern work for a fabric design company, for example,” she says. “It’s an industry that works differently to the illustration world, so I’ve been trying to figure out how I would approach doing that, but it’s a goal I’d like to achieve.” An unused commission for The New York Times also gave her a taste for editorial work – Scott says she enjoyed the buzz of working to such a tight schedule and is keen to undertake more projects of this type.
Leaving university is a strange process, she adds: “you go from producing work for yourself and being in control of it to needing to determine where your work will slot into the commercial world.” She hopes to put together a solo exhibition in the next few years, and is very happy to be working as a freelance illustrator. “It’s nice because I didn’t expect to be doing that straight away,” she reflects. “Now I would like to do that at a rate where I could get my own studio.”