Graphic designer and illustrator Sam Osborne has been on my periphery for a little while now, so it was really exciting to finally see her designs properly and get to know her a little better. We talked colour, science fiction B-movies, and plain old hard work…
What’s the most important thing to know about you?
I am obsessed with colour – the more vibrant and ‘poppy’ the better! My home, my work and my previous homes were surrounded by clashing, glorious colour. It’s not only aesthetically important in interior design but psychologically critical too. There definitely seem to be little drips of colour seeping into people’s homes again. Muted, monochrome tones enjoyed a real renaissance there for a while, but colour is making a comeback.
What inspired you to give up the safety of a full-time graphic design job to go it on your own?
My dad has his own graphic design business, so I thought it was a pretty normal thing to do. But equally I knew how hard it was too, so I definitely didn’t take the decision lightly. I was petrified the first morning I woke up knowing that it was just me, but I was spurred on by a noticeable demand for vintage designs that had a modern feel, which wasn’t being satisfied. And after years of filling sketchbook after sketchbook and countless hours staring at a screen, I hope I’ve achieved that with my Wondercook collection.
What do you love so much about Bauhaus designs, Constructivism, Matisse, vintage technology and science fiction b-movies from the 50s and 60s?
That’s quite a varied list but each and every one of these things inspires my designs. I think the spirit of optimism, positivity and looking forward to the future brings all of these things together. Without getting too deep, I admire the change-the-world attitude of the Constructivists, Bauhaus’ confidence and just the general buoyancy of the 60s – and I want those qualities to be reflected in my work.
Where do ideas come from?
I don’t think there is any such thing as a Eureka moment. It takes years of making mistakes, not being afraid to try different things and lots and lots of research. Ideas come from plain old hard work.
My Pinterest page gives some indication of the type of things that help me generate ideas. I’ve got tulip fields, Swatch watches from the 80s and brightly coloured car adverts from the mid 20th century.
I also like to start with my favourite things. I love cooking so that’s how my Wondercook collection came to fruition. Eventually I’d like to design collections inspired by space, travel, music and sport – some of my other favourite things.
How does your creative process work?
Whether it’s doing illustrations, creating designs to be licensed or designing my latest homewares collection, the creative process is quite similar.
Maybe it comes from years of working in agencies, but if I don’t have a brief, I like to write one myself. This helps me shape what I think I want to achieve. Then the hours and hours of research for inspiration begins and I always end up in the most unexpected places. I become engrossed in one thing and that leads to something else.
Then comes the sketching process – I usually end up revising or reworking ideas and chucking lots in the bin. It’s the same when I finally get to creating designs on screen. My approach to design definitely influences what I create on screen. Design shouldn’t just be about how something looks – function is important too. I deliberately choose vibrant colours, play with perspective and use strong shapes in my work because when they’re combined, they can be real mood changers. That’s their purpose.
With my own collections, I oversee the whole production process as well and I really value the relationship I have with my printers. By learning the process from start to finish, I can be sure of the highest quality at the end.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
It’s definitely when samples come back to me better than I expected. It’s confirmation that all the blood, fret and fear has been worth it.
What does your working space look like?
I’ve got a picture of Matisse on my desk and I usually have an old sci-fi film or some sport playing in the background. I’ve got two computer screens, but would love four! I’m surrounded by swatch samples, magazines and I couldn’t live without my inspiration board on the wall. This always keeps me on track with where the collection should be heading.
Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Sam Osborne.
Good day: Great samples of my work being delivered. Getting positive feedback from complete strangers. And coffee and milk in the fridge.
Bad day: Less than satisfactory samples being delivered. Spreadsheet hell.
What are you most proud of?
Starting my own design company hasn’t been easy. The past three and half years have been really hard work at times. But that makes me even more proud of my latest collection as it’s really taken me that long to achieve the design style I have now. And the fact that my designs are now available internationally is overwhelming.
What advice would you give to an aspiring graphic designer or illustrator?
Do lots of work, even if you don’t have a brief. It will develop your talent, skill and taste and you never know when the designs and illustrations you create will come in handy.
And finally, what’s your favourite colour?
It really is the confession of a design geek when I say it’s Pantone 296 – a wonderful, warm navy blue. This may come as a bit of a surprise when people know me as a brightly coloured designer nerd but this colour makes all the others sparkle. Pantone 296 features on my logo, in my latest Wondercook collection and will soon be on my bedroom wall.
Further reading for the especially geeky:
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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