As part of our Interview series 1, we spoke with Steve Todd a graphic designer for the government and an illustrator in his spare time. His illustration is a mixture of traditional materials and digital and tells us all about it.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Steve Todd, I’m a graphic designer by trade and I’m an illustrator kind of at night I guess.
How did you get into the creative industry?
I kind of wasn’t a very academic person when I was at school, but I was very much into the arts. So it was kind of a natural progression, I guess. And I think I went off and studied graphic design locally at Anglia Ruskin. And then I kind of got a job straight after that doing work in the government, firstly through freelance and then eventually full time.
The illustration side of it is kind ofc more of a vanity project really.
And it kind of happened over lockdown, I guess, in 2020. I was kind of following this artist called Christoph Niemann. And he was doing this one illustration per day and I thought, “That’s brilliant. I’m going to try and do that. See if I can do it.”
Now I couldn’t quite do one illustration a day, but I eventually started building up a little bit of a collection of illustration. And that’s kind of my background a little bit anyway. Originally I kind of was into illustration, did a lot of it when I was at uni. And yeah, kind of went from there really.
I guess when I first started out, it was very mixed media. So it was a lot of collage stuff involved in it. It was kind of pre-digital and now I’ve moved completely digital. So a lot of the stuff that I do uses, well, it’s a mixture of old tradition and new stuff as well.
So a lot of it’s using Photoshop, Illustrator, Affinity Software as well.
So kind of really like trying out new things. There’s something called, I think it’s called Big Paint or something like that. It’s a real odd program out there that you can download for free. And it’s just kind of getting ideas of how to push illustration in a completely different digital way. It’s a slight crossover.
Every so often, I guess in the public sector, it’s very corporate style.
There’s a lot of branding. So there’s a lot of stuff to do with campaigns, government campaigns. So there’s a certain way that you do things in that. But every so often, somebody will come into us and say,
“Hey, we’ve got this illustration job. Is there anyone in your team that can do it?” And it’s like, “Yeah, I can do that.” Not very often, but it does happen. So it’s great to kind of have that skill and offer it as an extra, I guess.
What tips would you offer to someone starting out in the creative industries?
I’ve got a load of tips really. I’d say one of the main ones is kind of ignore social media altogether. Well not altogether but kind of don’t obsess about how well you’re doing online because I think it can really bring you down. I think you just need to be really passionate about what you’re doing and really push yourself creatively.
One thing I would say is know your products. If you’re going into graphic design then think about what the customers want and what those products are that you can offer and really kind of study that I think.
I think it’s really easy to kind of go down a straight out of university route of right the customer wants a logo, I’ll do a logo but actually do they want something else? Is it something bigger? Is there a brand pack that you need to look at? You need to look at expanding your relationship with them and I think that’s a real way of kind of developing customer relationships really and that’s really important.