pirate character design
I stumbled across the work of illustrator and character designer Ian Dutton http://www.ianduttondesigns.com/ after seeing some of his work on the Trulyace Blog. I asked him if he would be interested in doing an interview on graphic design blog as I really liked his work and happily he agreed – thanks Ian.

1. How did you get into the design industry, did you go via the traditional route of college/university?
I studied all the relevant subjects during my schooling after having an interest in drawing ever since i could hold a pencil! – I studied at foundation level for a year at the London Road art school in Northwich Cheshire. Post foundation year I was then accepted on to the BA (HONS) graphic arts and design course at Leeds Metropolitan university and graduated in 1999.

2. Have you always worked for yourself, or if not what was your career path to where you are now?
I haven’t always worked for myself, after graduating I approached Tigerprint (then Unique Images) a divison of Hallmark cards, they were offering work placements to design graduates, i was lucky enough to be offered a 2 week placement,  after this time i was offered regular freelance work with them for about 6 months, they then took me on as a full time designer in december 1999. I worked at Tigerprint for over 6 years, before leaving in may 2005 to work for UK greetings. I worked there for 3 years, working for various clients, the large UK supermarkets and for high street stores such as Clintons, Boots and Waterstones. I returned to Tigerprint in december 2008 to help launch their online print on demand website, after a successful launch I decided in august 2010 to leave Tigerprint and to pursue a career as a freelance illustrator and designer. Throughout my career as a full time designer I would also work on freelance projects mainly for textile and and surface pattern agents, this was a great opportunity to diversify. – during this time I was fortunate enough to have work published in the US and the far east and also as far away as Australia!

3. What tools do you use for your work- software/traditional media etc?
My main tools for my work are my apple mac and wacom tablet together with the usual creative suite programs such as adobe photoshop and adobe illustrator and I also make use of corel painter occasionally depending on the brief and the client. I also continue to make use of traditional media, i almost always begin any piece with a sketch, to enable me to get my ideas down quickly. I’m a firm advocate of the pencil and would encourage new illustrators and designers to explore their illustrations first with a pencil and a sketch book!

ice lolly illustration

4. What took you into the area of character design, has it always been an interest?
I’ve always enjoyed creating characters ever since I could draw, as a child would sit in front of the tv watching cartoons and trying to draw the characters, although I was never quite quick enough. I remember as a child too that my dad would buy me the beano and dandy comics of the era and after reading I would redraw the characters… in my own unique style!
I think for me, drawing characters is a release. the characters you create don’t usually have to be anatomically correct, which is lucky for me as you’ll notice there’s a continuous ‘big head small body’ theme that transcends my character designs.

insect charcater design illustration

5. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I know it’s perhaps a cliché but I draw my inspiration from all around, the things people say, my feelings at the time, images I see in the media, other illustrators and designers, there’s an abundance of inspiration out there and it doesn’t necessarily have to be art/design based.

6. Are there any books or online resources you would recommend to anyone interested in character design?
There are so many books out there and even more online to look at too. i wouldn’t say there are specific books to get for anyone interested in character design, I have an array of books by so many different illustrators but if I were to suggest books that I consider to be some of the finest then I would opt for any book illustrated by J. Otto Siebold, Oliver Jeffers or Marc Boutavant. they are great inspirational illustrators for me!

Online I tend to look at the work of Adrian Johnson, Johnny Yanok and Tad Carpenter, I met Tad when i worked for a short time at Hallmark US in Kansas city, he’s a very talented illustrator and designer and a very nice chap too he’s worked for some very impressive clients –  a great inspiration check out his blog http://www.tadcarpenter.com/blog/.

7. I notice you have worked for some big brand names, how did you get on their radar, was it word or mouth/press or did you approach them?
The clients I have worked for in the past have been down to me working within the greetings industry. I would say the biggest leap in me attaining new clients was when I worked for UK Greetings, this as I mentioned previously enabled me to work for varied clients, which encouraged me to constantly explore and develop new styles for different customers. since leaving to work freelance I have been fortunate enough to be approached by some new clients too which is very exciting.

8. I understand you have licensed some designs for greetings cards, please could you explain how you went about licensing your work. Were the designs self initiated or were they briefed?
The licensed designs came about again by working in the greetings industry, my creative directors at both Tigerprint and UK Greetings were and still are an enormous inspiration to me and always encouraged me to think differently and explore new styles, I think together with their ideas and my willingness to listen to people with greater experience than myself led to my work being successful and hence becoming a license. it’s not always something that you initially set out to achieve when you first make that mark and begin a new design.  If the design works well and the customer buys into your ideas and style and there’s a considered longevity to the product then it effortlessly makes that transition in to a licensed product. there are so many factors which have to be considered when a design becomes a license and it’s not always so straight forward.

owl illustration

9. For any newbie looking to get into illustration and character design what advice would you give?
Depending on what stage of your career you’re at the answer to this can be very different, for someone leaving college and looking to go into further education then pick a broad course where you can explore all disciplines of illustration and don’t particularly limit yourself to one area of illustration and design. For someone leaving university and looking for a career in illustration don’t underestimate the power of the greeting card! I was strongly discouraged from this business when I graduated however it was the greeting card industry that gave me my first break and i have a lot to be thankful for and a lot of people to thank for giving me that opportunity. – it’s a massive industry and there is so much scope and opportunity to develop as an illustrator and designer by entering in to this field!

There are always new ranges being published so the possibility to create new style regularly is an obvious advantage that coupled with the relative ease of getting your work published quickly and seen by such a wide audience is very favorable.

Being able to illustrate and design not only greeting cards, but gift wrap, stationary products, children’s toys and games and even plush characters, the greeting card industry has to be one of the most exciting studios to work in if you’re looking to develop characters and styles.

For anyone looking to get in to illustration and character design I would suggest compiling a varied portfolio of your styles, do your research and contact the relevant studios and enquire as to whether they would be interested in allowing you to present your portfolio. be polite, personable and prepared and you can’t do too much wrong.

check out more of Ian’s work at http://www.ianduttondesigns.com

london illustraton

*please note all images are copyright © 2010, [ianduttondesigns] and may not be reproduced.  all rights reserved.