My experience as a designer – Lisa Stickley


We asked the designer, author and illustrator Lisa Stickley a few questions about her experience as a successful designer. You clearly have a strong ‘brand personality’. Have you always felt sure of your identity as a designer? I guess it comes from having a strong sense of knowing what I like, with a heavily self-critical eye, which results in work that is very idiosyncratic. All of my artwork starts with pen/paint/ink on a blank sheet of paper, with a personal interpretation of everything I’ve discovered along the way. It might take time to get there but I always know when something is finished. Sometimes ideas come very quickly; sometimes they can be ‘brewing’ for years until they finally work. Often if I think something might be working it’s good to hide it away for a time and ‘rediscover it’ to finally decide. It is the simplest things that are often the hardest, and simple is a key part of my identity as a designer I think. A good edit is vital! lisa-stickley-portfolio-11 If there was one thing, person or event that triggered your success, what would you say it was? Nancy Sawyer, one of my art teachers at secondary school, was integral to my journey as a designer. She embraced and encouraged my work and steered me in the right direction from the start. How do you balance business with designing? It is always a juggling act, with the ‘business side’ of things taking away from the time spent purely designing. You have to be flexible, confident, resilient and extremely dedicated and the most difficult bit is finding, and being able to rely on, the right people to work with you on what is, in essence, your heart soul and passion. I am currently enjoying taking things a bit more slowly for a while and working on smaller more personal projects, writing, illustrating and design consultancy, so the balance is feeling slightly more refreshed and design heavy. I am enjoying some indulgent creative thinking time. lisa-stickley-portfolio-3 What’s been the biggest mistake or failure of your career as a designer? Being too trusting. What’s been your greatest achievement and how did it happen? It is difficult to pinpoint any one thing in terms of greatest achievement as the journey so far has been very interesting, but there is much more in the tank and I am always excited to see how the next adventure will evolve. I just feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunities I have had, to be doing something I adore with a passion, and to be able to do the one thing that is to me, as natural and important as breathing in and out. How important was a formal training for you? Vital. From formal A-level art, teaching the fundamentals of art, draftsmanship and discipline to foundation through to degree and MA level. Each stage had its place and has been integral to evolving and growing as a designer, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. lisa-stickley-portfolio-6 Is being a professional designer as you imagined it to be? I don’t think I ever imagined what it would be like. I am just doing what I love. How do you balance being known for a specific design with evolving new ideas? As with many designers I am sure, you are always working on thoughts of what comes next. It is quite difficult to switch off as inspiration and thoughts can come at anytime from anywhere, and the thing that drives me on and excites me is often what lies ahead. Saying that, when something really works it is very nice to look back and feel a bit of nostalgia about how the good bits were first created, and how they have established themselves as key designs from your portfolio. lisa-stickley-portfolio-5 When have you felt the most free creatively – today, or when you first began and were unknown? Definitely my time at the RCA. I don’t think you appreciate it at all whilst studying, but it is the one and only time you can truly plough all of your energy into being fully creative and indulge in exploring, testing, trailing anything and everything and making vital mistakes along the way. What is the biggest compromise you’ve had to make creatively? Taking for granted the use of my name (and subsequent brand name) for a while. Lisa is publishing her first children’s picture book, Handstand, this summer

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