Add Colour To Your World With Graphic Designer Sam Osborne

"Add some colour to your world"

This is the tagline that jumps out at you when you enter the website of today's interviewee - Designer and Illustrator Sam Osborne. It's the perfect way to sum up Sam's bright, colourful and joyful designs and in honour of National Stationery Week that starts today, I thought it would be nice to get to know Sam a little more and take a look at some of her beautiful work. Geometric, eye catching stationery and home-ware that you can be certain will liven up any office space this spring to summer season. 

Oh and stay tuned for a What Now reader discount to help you get your hands on some of these little beauties and brighten up your own space!

Photograph  : Sam Osborne

Photograph: Sam Osborne

I don't know if I've confessed this on here before but I'm in fact a bit of an Etsy fiend! I love to browse through the beautiful online shops and find unique offerings from the talented designers that have set up shop on this platform. This is exactly where I stumbled across Sam and I knew instantly that I'd love to learn more.

So without further ado let's find out a little about Sam's career as a graphic designer and look at some of her lovely products ...

Photographs  : Sam Osborne

Photographs: Sam Osborne

Sam - what is it that inspired you to become a designer and illustrator?

I come from a creative family - both my Dad and Sister are graphic designers and my Mum is very crafty, so I always knew I was going to do something creative. At school I took every art and design option going and developed a real love for both design and illustration. I decided to focus on Graphic Design for my degree and after graduation I worked for various agencies in print and web design having a blast designing everything from brands and brochures to websites. However I missed the more illustrative side, so in 2010 I decided to set up my own business where I could focus more on that and I haven't looked back! 

Is it a difficult career to get involved in?

I don't really have much to compare it to - I've never worked in any other industry but, like most things, it involved hard work, doing good work and sharing it and. most importantly, learning all the time. A portfolio is the key tool for an aspiring designer and time spent building the quality of the work you present is never time wasted. Generally the more you put out there the more you get back so sharing work online and with people in the sector of the industry you want to work in is also a great way to get noticed.

Photograph  : Sam Osborne

Photograph: Sam Osborne

Could you give us the low down on your business and the passion behind what you do?

I'm a graphic designer and illustrator and there are many sides to my business - I create bespoke illustrations for all kinds of clients, work with a marketing agency on graphic design projects and I also make and sell my own range of products. I love the variety that brings to each working day.

My main passion is colour and people say they can recognise my work due to the colours I use. Colour is so powerful - it can change an environment, design or product completely and I love experimenting with new colour combinations. As a kid I painted my bedrooms all sort of colours, from bright red to blue and purple stripes, so it has always fascinated me. And that hasn't really changed as I've gotten older, although I now restrict the really bold colour combos to my work, not everyone can live in a bright red room apparently! 

It all starts with a sketch ...   Photographs  : Sam Osborne

It all starts with a sketch ...

Photographs: Sam Osborne

How do you find being your own boss? What are the challenges, what are the benefits?

The last few years have been a huge learning curve. It's easy to have rosy idea of what running your own business is like but the reality is that it's hard work. You have to be involved with every aspect of your business - including the bits you don't like very much (admin and paperwork in my case!) but for me the benefits far outweigh any of the negatives. Being able to control exactly how my days and weeks go, when I work, where I work and, to a certain extent, what I work on has changed my life completely.

Where do you find your inspiration and ideas for your designs and your your products?

Stylistically I'm very influenced by mid century modern design, 1950s and 60s advertising, pop culture, second hand books and retro sci-fi movies. I love the forward thinking, optimistic nature of design from this period and the colour palettes are some of my favourites. However in terms of topics and themes my influence comes from all over the place; I especially love nature and often break up my day with a walk or cycle in my local nature reserve or simply sit in my garden and watch the birds, I enjoy sport and science and read a lot! Part of the deal of being a creative is that you absorb so much from almost everywhere - everything is an opportunity to make a connection or spark off a new train of interest or inspiration.

The manufacturing process ...   Photographs  : Sam Osborne

The manufacturing process ...

Photographs: Sam Osborne

What is it that you love most about what you do?

That I can take a blank piece of paper and turn it into something that solves a problem, brightens up someone's living room or communicates an important message - the process of creating my designs is still the most exciting thing for me and I love the journey that each project takes me on.

How do you find balance between work and life when your workload just gets too busy?

Maintaining a balance between work and home life can be really difficult, especially as both myself and my boyfriend work at home. In an effort to try and make the boundaries clearer we've just built ourselves a new office space, a dedicated studio rather than the second bedroom we were using. This means that once the studio door is closed we can forget about work until the next day, in theory anyway!

However sometimes, when it is really busy, you do have to throw all ideas about work-life balance out of the window and just get the work done. I try to make use of down times as a way of maintaining a balance over the long term. If I have a quiet week work wise I'll try to get out and visit a gallery or museum or simply take an afternoon off to sit in the sunshine or visit friends. The nice thing about working for yourself is that you are not restricted by the idea of 9-5, five days a week.

What are your top tips for staying positive when facing difficult situations or stress at work - or indeed in life in general?

For me good support networks are the key to staying sane. I come from an entrepreneurial family and have many friends in the local area who also work for themselves so there is always someone who has 'been there and done that' to talk to. But it's not just local networks that I find helpful - I'm a member of a few online communities and associations that offer support and assistance and a much needed place to vent. I'm also a member of a local book club and my home town's brand new Women's Institute both of which are great ways to meet new people and learn new skills away from the world of work. If all else fails, go for a run, put on some loud music or meet a friend for a drink and put the world to rights!

What has been the most important thing you have learned since starting out?

Probably two things get joint top spot for best lesson I've learned:

  1. That I can't do it all. Asking for help and getting outside input is a vital part of running a business. Hiring experts to do my accounts, PR and ad-hoc projects is by far the best thing I've ever done and frees me up to do the things I am good at.
  2. Celebrate every success, even the really little ones. Obviously you don't always have to throw a huge party but find some way of marking all the good things like sales in your shop, hitting a goal you've been working towards or landing a new client, even if it's just opening the posh pack of biscuits!
Photograph  : Sam Osborne

Photograph: Sam Osborne

A huge thanks to Sam for sharing a little insight into her world. If you're feeling suitably inspired after this post and you're thinking you would like a little extra colour in your office or indeed your home-life then for the duration of Stationery Week (27th April - 3rd May) What Now readers can get 15% off in Sam's store by using the code: WHATNOW15 

So hurry and get your orders in now to ensure a bright and snazzy summer in the office!



Time To Unwind And Get Your Colour On!

Happy Friday all. With the weekend nearing with every hour, whatever your exciting plans for the next few days might be, make sure you also take a little time to switch off, reboot and relax.


My idea for switching off this weekend might seem like a little bit of an odd one but bear with me. It seems to be all the rage all of a sudden and I've been giving it a go this week myself and can see why. The relaxation tool of the moment is to embrace that inner child, get out your felt tips or pencils and try colouring in - for adults! Yep and it turns out it really is a fantastic way to lose yourself for a bit, stop that brain from whirring and really help you to unwind.

Colouring Pencil

I came across the idea a few weeks ago when reading an article entitled 'Colouring Isn't Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress' on the Huffington Post website. Intrigued by what I read I shared the post on this blogs Facebook page to see what other people had to say and just to generally put the idea out there. 

The response was huge (well in terms of the activity I get on Facebook which can be pretty quiet at times!) it got a lot of likes very quickly as well as a number of shares and comments. Something about the idea really caught peoples imagination. So realising that this really was something quite intriguing I thought I'd have a look around for my very own colouring book and give it a go!

Secret Garden Colouring Book

It turns out these books are everywhere - and there are so many to choose from. Just a few minutes browsing over on Amazon bought up a million choices. I've since seen the same books popping up on the stands in Waterstones and other book and stationery retailers, as well as noticing adverts for colouring book subscription services pop up on my TV.

But does it really do anything for you and is it really worth getting involved? ...


Colouring Pencils

My answer would be yes - you should give it a try especially if you're struggling to unwind and get rid of any negative or niggling thoughts. Plus if you have a dormant creative lying within you you'll probably really enjoy this particular outlet.

As explained in the Huffington Post article, the process calms down the activity of the amygdala the part of our brain that can go into overdrive when we're feeling under stress. Concentrating on colouring in (and staying in the lines, which was harder than I remember from childhood!) completely distracts you from the nagging thoughts in your mind and really allows you to relax without negative distraction.

I've personally been happily converted. Not only that but it really doesn't have to cost very much at all. Books comes in all shapes, sizes and prices and a packet of colouring and pencils or felt tips isn't exactly going to break the bank.

So if you're after an effective and cost friendly way to take the pressure off this weekend why not give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised by the simple but useful benefits that it brings! 

My current colouring book - Secret Garden, An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book, Johanna Basford.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and hope to see you back here soon.



The Office Valentine

So tomorrow is of course Valentines day! If you're celebrating with a loved one I hope you have a wonderful day.

However on another note, if cupid has recently been tempting you with romance at work and you're thinking about dating someone in your office I thought I'd offer a few do's and don'ts that you might want to watch out for in today's post.

Research has shown that nearly half of all office romances end up in marriage so there may well be something to be said for dating a colleague. However getting involved with someone at work can have serious pitfalls. You don't want to end up risking your career and your livelihood by getting into yourself into a tricky situation. Plus working with a loved one might not always be quite as fun as it may sound.

With that in mind here are a few useful tips to help you navigate the world of workplace liaisons!


1. Beware of your company/office rules. There aren't any specific laws to prevent romance between colleagues in the work environment but do make sure you're up to speed with your particular company's policy to avoid getting yourself into any hot water! Relationships between colleagues can often be frowned upon especially where there may be an issue of confidentiality between the two roles that you hold. Make sure you're informed and that you act accordingly.

2. Consider how you will react if the relationship doesn't work out. It's not fun to have to think about right at the beginning of meeting and finding a spark with someone new but in a work environment it kind of becomes very important. If for some reason your new romance was to fail and you still have to work in close contact with your ex partner are you going to be able to handle that? What if they were to meet someone new and you had to bear witness to this new relationship day after day? What if you end it and they find it hard to accept? Be honest with yourself because it could have a real effect on your working life further down the line. 

3. Keep it low key. If you do decide to go ahead then make sure you keep things low key in the workplace and around your colleagues. Avoid those public displays of affection in the kitchen or by the water cooler! No-one really wants to see that during the 9 to 5 no matter how happy they might be for you! On the flip side keep your morning argument away from the office environment and watch the language you use towards each other. Keep it professional and don't let negative vibes from that blazing row the night before affect the morale and the mood of your colleagues.

4. Beware what you share! In this day of social media be careful what you share of your time together outside of work on your Facebook, Twitter streams or anything that other colleagues or Managers may have access to. Again it's not about hiding but more about keeping it professional and respectful to the situation that you're in. Plus if you don't want to be answering any awkward questions or avoiding rumours in the office then don't give them any ammunition to quiz you on or anything to talk about!

5. Keep your emotions in check. As mentioned above you will have to resist the temptation to bring your relationship into work with you especially if things aren't going so well, you're arguing and you're feeling emotional. When you sit down at that desk of a morning leave your relationship at home and don't bring tears, anger or any other negativity that may be occurring outside of the office in to the working day.

6. Treat everyone equally. Remember to keep things balanced just as you would even if the love of your life wasn't sitting a couple of desks away from you. Treat all work decisions and colleagues with equal time and respect and value everyone the same when it comes to the office environment.


Ultimately my best advice would be to be careful and really think about the reality of the environment that you're in and the consequences if things don't go quite to plan. That aside work can be a wonderful place to meet someone that you are likely to share similar interests and a similar outlook with, so providing you tread carefully and understand the situation then go for it and be happy!

Have a wonderful Valentines day all - just as a little side here are a few of my favourite Valentine related posts from around the web to get you inspired for the weekend.


How To Prepare A Valentines Dinner - Sea Of Shoes

6 Places In Your House To Celebrate Valentines Day - A Little Opulent

14 Most Romantic Places In London - A Lady In London

Valentines Slutty Brownie Sundae! - The Londoner

Red Velvet Baked Pancake With Honeyed Whipped Cream Cheese - A Beautiful Mess


Hope to see you back here very soon. If you have any tips, advice or experiences to add to the above please do let me know in the comments below.


In the picture - Clinique Chubby Stick Intense Moisturising Lip Colour in Mightiest Maraschino and Rifle Paper Company 'To Do' notepad - not currently online but recently found on sale at Paperchase


Workplace Doodles For National Doodle Day

Today I wanted to write a little extra post in addition to what I had worked out for the rest of this week and pop it in on the blog this afternoon for your consideration!

Yesterday afternoon whilst doing some work and research for some other pieces that I'm working on I stumbled across the fact that this coming Friday 6th February is National Doodle Day in the UK. Intrigued I started to look into it a bit more and last night found myself doodling away whilst watching the TV having been inspired by the idea.

National Doodle Day

Doodle day has been put together to raise money for Epilepsy Action and the idea is very simple, you doodle away, submit your doodle either by post or online and donate £1 to support people living with epilepsy. The official day is this Friday but everyone will have up until Friday 20th March to submit their doodle for entry into the big doodle day competition!

Not only that but a number of celebrities have also been getting involved and their doodles will be available via online auction this Friday. Check out the celebrity doodle gallery.

Why not get your work colleagues involved and all get doodling and donating for this brilliant event? It really couldn't be easier and I think it's just such a wonderful idea. If you think you can convince your colleagues to participate in a little doodling break-time this Friday then find out more about the whole thing here.

There's also a fantastically interesting section on the website devoted to what your doodle says about you and exactly what it is that makes us doodle - Doodle Meanings!

So if you find yourself absent-mindedly scribbling away on your notepad this week why not put it towards something great and submit and donate.

Thanks for listening/reading everyone - I think that's the most times I've ever written the word doodle - if not the only time I've ever really used that word! However I hope you agree, like me, that's it's certainly worth it.

Have a lovely Tuesday all.