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!

Louise