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Behance Creative Spotlight: Steve Simpson

Dublin-based illustrative designer Steve Simpson caught our attention with his whimsical approach to animal illustrations in the menu created for his client Fade Street Social. Learn more about his workspace, favorite Creative Cloud features, and how he created this work in the Q&A below:

Steve-Simpson

What are you working on now?

I’m currently designing and illustrating a label for my favourite Irish whiskey. Can’t spill anymore about this one, except to say it’s a lot of fun with hand drawn type. I’m just finishing thirty 1 inch monsters for a ten foot roll of stickers for a client in New York, which will be great preparation for my next job; a 400 meter long mural. Thankfully, it will be done digitally and not on site.

What’s your dream project?

I really like a mix of illustration and design in a project; I love the control you have as an illustrator when you’re also doing the graphic design part of the project. There can sometimes, as an illustrator, be a tendency to create a piece that will primarily look great outside the context of the design; for instance in the portfolio. If the designer is also trying to create something that will stand alone, the whole design doesn’t exactly gel.  As an illustrative designer, you can get a much better harmony, with neither side fighting for centre stage. (I’m starting to sound like an old hippie.)

I’m really enjoying packaging projects at the moment, so perhaps a beer label, tea or biscuits would be a fun project to work on.

What does your workspace look like…is it your personal studio, or a neighborhood coffee shop?

I work from a studio, but at the moment I probably have more used coffee cups than the neighborhood coffee shop. It’s a typical cluttered working studio, think less Zen, more punk DIY, but with wifi. I have a room to myself (usually) with a couple of tables, a light-box, iMac and piles and piles of paper. I sketch a lot, constantly (and quickly) redrawing ideas until I’ve exhausted as many options as possible. I hate it when a better idea comes to you when you’ve nearly finished the project, so I try to go through as many options as quickly as possible. Which does create a mountain of roughs and tidying at least twice a year.

Do you share your workspace with anybody? Furry friends count.

I’m saying goodbye to my summer intern Nikkie (Little Paper Forest), who’s off to finish her degree in Illustration back in Canada. In the garret there’s a web designer and another design/illustrator, a couple of Irish guys. It’s good to have somebody to talk ideas through with sometimes. I also like to have an occasional moan, which isn’t the same when you’re on your own.

How has the Creative Cloud changed your creative workflow?

I’ve been using Photoshop since about 1993/94 and it probably accounts for around 90% of my digital day. Other day-to-day essentials include: InDesign, Illustrator and Acrobat. I love exploring new stuff, seeing how it can add something different to what I’m already doing. Having all of the Adobe Creative Cloud apps available to download is very exciting. Currently looking forward to playing around with After Effects CC. Also loving the CC desktop client. Very cool being able to see updates as they become available and so simple to update.

What tools specific to Creative Cloud enable you to work more efficiently?

Really loving the hook up with Behance. I like to put some of my projects on my Behance work-in-progress page, great for instant feedback. The ability to do this straight from Photoshop CC is very cool and prevents me getting sidetracked by other online distractions.

What was the initial ask for this project?

I first met the client, Dylan McGrath, with the Creative Director Gary Gleeson, when we sat down in a Dublin bar to discuss the Fade Street Social menu cover. The building was still being renovated at the time. Dylan wanted a busy kitchen environment that reflected not just his own personal attention to detail but also the humor of the Irish. As a nation we’ve been through a torrid time lately with the rise and fall of the Celtic tiger economy and we appear to be going through a period of reflection; rediscovering what it is to be Irish. I think what Dylan is doing reflects this. It’s about quality traditional foodstuffs in a modern changing Ireland. It’s presented with creativity and flair and a touch of Irish humour. That’s pretty much what the cover needed to reflect.

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How did the client’s vision match up to your execution?

Initially there were to be humans in the kitchen, but I thought it would work better with animals, so I took the food from the menu and made them the kitchen staff. As I’m drawing them they naturally develop as characters and by the time I’m finished often, privately, have quite elaborative back-stories. I think Dylan may have asked for one of the speech bubbles to be changed but otherwise they went with my initial pencil sketch. We printed a large tryptic version that is behind the reception when you enter and you can really see the detail when blown up. They were very happy.

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Did you look at real animals for inspiration?

In my initial sketches I try to work without any reference material. I want to get as much of what I see in my mind down on paper. I try not to worry about whether a sheep looks exactly like a sheep at the early stages, it’s really not important. If the wooly beast is right for the space, if he has a good shape, if he is working well with the environment, if I’m happy, only then will I go and find reference material to make him more ‘sheeply’ accurate. If you look at the sheep in the centre, I think it’s his eye that really gives him his personality. If I hadn’t gone off and found photo reference then he would probably have just had a round dot for a pupil.

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Where did some of the personalities come from for these animals?

I guess they are all either people I know or me, mostly they are me at the beginning and my different moods, but they change and develop into their own personalities the more I work into them. I did feature Dylan in the design, he has a chicken on his head. Vincent was the money man, he’s featured on a bottle of vino on the left.

Which animal is your favorite? And why?

I like Angus the bull, who was always called Angus, but the day before I handed the final artwork in I just happened to watch a documentary on cattle that mentioned Angus bulls were all black, and my Angus wasn’t, he was a really nice black and white. So I had to reluctantly change him. Looking back I think being black really makes him. I guess this proves that I don’t use photo reference as much as I should. :)  

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Thanks again to Steve Simpson for answering our questions and giving us insight into his illustrative design process. For more inspiration, be sure to keep in touch with Creative Cloud on Facebook and Twitter.

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