I came across Katie Phythian Design by chance on social media and with my love of cards had to go exploring on the website where I found beautifully illustrated pieces of art. The natural talent here shows through in each card which is as striking as any painting. She shares her career story in this month’s Q and A.
1. What is the story behind Katie Phythian Design?
I have always known I loved designing & designing cards in particular since I was very young, probably around age 7, when I set up a greeting card company selling cards to my family & friends! I knew later on that I had to carve a career in the design field. After working twelve years for other card publishers I felt it was now the time to start my own journey. It has been a complete whirlwind from day one and continues to be the best leap of faith I ever made.
Katie Phythian Design is a brand that is uplifting & happy. It’s not afraid of a big splash of colour. If I could move the studio to the Mediterranean & sip on gin and tonic while I paint I most certainly would! Our motto is ‘good vibes only’! It is a true love of illustrating & painting in all it’s forms. We want each recipient to feel like they are receiving a beautiful piece of artwork when they open one of our cards.
2. After seeing you cards I know you are very talented, did you study illustration/fine art?
Thank you! that’s wonderful of you to say. I studied fine art at college for two years & then went on to study a degree in Embroidery at Manchester Metropolitan University. These courses really made me think outside the box when it comes to designing a product, something which is still at the heart of what I do now when designing our cards.
3. What are some of the aspects of card design that someone who doesn’t understand the profession would never think of?
Ultimately you have to answer the all encompassing question – who is buying this card and why? this is where a card design starts from. If this is missed then it will loose it’s commercial edge & therefore retailers won’t necessarily buy from you however beautiful your designs are. Mixing that commerciality with on trend ideas is a fine balance.
4. Share 5 adjective or words that best describe your work?
Happy, colourful, quirky, uplifting & crafted.
5. How did you come up with the design ideas, what inspires you most?
You hear it all the time from designers but it really is true that I am inspired all the time wherever I am. A few highlights are the French countryside where we cycle every year, vintage advertising posters I can never get enough of those, the view from my studio is inspiring as it gives me great thinking space with it’s tall trees while designing and the bird sanctuary beyond there is always a lot of movement going on there. I love Naive art in all it’s simplicity, my favourite painting is ‘In the Rainforest’ by Henri Rousseau. Alongside this I have always worked in florists as part time jobs so florals are a huge aspect of my inspiration. I once use to make up the flowers for the Coronation Street set which was great fun! Oooh did I mention loose leaf earl grey tea & drum and base?!!
6. How hard do you need to promote yourself and your designs in order to make a name for yourself?
It is a very competitive yet supportive industry all at the same time. The order of the day is new new new! so you have to constantly come up with new ideas. There is a never -ending calendar of seasons which need to be designed for such as Valentine’s, Mother’s day, Christmas as well as everyday designs which consist of birthdays right through to occasions like weddings, new baby & moving house.
I think social media is playing a bigger part these days in how companies market themselves, getting in front of your target audience is more of a possibility these days with Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. We have found that this works pretty well with our relationships with existing customers & meeting new ones. I would recommend at least one of these platforms for any creative business.
7. What kind of background helps you succeed in art as a career?
I think you could be from any profession to then start a career in the art and design world. I have been lucky enough to have family & friends that have always told me to just go for it. I knew it was all I ever wanted to do. Although I would recommend studying in the design field in order to make yourself a better candidate in interviews. I would also say try anything even if you want to be a graphic designer for example never turn down work-experience at say a theatre painting the sets as you just can never qualify how valuable this will be to your knowledge as a creative.
Lastly, a piece of advice I was given by a creative director years ago was to subject yourself to as many different cultures & sub cultures as you can. This gives you such an advantage to know whats going on in the world which then feeds your work.
8. And last but not least, how do you stay creative?
The kettle gets put on, the earl grey goes in the pot & off we go. A calm mind is key for me when being creative & also a clear desk. Also, edit, edit again & then edit some more you’ll be amazed at the results. Usually there nothing a quick walk around the bird sanctuary with my partner Mike won’t fix or a quick cuddle with Ramirez our cat.
Her amazing work and creative cards can be found here on here website so make sure you go and take a look.