Anna Mullin, or Sneaky Raccoon as she’s better known, studied at #shillolon way back in 2008. Since then she’s carved out a name for herself as a highly renowned illustrator. With a diverse style she’s attracted clients such as The Body Shop, Boots and The Telegraph. Now based in Manchester Anna made a visit to our #shilloman campus to inspire our current bunch of full-timers.
In our chat below we hear all about the key to self promotion in today’s design scene and why remaining positive is crucial when embarking on a career as a junior designer.
Has illustration always been a passion of yours or is it something you’ve gained interest in over the years?
I’ve always drawn. It was something that I enjoyed from an early age, never being without something to draw on or in while travelling about. I remember sitting in restaurants as a child and just drawing quietly at the table while other children ran around in circles. My parents were probably quite relieved. I studied art and design throughout my schooling and it was always my favourite creative lesson to attend. By the time I went to university though I was growing tired of drawing and painting in certain ways, so I sought other directions to explore and finally found my freedom in digital media, despite fighting it initially. Now it’s the norm. I sometimes forget how to use a pencil or pen because I’m so used to being in front of a computer typing, using commands, and drawing with a Wacom and pen, that it’s sometimes nice to work on hand drawn projects.
Your self promotion skills are top-notch—do you think this is becoming more important in today’s competitive industry and is there any tips you can give our students/graduates?
You can’t do anything these days without being online. We are bombarded by social media and the constant ever-growing sea of creatives being introduced into the industry each year means that there is healthy dose of competition and demand for attention. “Good things come to those who wait” is now an old saying of the past. If you’re not involved, driven and passionate, you might as well be working in a dark cave. You have to want to promote the work you do and carve your own destiny. Social media and promoting yourself is just part-and-parcel of our everyday digital lives. We are our own advertising campaigns.
I’d say to graduates to be proactive when it comes to promoting themselves, but not annoying—avoid being intrusive, but do be nice, clear and assertive with your own message.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Proudest career moment? I think it was beating two larger design industry agencies to the Monsoon Trust charity identity which I designed with Rob and Jon at Sawdust. Sometimes the underdog does win.
Can you tell us about any projects you’re currently working on, or any exciting plans on the horizon you can share?
I’m quiet tied up with my new venture at the moment, Foxtail Gallery—a contemporary art and design gallery where I currently live in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. I now spend a lot of time organising shows, helping artists, running the gallery and bespoke picture framing workshop that my partner runs, as well as doing all of the promotion, design work, social media, advertising, installations, sourcing and maintaining the designer shop space. I have a few projects that are about to go live but as usual I can’t really tell you much about them as they are strictly under NDAs. A book that I did the graphics for is due for release at the end of April so that will be nice to see the end product after eight months of waiting and development.
How and where do you find your inspiration? Could you share a few of your go-to creative resources?
Inspiration rarely comes from others work. I just like stuff, shapes, objects, interesting things. I think a lot about all kinds of things, all of the time. Wondering and pondering things is a good way to find solutions or create new ideas. I don’t really look at blogs or spend any time on creative sites.
You recently relocated to Manchester after being based in London for many years. What’s your impression of the city and its design scene so far?
Relocating from London was quiet easy and I really love Manchester as a city. Having to start over again without a friend and contact network was difficult but not unachievable. Manchester is vibrant and design-hungry, with a lot of designers in it’s vicinity. Coming from London as a capital, anywhere else feels slower in pace, but Manchester is connected yet relaxed. Having since moved to West Yorkshire though a year ago to set up the gallery and framing workshop, Manchester is a place I try to spend as much time as possible in, attending events and meeting up with creatives on my days off. I’m hoping to return to Manchester in the future as I’m a city person despite loving the countryside, and I do miss the convenience, fast-paced environment and liveliness of the city.
As a Shillington Graduate, what attracted you to the course in the first place and what would you say to someone thinking about enrolling?
I enrolled at Shillington because i’d had such a bad experience at University, doing a subject that I had become disinterested in and regretted losing four years of my life to, which I could never regain. Shillington offered everything I wanted and was used to while studying abroad previously.
Fast-paced, hard work, real-time briefs, concentrated, and to be completely honest—the teachers want you to succeed. It was nice to have deadlines and a strict schedule to adhere to, which was perfect for my way of working.
Choosing to restudy at Shillington was a gut instinct and spring-boarded my career.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a junior about to enter the industry?
Advice for juniors going into industry—be positive. There is a lot to learn and adapt to when you first start out. There will be days when you can’t find the right solution or when the work might not be interesting, but just remember that it’s all experience, both good and bad. If you have a good day, that’s excellent—smile. If it’s a bad day, just remember not to be too hard on yourself, breathe and know that tomorrow is a new day.
Being a designer can be challenging at times, but remember that you are not on your own.
You can ask your peers if you don’t know how to do something, don’t be embarrassed. Working with a team means there is room for honesty when you work hard and they know and understand that you’re trying your best. Explore—you’ll find what you love the most by experimenting and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Finally, good luck—it’s something that you make for yourself.
We’re currently enrolling for our London and Manchester classes for the full-time course beginning on April 25th 2016. Get in touch for more details!