June 27, 2013

Kyoorius Knocks: Steve Simpson

By Payal Khandelwal

One look at the collage of freelance illustrative designer Steve Simpson‘s portfolio and you will know that he has an extremely strong sense of style in all his work. What would amaze you further is that he has maintained the core essence of his style through the diverse categories he has worked on including packaging design, illustrations, and illustration and art for children’s books. Cohesion is what he is aiming for, he says.

Originally from Manchester, England, Simpson is now based in Ireland. His work is regularly exhibited in London, LA & New York and he has won numerous international awards for both his packaging design and illustration inc. a gold & silver at the AOI’s Images; Best of British Illustration Awards. We asked Simpson a lot of fun and a few thought-provoking questions. Here are the edited excerpts:

At what point were you absolutely sure that this is what you want to do?

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment, but I’ve pretty much always had a pencil or paintbrush in my hand. For me, I’d still be drawing everyday even if I wasn’t getting paid for it.

What/who inspires you the most?

At the moment, I’m very much enjoying trawling children’s books in second hand book stalls /charity shop book donations and worn-out stock from libraries, I’ve discovered some real vintage treasures.

I’m constantly inspired by conversations with with my children, getting a glimpse into their worlds which are populated by dragon, dinosaurs and talking food.

What kind of music do you listen to? Does it play any role in your work?

At work, I’m usually listening to BBC 6 music all day. I don’t like to be distracted by changing tracks on iTunes and will quite often find myself working in silence without realising it. Today I’m listening to Fela Kuti on YouTube.

What do you like most about illustrating for children’s books?

Most probably it is the sense of ownership which I feel even if the book is not authored by me. The deadlines are also a bit more forgiving more than in the advertising world. Advertising work is great; for me, it’s like life in a dynamic city while children’s books is the calm of a remote island! I’m lucky to live in both worlds.

There is a very strong similarity in your work in terms of the colors and vibrancy. Is that a conscious effort?

My style has evolved with many different influences, and because it involves creating solutions for various applications, I do try to keep the palette constant in an attempt for some sense of cohesion.


Describe your work desk in one line. If you had to keep just one single item at your desk, what would that be?
It’s pretty messy, but hardly Francis Bacon-esque! There is a chronological order of sorts, but I do lose things on occasion and a full scale archaeological dig is required.

A single item…. Pencilandpaper every time.

If you had a time machine, where would you be headed?

The 1960’s/1970’s; I’m pretty nostalgic about my childhood or else I’d be an Edwardian gentleman fitted out with walnut panelled study and smoking jacket!

At what time of the day do you feel most creative/productive?

I have woken up at three or four in the morning, with a solution to a design issue having been resolved while sleeping! For the most part though, I try to get to work early in the morning, maybe 6.30 am, following a swim, if I can talk myself into it.

What would be your second dream profession?

My Dad is a gardener, and I’ve always loved messing about in the garden so I think I’d be pretty fulfilled doing the same. Or maybe an inventor… although most of the best inventions have already been invented.

What has been your most challenging project so far? Can you tell us a bit about it.

I’m lucky to be constantly faced with new challenges to thrash out. Illustration and design have some blurry edges, I enjoy problem solving in those spheres especially in the area of packaging. I like to look at labels as one big illustration rather than a mix of illustration and graphic design. For some reason this gives me better solutions than thinking of it as two.

What are you upto right now?

Just finished a Wine label for a Russian agency, for a Mexican Vineyard with a customer base in California, it’s great the way the net has opened up the way we work! I’m also working with a gallery in LA on a piece, more packaging for Mic’s Chilli and a children’s book.

mics chilli

A picture of your favourite work created by you?

My current favourite piece is the Menu cover for Fade Street Social.

fade street

A picture of your favourite work created by someone else?

My new favourite illustrator is Jerome Snyder, 1916 – 1976.



Kyoorius is a bi-monthly print magazine on visual communications. Subscribe here. For buying a single copy (or any of the previous issues), write to us at sales@kyoorius.com.  You can order the issue from Tadpole, get the digital copy from Magzter and also buy it from bookstores near you. For any feedback on the magazine or to submit your work, do drop in a mail to us at editor@kyoorius.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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