Cover Profile: Paul Johnson

Cover Profile: Paul Johnson

This month it was a pleasure to have British illustrator Paul Johnson create a series of illustrations for our cover. The short story takes us on an outdoor hike across different devices. Visit FFF on your desktop, tablet and smartphone to see them all.

Paul also took the time to tell us a little more about himself.

Hi there, I’m a designer and illustrator from Manchester even though I’ve lived in London for the last 14 years. I spent 8 years working as a marketing manager before taking redundancy six years ago and retraining as a print designer at Shillington College here in London. I’ve been working as a designer and Illustrator since. I got married last year and we’ve just moved into our new apartment so the last few months have been hectic.


Do you think it’s important to find time for personal projects and why?

For sure. I’m a digital designer during the day so personal projects along with commissions are the way I’ve developed as an Illustrator, especially over the last 18 months when I’ve really found my feet and style. I think they allow you to explore and experiment beyond your day to day commissions.


How do you approach a new project?

I tend to get the brief, and start pulling research and ideas together. I’ve a small book I carry everywhere with me that I’m constantly scribbling thumbnail ideas in.  For example I’m doing a personal project of creating an illustration for each Man City premiership game this season and I’ve got around 5-10 ideas already roughly sketched out for future use.

With a client I’ll get the brief, do some research and start to pull some initial thoughts together. Then I’ll scamp out 3-4 ideas and send them off with a little bit of explanation behind each. From there I’ll make any changes and make a start.


Do you try to get feedback from the client at this early stage?

Always. It’s the best way so you both have a good understanding of what you are aiming for at the end of the process.


Do you focus on one project at a time or are you a multi-tasker?

I used to try and multi task illustrations but as I tend to freelance at the moment in the evenings, I quickly found it doesn’t work for me. So depending on timescales and deadlines, I’ll usually try and work through the current job first. It’s better to devote my energies to pulling together the best piece of work that I can for the client in good time.


What do you two listen to while you work?

Lots of podcasts. Anything from film reviews, politics and football. Music wise it’s Lauren Laverne on BBC 6 daily or a mix of Radiohead, Joy Division, The Smiths.


What would be your dream project?

Anything for Manchester City. Sad but true. I did the Aguero illustration as part of the Football Crest Index so working on something that close to my heart would be wonderful.


Do you work from home or in an office?

Both. At the moment I work for a creative agency in Westminster during the day and I’ve a studio set up at home to do my freelance work in the evenings.


What do you do to switch off?

I generally try to get out and see exhibitions with my wife, which to be fair in London is relatively easy, or we’ll wander round South London looking for the best coffee joint.


Finishing off with a classic but always useful question, what’s the most important piece of advice anyone has given to you about your work?

Not so much said to me, but I saw Adrian Shaughnessy interview Paula Scher, (whose work I adore) earlier this year and she said you should “fall in love with something that was designed..” i.e if you’re making or designing something, you want someone to think about your own work the way you felt about a piece of work that you love and consider amazing.

Glenn Garriock

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