Meiklejohn are thrilled to welcome typographer Nic Farrell to the agency, whose playful hand drawn lettering is full of energy and life.
Since graduating from Plymouth Nic has enjoyed working with clients such as Cadbury, Boots and Co-op and has received critical acclaim from Creative Review and The Observer. We spoke to Nic about why she chose to pursue a career in typography, her working process and her favourite projects.
How did you become a professional illustrator?
I loved drawing as a child and unless becoming a professional book-reader became a legitimate profession, there was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to draw for a living. I decided not to do an art foundation course, but go straight to university to study illustration as I knew that I wanted to create artwork for a purpose, rather than make fine art. I graduated in 2011 with plenty of knowledge about theory but very little about practice, and through trial and error (thankfully much less error these days) I have been working as a freelance illustrator since then.
Why did you focus on typography?
Music was a big part of my childhood and teenage years thanks to my parents' good taste, so I've always sketched song lyrics. There are probably sketchbooks somewhere filled with horribly twee doodles relating to whatever emo bands were popular in the early 00s. I'm interested in language and semantics and I'm a grammar pedant. The first thing that comes to my mind/hand when I pick up a pen is letters, sketching out a phrase that's going round in my head, mimicking lettering from a shopfront or trying out new ways of drawing a familiar word or letter. I can't explain it, it just gives me a lot of joy!
A lot of your artworks feature lists of films and books, could you tell us about these?
The drawings I do of film titles are a kind of visual journal of everything I've seen over a certain period of time, as an exercise in drawing typography just for the fun of it. I also really like looking at other people's book collections, and what their curated selection of books says about them. That started as an idea while I was studying and is something I still love drawing! They are a great way to create new pieces for my portfolio.
Your work for Mapology is fantastic. We love the idea of having a map for life's journey, could you tell us more about the project?
Thank you! I contacted the team at Mapology early last year as I had seen the maps in shops and they looked wonderful - a great combination of self-improvement and typography. I met with the client for a day of brainstorming and the theme of the map about learning to say 'no' more was set. We came up with the idea that someone's ability to say 'no' was a small plant that needed care, so the artwork became a huge illustration of a greenhouse containing all the different 'nos'.
Could you tell us about how you approach projects?
Sometimes there are certain ideas and images that spring to mind upon receiving a brief, so I work on those first. For example, with the Mapology Guide, as soon as we had the idea of growth and foliage, Rousseau's jungle paintings came to mind. So then, I will try and expand on those ideas. I have a lot of typography books so I tend to leaf through those. Often the first, most simple ideas turn out to be the best. The only way to tackle it is to get straight in there with a pen and paper.
What's an average working day for you?
I'm a night owl and I work much better in the afternoon and evening, so often I do admin stuff in the morning and then start drawing after that. I listen to music if I'm focused on planning and generating ideas, and podcasts if I can zone out. Sometimes, when deadlines are tight I work across a weekend and don't have a free day for a week. As well as being an illustrator I also make screenprinted goodies with my partner (hotyoghurt.com) so I slot that into my working pattern too.
What's your dream project?
I would love to document a city in the way that a lot of maps and guides don't, showing the non-landmarks, derelict shops and buildings, places that aren't really tourist attractions. To create a travel journal or book on shopfronts would be a dream, it's something I've seen a lot in photography but not so much in illustration. Also, I am an avid reader so to work on book covers for any of my favourite novels or authors would be wonderful.
Nic Farrell is represented by Meiklejohn