Malik Thomas

We chat with Graphic Designer & Illustrator Malik Thomas about reaching out to clients, receiving a Creativepool award and making Birthday cards in Microsoft Paint. Plus a little slap on the wrist from Malik if you haven't set up your website already (it's so easy these days, get to it!)

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?

One of my earliest creative memories was when I first started reception and had to make a birthday card in Microsoft Paint! I think it was the first time I’d ever used a computer and it was fascinating to me that I could click and drag to draw something! At such a young age, I remember the satisfaction that came with designing something from scratch and I don’t think that’s ever gone away.

By the time I was in senior school, I discovered Computer Arts magazine and became really interested in vector graphics and digital based work. I remember following all the tutorials that came on the disc included and trying to learn the basics. I guess it was at this point that I could see myself following a career in the creative industry.

At the time, I loved the work of artists like Jon Burgerman and Yuko Kondo which influenced my style early on.

What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?

When I was in my final year I didn’t really have a plan other than the fact I wanted to continue freelancing. At the time, I completed a live project for the National Football Museum in Manchester which developed into an artist residency and solo exhibition after I graduated. It was an amazing experience that opened up so many opportunities and gave me a decent amount of exposure to be able to continue to do what I was passionate about.

You should never be afraid to reach out to clients about work because you don’t know where it can lead. It’s rare that they will contact you so it’s important to stay confident and keep putting your work out there.

Design work by Malik Thomas The Design Kids interviews Malik Thomas work-2

How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

I think like most creatives you develop your own style by experimenting and making work in a way that’s authentic and genuine to you. When I started out, I would work a lot with fineliners and markers which helped me to gradually develop the detailed linear style I have now. Looking back at my old sketchbooks it’s entertaining to see some of the things I used to draw!

Nowadays a lot of my inspiration comes from architecture and infographics. When I approach a project, my aim is to present an idea or message in a way that keeps you engaged! Sometimes I’ll include features that you might not even notice at first sight but it’s all part of my practice!

My advice to others would be to find inspiration in the things that interest you and combine it with your work. Stay curious and never be afraid to step out your comfort zone. When you’re starting out it can be tempting to copy the work of another creative but this will only hurt you in the long run. Don’t feel like you need to have a style before you graduate, it’s something that will develop naturally over time.

What has been your highlights since you started out?

One of the highlights this year has been winning a Creativepool award for my ‘Inside Information’ series of infographics with studio Dorothy. It was a good feeling to be recognised in the creative industry as someone thinking outside the norm. I travelled down to London for the event and had the opportunity to meet other creatives from around the world which was a great experience.

Design work by Malik Thomas The Design Kids interviews Malik Thomas work-4
Design work by Malik Thomas The Design Kids interviews Malik Thomas work-4

Find inspiration in the things that interest you and combine it with your work

What advice would you give students starting out?

If you’re just starting out, then you definitely need to have a website that showcases your best work, there’s no excuse! If you don’t know much about coding then sites like Cargo Collective, Behance etc. are at your disposal for free. Using these to your advantage and creating a central platform that you can direct clients to will help you out significantly. As will social media like Instagram and Snapchat, which is not only quicker to upload work but can potentially put you in front of a larger audience and get your work seen on a wider scale.

I would also recommend that you start to think about where you see your work on a commercial level. If you haven’t had any clients whilst at university, create a mock brief to show how you would approach a project as a professional. This will help you to figure out where you see your illustrations in the context of work. Once you have this you can start to build up a list of contacts to send samples to.

Most of all though I think you just need to be confident and produce work that’s authentic and genuine. Stay true to yourself, work hard, and the rest will follow.

Who would be the “dream client” that you would do anything to work for?

I think it can be hard to pinpoint your dream client but anyone who can give you the creative freedom to produce your best work is a winner! So far in my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have clients that are open to new ideas and trust in your abilities, which is great.

In the future, I’d love to have a range of clients that I can work for on a regular basis and develop as a practitioner in the process.

Design work by Malik Thomas The Design Kids interviews Malik Thomas work-6
Design work by Malik Thomas The Design Kids interviews Malik Thomas work-6

Where to find Malik Thomas online.


Instagram: @malikts

Twitter: @malikts

Get involved