Featured Graphic Artist, Illustrator

Michael Arnold

March 2019

We learn how Illustrator & Graphic Artist Michael Arnold traversed his way through the industry without a University degree under his belt (it's totally doable!); plus we chat about spotting red flags, seeing your work 'in the wild', and how to get excited about uninteresting briefs.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

Actually, I didn’t attend university; I left school at 18 and I had been designing T-shirts for a friends' T-shirt business already and after leaving I started designing and screen printing posters. I kinda lucked into the vintage type fad at the time and made quite a bit of money selling them online and at a market stall, but I quit the market stall because it was too cold.

After a while, I started picking up a few Graphic Design jobs before finally deciding to focus in on Illustration and scratched together a very ropey portfolio that I sent to anyone who would listen. Initially, my first few jobs were small trade magazines and side projects of other designers but eventually, it began to grow and my work started to hit it’s stride stylistically.

Whats the worst design job you’ve ever had and how does that make you a better designer?

One of my worst jobs to date was designing some marketing materials for a tech brand, initially, I worked with an advertising agency on some small elements for an animation, and that job went swimmingly; no complaints. I was then passed on for some extra work, because I had illustrated these elements, to an external team to put together what I thought would be some more illustrations for the product’s marketing materials. However, it quickly became apparent that this new team were not designers themselves and really didn’t understand my role or their role in the project. Which lead to a complete mess of miscommunications and lack of organisation and I lot more work than was first pitched to me — what I learnt from this was spotting the Red Flags.

There were things I noticed that in hindsight I should have taken the lead on and nipped in the bud before they began; simple things like confirming that the copy was nailed down, agreeing on a single point of contact and making clear a timeline of the way this project was going to run — more for their benefit than mine. I don’t hold any grudge against them, they were doing the best they could, I reckon, but it pays to be mindful that not everyone understands the process as well as you do as a creative.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I work as an Illustrator and Graphic Artist with projects spanning Advertising, Animation, Branding, Packaging and Editorials and aim to convey a sense of humour and bold expression in my work whilst distilling down the illustration as much as I can, to a very concise composition. People and patterns are a core part of my pieces.

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It pays to be mindful that not everyone understands the process as well as you do as a creative.

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What are some of the best and worse parts of your job, day-to-day.

The best part is seeing work you’ve created in the wild, I’m fortunate enough that recently I’ve finished a lot of big projects and people have been able to send me photographs of the artwork from around the world - that’s always a kick to see that. I still love seeing magazine work in print too, to think that thousands of people will read and see your work is kinda dizzying. I keep all my thank you notes from Art Directors.

The worst is the down times, I’m a bit of a workaholic I love what I do. But sometimes when there’s no work coming in, you’re trying your hardest to find new commissions and nothing is working it can be stressful. It’s why I try to teach anyone who’s going self-employed that Money Management is the single most important thing to get right.

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

Save money, do with less and as ‘sell-out’ as it seems — try to figure out a way to make your work suitable for the industry. An important part of being a designer is being able to communicate with people (not just other designers). It’s all very well having a portfolio of extreme artwork but if it doesn’t communicate or resonate with people then it’s pointless. It’s a tricky task that I’m still mastering myself.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ever create the experimental or personal work that you like; a little for you, a little for them.

Another tip, your greatest skill should be finding an angle in the work that you can be excited about, you won’t always getting interesting briefs when you’re starting so the trick is to find a part of it that you can enjoy. Whether it’s a process you’ve wanted to try, an unusual take on the idea or the chance to learn a new program — you’ve gotta find a piece of it that you can be excited out.

Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

Professionally, I hope to be working again with a charity I’ve worked with in the past on an extension of our previous projects. That was a lot of fun the first time around and I’d love to be able to continue it. I’d also like to work on some Spacial/Set design, I’m putting that out there into the universe.

Personally, I’d really like to create some Public Sculptural Art. I’m working on a couple of concepts but we’ll see where, if anywhere, that those go. I’m also looking to take more of an Art Directorial role going forward, I’ve had my taste of it a little a few times and now I’m hooked.

Website: mkrnld.co.uk

Instagram: @mkrnld

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