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Q&A with Claire Hartley

Designer and illustrator from London

My name is Claire Hartley and I’m a graphic designer and illustrator based in London. I focus mainly in brand identity, print and illustration — for lifestyle, art and food & drink brands.

When did you start your graphic designer career and what difficulties did you face at the initial stages of your professional path?

I graduated from Uni in 2008 with a dream of moving to London. Being a graduate with no experience (I would highly recommend students seek work-experience whilst they’re studying!) was tough, but I was lucky enough to be offered a placement near my home-town in Birmingham, which turned into a permanent contract.

It wasn’t the perfect job and my skill set was never really suited to the agency as they were primarily digital, but I did learn so much from my 4 years there. It was a small team so roles crossed over and I learnt lots about how to run a business — from proposals, quoting and invoicing, to client management. I think it was only in hindsight I realised what a valuable opportunity that was and how much it set me up for my next step in self-employment.

How good is London for graphic design?

I moved to London 2 years ago and obviously there’s a huge creative scene here — there’s always some design exhibition, industry talks or events popping up providing heaps of inspiration. There’s almost too much choice and I don’t actually get involved with as much as I’d hoped… definitely one for the New Years Resolution list! I think just being in London in general is inspiring though, it’s a melting pot of cultures and people.

Do you prefer to work in your studio a whole day or mix activities?

My studio is in Shoreditch and I share it with 4 other independent designers which is a great source of inspiration in itself. We all work in different fields and ours styles are very different but I think that’s really helpful when bouncing around ideas or asking for design feedback.

I work best from the studio as my iMac, scanner and printer are all here and there’s less distractions! So I try get there as many days a week as I can (unless it’s really raining where I hide in my house, or really sunny where I work from my garden!). Usually there’s a couple of meetings a week which is nice to get out and about, and being in East London there’s a bizzilion coffee shops to work from too. I try to have a little lunch break walk to clear my head and help focus — or a midday gym class, but all depends on how busy I am!

What design resources do you start your day with ?

I do love a morning browse on Behance for motivation, the quality of work on there is incredible. I follow lots of designers / blogs on Twitter and Instagram too so that’s often my first point of call from wakeup, although I’m trying to limit how much time I spend looking at a screen outside of work-time these days…

Who are the best designers / illustrators in London / surroundings whose work you admire?

Ahh there’s so many independent designers and small studios out there that are creating amazing work but to name a couple I’d have to say B&B Studio and Together Design. I’m a big sucker for packaging design and they both have an incredible portfolio of work full of personality that just really connects with me.

I’m lucky that most of my close friends work in the creative industries, they’re spread out all over England and cover all disciplines from paper sculpture, art, typography, surface pattern design and 3D — but I have a lot of admiration for how hard they all work and what they’ve achieved so far, they’re my daily inspiration.