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Q&A with Luke Murphy-Wearmouth

Australian freelance designer, illustrator and front-end developer

My name's Luke Murphy-Wearmouth, and I'm an Australian freelance designer, illustrator and front-end developer based in the UK.

How did you get started in design and illustration, what is your background?

I got my first copy of Photoshop 5.5 when I was 14, and started messing about with graphics. My father owned a web design business and needed some extra hands, so I started small bits of web design professionally when I was 15 and 16. Over the next 8 or so years I mainly dipped into illustration and design doing theatre posters and programmes, music posters and cd covers for the various bands, musicals and plays I was involved in. After dabbling briefly with server administration, digital marketing, content, and PR after leaving university, I fell back into the web design world working with Microsoft's evangelism team at my old agency. I picked up my pencils and drawing tablet again, eventually becoming creative lead at the agency I was at. After the birth of my son in 2013, I decided to go freelance to get more of a work/life balance in my life.

Where did you study? Looking back, would you recommend your path for beginners?

I flitted between degrees, starting in Computer Science and ending up with a degree in Contemporary Music Studies. Having worked in all parts of various creative industries, I feel it's made me a more rounded designer/person. While it meant that I had to do my own legwork to learn the basics, and also meant I made lots of cringe-worthy mistakes along the way, I do think it means I'm not constrained by the way I was taught. Design always came from a place of passion with me.

What is a turning point in your professional career?

Working with the guys at Microsoft opened my eyes to the industry. Not only was I working with some amazing, talented people, but they were introducing me to the wider industry through the conferences and events we were getting involved with. It was an amazing account to work on, as one half was watching and reporting on amazing speakers like Stefan Sagmeister, Frank Chimero and Bill Buxton, and the other half was talking to jobbing designers and developers in the community, making me realise it was such a nice, supportive area to work in (most of the time).

What is your ideal work environment? Do you work in your studio all day long or mix a few activities?

I suck at sitting still. It's one of the reasons I never really felt 100% comfortable in an office. I need to mix it up and work from different places to keep myself happy, whether it be other offices, coffee shops, bars or a park with decent wifi. In saying that, my garden office is the closest I can get to a single perfect space. A load of natural light, and the ability to turn around and pick up a guitar, microphone or keyboard to distract myself when I need to turn off. Having my record collection and some loud speakers is also a major plus point, especially considering there's no co-workers to tell me to turn it down...

Where are your favorite places in your city or outside?

I'm lucky to live in a small village with beautiful green spaces within a 5 minute walk from my house. There's a little lake a short walk away that feels so secluded and peaceful. Whenever I'm feeling stuck I like walking there to clear my head. On the other hand, London is only a 30 minute train ride away, and there's nothing I love more than exploring old, tiny alleyways, searching for a different take on the huge, bustling city. I sometimes feel like I have split personality, as I can never decide whether I like the countryside or the city more!

Who are the designers, colleagues in your city/country or outside you admire most?

The thing about being part of this industry is that you're constantly surrounded by people more talented than you are. People like Dan Edwards (@de), David Burton (@phishtitz) and Rob Hampson (@robhampson) are constantly putting out amazing work, sketches and illustrations. It sometimes make me wonder why I should bother, with people like that constantly upstaging you, but instead makes me strive to hone what I do and find my own style. On a higher level, Frank Chimero is still one of my biggest sources of inspiration. Not only does his design has a nuance and subtlety that I really admire, but his thoughts around the subject of design are invaluable. His book The Shape of Design, was definitely one of the most influential things I've ever read on design. On top of that, he's one of the nicest, most humble guys I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.