Interview: Laura Blythman

By Andrea McArthur Laura Blythman

This is the story of a creative woman from Melbourne who moved to Geelong and whose design and illustration work has an interesting balance of being commercial and yet quirky and personal all at the same time. One thing is certain though, Laura Blythman's work will make you smile from ear to ear.

Laura is renowned for her vibrant colour palette and cheeky sentiments. Her design and illustration style is instantly recognisable and increasingly sought after, having designed for some of Australia's biggest stationery brands. Laura’s designs can be found nationally through her work with A Skulk of Foxes, Typo, Click On Furniture, Lark, Peachy Gift, Mr.Wolf, Cotton On Kids, T2 teas, Zoo York, Kiitos – Living By Design, Swan Emporium, La De Dah Kids and Stuck On You.

Illustration and Design

What led you down your current path?

I pretty much spent my whole childhood cutting and pasting and drawing and I was always in awe of everything creative so when it came time to consider careers I just assumed graphic design would be my gig. Of course, as a teenager, my imagined ‘dream world’ of graphic design narrowly involved designing posters and CD covers for my favourite bands and that’s about all. I spent a few years after high school being 'floaty' (and had a short stint as a hairdressing apprentice!) but a friend gently nudged me in the direction of The Australian Academy of Design and three years later I’d scored myself a BA in Graphic Design and a job at Hallmark Cards Australia.

I spent three years at Hallmark designing an unimaginable number of greeting cards as well as gift packaging, stationery and so on. I moved on to designing boutique wedding stationery for Cristina Re and then I teamed up with a friend and we focused on surface and pattern design for papers, stationery and home wares. When an amazing senior design opportunity popped up at the newest stationery brand on the block, I pounced in it! At Typo I got to indulge in everything I love most – range design, illustration and creative direction for a massive scope of stationery and home decor products as well as the design and management of the Cotton On Yardage library, focussing mostly on textile patterns for Cotton On Kids and Body.

During these years I also worked on small, freelance jobs designing branding and collateral for start-up businesses or textile designs and so when I left Typo to have my baby Alexander almost three years ago, I amped up my own brand and I've been freelancing ever since, and LOVING it.

You recently said farewell to the Oh! Hello Geelong blog that you developed and wrote with Penny Phipps. The blog was a great success and was featured on The Design Files. Can you tell us about that?

Yes, sadly it was time to bid farewell to our blog this year. I won’t be writing or contributing content any longer but it has been left in very capable and clever hands. I think readers will love the fresh perspective of the new girls Nat and Jen. I’ll miss it a little but it was one of those side projects that grew huge and life got a bit too busy to fit it all in. I’ll still contribute illustrations as needed and possibly even one day create an updated version of the Geelong Map Poster. I’m moving home to Melbourne very soon so maybe a Melbourne map will be next on the cards. I love creating maps and can’t wait to work on the next one.

What future plans do you have for your creative business?

I’ve had some truly amazing opportunities coming my way of late so the plan is to pretty much stick to the path I’m on. I’m absolutely bursting with ideas and wish lists of things to create and share so I’m keen to find some more time to work on my own projects and become a fully-fledged ‘pie hands’. Variety keeps me very happy. I hope to continue working on more and more collaborative projects, designing and illustrating for fun products and ranges, working with new brands and fab clients and hopefully some high profile clients too! I’d love to work on a new collection of artwork which I will hopefully exhibit somewhere…

Another thing I’m looking forward to once I’m back in Melbourne is making plans to move the ‘studio’ out of my home. I absolutely love working in shared studio spaces as I go a bit crazy on my own sometimes.

Do you have any advice for growing a client base?

I met a lot of great contacts in those first few years of working for other people’s businesses and it has kind of organically grown from there. In many ways your work speaks for itself. If people like what they see the opportunities arise from that. Other than that, be kind but not a pushover and work really, really hard.

Who do you admire in the industry?

Oh, I admire so many clever people, brands and businesses for many different reasons. Internationally I'm loving creatives such as: Ashley Goldberg, Ma + Chr, Jessica Hische, Lab Partners, Dana Tanamachi, Julia Pott, and Lisa Congdon. Locally I'm blown away by the work of so many amazing creatives including: Miranda Skoczek, Bridget Bodenham, Lucas Grogan, Harvest Textiles… Really, there are so many more. Far too many to list. Illustration Skulk of Foxes

What has been your most favourite project in recent years?

I really loved the opportunity I was given earlier this year to create a new and huge body of work for my solo exhibition (Love, Lyrics, Neon). So many great things, amazing opportunities and collaborations have stemmed from that mammoth effort and collection of work…

Jobs that have elements of both custom illustration and a high level of involvement in creating the brief and setting the style direction for the job are my faves. Illustrating the Geelong Map for The Design Files was a super proud moment. And I loved part one of my collaboration with A Skulk Of Foxes (wooden iPhone covers) so I’m super excited to release some more products with them soon!

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I only get a few precious full days of work a week so I squeeze as much as possible into these days. The early hours are consumed with trying to convince my 2-year-old that’s it’s a good idea to get dressed, eat something (that isn't dessert) and hop into the car for a fun day at childcare. Neither of us are morning people at all. After I drop him off I grab a drive-thru coffee on the way back to my studio where I park my butt and pretty much don’t move for the rest of day. I begin with consulting the list of ‘to do’s’ (which I generally create the night before) then I cram in an insane amount of emailing, client correspondence, more list making, drawing, planning, scanning, designing, invoice making and estimate creating as well as a bit of making, packing and posting orders from my online shop.

Every day is different and I tend to share the love between a few clients throughout the day. The day always goes waaaay too fast and I find myself also working into the night once my little boy is asleep. The night sessions are mostly saved for my own projects, drawing, packing orders, making custom orders or just catching up on emails… I love the days when I have to travel for meetings or pop out on client or retail visits as I get a bit of change of scenery. Swan Emporium Branding

5 Questions in 5 minutes

Getting Personal:

Studio Sounds, what's playing?

At the moment I'm playing a big mix of inc. Theophilus London, Arcade Fire, Chet Faker, Haim, Alpine, Bat For Lashes, The Smiths, Chvches, Yo La Tengo… I can’t work without music.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve just started to read my late Great Aunty Marion’s ‘memoirs’ for the second time. It’s not a published book – it’s just a massive wad of photocopied typed pages in an big black plastic binder – included are some cheeky ‘note’ pages inserted here and there, written by my Pa, Frank. He doesn’t agree with everything Marion recalls and wrote. It’s such a nice insight into the lives of my grandparents and great grandparents.

What are you looking forward to?

  • The release of some fun client and collaborative projects I’ve been working on and also starting work on some new exciting projects, collabs and big fun things. Can’t wait to share.
  • Fieldtrip’ Jacky Winters creative conference in Sydney! It will be a nice and mini creative break.
  •  I’m also starting to plan for my first proper holiday in years – hopefully Bali this time next year with my little guy.

Can you share your go to resource for motivation?

Typography Mother's Day

What is your local area’s best kept secret?

Hmmm… I’m not sure it’s really a secret anymore, but my favourite place in Geelong for a delicious feed, yum drinks, good music and a nice crowd is ‘There There’ – Bar + Restaurant. Love it. I also love heading down the highway to Melbourne for my city culture fix. I can’t wait to move home (Melbourne) in January and discover some cool new places. It feels like I have been away for a very long time.

To see more of Laura's work or make contact with her please visit: website webshop email instagram @laurablythman twitter @hellolaurahere facebook

 Andrea McArthur has a passion for all things visual. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. Andrea works as a freelance graphic designer in Brisbane by day and lectures in graphic design by night. You will find her sharing design related goodness via @andyjane_mc