Member Spotlight: Toby Tinsley's Natural Creativity

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There are countless merits in growing up with technological advancement. One of them is having the skills to carry out complex tasks in hours, rather than days. But it also means that sometimes you lose touch with nature.

Toby Tinsley loves nature and loves staying in touch with it. He can't spend too much time in London without taking a break from the live of the big city – he needs to reconnect with the countryside every once in a while. Though Toby recognises the perks of living in an era of technological progress, he is also deeply anchored to his memories of an industry in print, and one could say that these memories are precisely what keeps him focused, inspired and fully conscious of his art most of the time.

Toby has had the chance to work with some amazing big brands, such as Nike and Virgin Atlantic. We've had a chat with him to discuss creative inspiration, the life of a designer and what it means to have witnessed change in the creative industries.


How did you get into the industry?

I was always into art and design, ever since I was a young child, and at 15 I signed up to do an apprenticeship with a Sign-Writer. That was it, really, after a summer of learning to draw letters by hand, I got a place at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design (Now The Arts Institute Bournemouth) aged 16. 5 years later, with a ND and a BA (hons), I was off to London.


Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I’m now based in London (still!) and as I am freelance I have a great range of clients - Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Voyages, Absolute Vodka, Ted Baker, Nike, Lister Automotive, an F1 team (but I can’t say who!). I’m very lucky to work with some of these incredible brands.


If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

Probably back at home in Dorset on a farm. I love the fresh air and big open countryside. I grew up next to a farm and worked on it at weekends and in the holidays. I loved it.

Can you explain your creative process?

It always starts with an idea and a sketch. I feel that sketching and drawing is by far the quickest way to get ideas down on paper and see if they work. You can spend hours on a computer pushing boxes round and not be happy with what is on the screen, but in a few minutes a sketch will tell you if your idea is working or not. I always show and share this stage of the project with a client - it really helps both of us to establish what we like and don’t like, so by the time the client sees a near finished piece, there are no surprises in there for them which means no changes for me.


How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

I wouldn’t say it has affected my work, it has just evolved it. Obviously we can do things now which just weren't possible 20 years ago, and if it was, it would have taken days, not hours. I'm lucky though to have been trained in the traditional way and computers grew up and advanced with me, so I still know the core basics of how print and type works, and I still paint by hand before going digital. I still have my Apple Mac II with Photoshop 1 on it - all you could do was scan in a photo, straighten it a bit and print it out. Those were the days.


What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Reading and research. I probably spend about £100 per month on books and magazines. I’m currently reading Modern Heraldry V1 and 2 - on my desk I have Design Anthology, Logos from Japan, and 210,000,1145 - a book from Ima Boom.

The other important thing I always do is take a break. It's very important to switch off and unplug.


What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I would say the nose-cone art for Virgin. Its a huge process that requires all the skills of hand drawing, air-brushing and digital painting, all while working with a team. On average each piece takes about 6 months to complete. You can see them on the Virgin Atlantic Fleet, Virgin Voyages Cruise Ships and on Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship. That one was the first piece of nose-cone art in Space. They travel all over the world so millions of people see them. 


Photography is another of Toby's greatest passions.

How do you recharge away from the office?

Fresh air - and away from London. Most weekends will involve a short drive out to the countryside and a break from the city. I love London, but you can’t beat the countryside.

What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Aim high and show proactivity even before you are asked. If you are going to meet a client for a potential brief, do something for them and take it along - it doesn’t matter if it is not right, because it shows that you care about them and want to work for them.

If you are going for an interview, do your research, understand who it is you are talking to. There is nothing worse than being asked what you love about the company you are applying with and not having an answer.


What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?

That clients understand that the creative process is a difficult one, and we are the experts. Still today, too many clients end up telling the designers exactly what to do and what they want instead of listening to the advice of the designer. After all, they are paying us for a service. You don’t go to a dentist and tell them how to take your tooth out, so a client shouldn’t tell a designer how to layout a page, or draw their logo. The client needs to listen to the designer and trust their expertise. That way you will have a beautiful designer/client relationship.


If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

Make a law that states all pitches are paid for. I think it's wrong that clients expect designers to pitch for free. In sports you get paid to play the game, win or loose. Pitches should be the same.


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