A freelance graphic designer and illustrator with project management and art direction experience, Florentyna Butler (Flo to her friends) has worked with many brands over the years and on projects including packaging, art prints, social media posts and print adverts.
From concept to completion and beyond, she’s got you covered and today, she’s sitting down with us to discuss everything that makes her the creative that she is.
How did you get into the industry?
Honestly, it was kind of by accident! My whole family is really creative so I was always drawing and inventing and imagining as a kid. I got super geeky as I got older and was into all kinds of techy stuff, dabbling in websites and coding, photography, 3D stuff, everything was just fascinating and I wanted to do it all and know how it worked.
When I got to uni I decided to go back to my art. It was a split course doing art and something else and I chose ceramics as my something else. It turned out ceramics created some kind of timetable clash, so I had to switch and ended up taking Visual Design instead.
It soon became apparent that that was where I saw myself going in the future, so I must have to thank someone somewhere for that timetable clash! When I left uni I got a job at a printing place which taught me invaluable skills and knowledge around pre-press. I then moved into publishing and the rest is history!
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I’m based in Somerset, near Bath and being self-employed I get to work with so many great people and businesses. I’ve worked on licenses from Disney to Netflix and a range of products from puzzles and games to art prints, phone cases and both digital and print ads.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
This is a tough one, I have way too many interests! Probably something super boring like accounting. Or maybe coding or something that taps into my more nerdy side. I also considered psychology at A Level so who knows haha.
Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?
It really varies depending on the brief but generally, I tend to do a lot of the legwork at the beginning of a project which saves time and reduces edits toward the end. I like getting as much info on a project or brief as possible and understanding what a client wants and needs. I’ll often start out with a sketch or really simple black and white layouts to eliminate ideas that aren’t really working before they go too far.
How would you describe your style?
I’m not sure I have a specific style in my work as I work for so many different people and have so many different interests. I guess broadly speaking and first and foremost my work is more fun and quirky as I do a lot of work in the board game industry but I can turn it to corporate and clean when necessary.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
There are so many amazing artists and designers out there, and these days we have access to their work like we never have before, so it’s always so difficult to narrow it down to just one or two people!
I came across David Carson when I was studying art and loved the grungy collage feel of his work. As I started studying graphic design I continued to draw inspiration from him and I love the way he broke “the rules” of design.
I’ve always loved typography too and I’m quite into an artist called Gemma O'Brien at the moment. I love the scale of her work which is really refreshing when you work on a much smaller scale most of the time.
Although I’m not a photographer I’m also a bit obsessed with Julieanna Kost at the moment. I saw one of her sessions for Adobe MAX and her process and how she explained new features and how to do certain things in photoshop was great.
What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?
It sounds so cliché but always ‘think outside the box’ about where opportunities might be and how you can access them. The more “communities” you’re part of, the more you’ll find out about opportunities and where to find them.
Facebook groups specific to your industry and your niche, places like Creative Pool, networking events, trade shows or other events where you can network, Linked In – follow the companies you’d love to work with and keep an eye out for opportunities that they post.
And keep in touch with everyone you meet both professionally and personally, word of mouth can be a great way to get work. Don’t be afraid to just put yourself out there and promote yourself, even if nobody is asking!
What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?
Keep your portfolio up to date! Everyone says it and nobody does it but it’s so much less stressful if you can show a potential client your most recent or relevant work without having to spend half a day making it presentable first. And if you’re just starting out and don’t have much to show off, do some personal projects.
Don’t wait for opportunities to come along, if you want to do something, do it, show it off, and it will lead to more work in the direction you want to go in. Also focus on your “transferable skills” if you’re bidding for a project that might be a little outside your usual scope or if you don’t have specific similar work to show. For example, maybe you’ve never done XYZ before, but you’ve done A, B and C and it’s basically the same thing.
But on the flip side, try not to stretch yourself to things you really can’t do or haven’t done at all before. It’s such a bugbear for recruiters to get applications that are really far removed from and totally irrelevant to whatever they are hiring for!
What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?
This is an odd one, but good old-fashioned pen and paper. I just love the feel of actually writing or drawing with a pen or pencil on paper and I often make notes and to do lists on paper, even though I have apps that can also do it.
At the same time, I couldn’t be without my graphics and drawing tablet! I’ve used a small graphics tablet in place of a mouse for over a decade now and I honestly can’t imagine having to go back to using a normal mouse again.
I guess the obvious software one is the Adobe Suite. Of course, there are tons of free or cheaper alternatives but I’ve always used Adobe and the integration between apps and the speed at which they are introducing new features now is amazing. They actually just finished up their MAX creative conference and it honestly makes me so excited to see what’s new.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
I’m not sure it’s much of a secret, but talking to other creatives, seeing what other people are up to and being involved in things like the Adobe MAX creative conference - which I promise I’m not affiliated with in any way haha!
It’s just finished for this year so it’s super fresh in my mind. But I always come away from that feeling so inspired and motivated, even just attending virtually and watching the sessions online.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
One of the first things I worked on when I joined Ridley’s Games was a game called Caffeine Hit! It was probably the first time I had been illustrator and graphic designer on the same project.
It was taking a really long time to find a style that felt like it worked and that everyone was happy with; I was being asked to try so many completely different directions. So eventually I just took it away, did my own thing and thankfully we finally had our style. Then seeing it out in the world for the first time was amazing.
What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?
Slowing down or even stopping the complete dependency we seem to have on technology, especially with younger designers that haven’t really known anything other than an almost entirely digital approach.
It feels wasteful but if you’re designing for print or a physical product, sometimes you do actually need to print it out and look at it physically in your hands, at the actual size it will be to be able to review it properly. We spend so long zoomed into things on our screens we can literally lose sight of the actual size of things.
There is something special and unique about classic techniques that it would be shame to lose and simple things like sketching and printing aren’t that time consuming and can actually save a lot of time and mistakes in the long run.
Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
If you want to learn photoshop, Julieanna Kost has some great tutorials on her blog. When I was starting out, I also found Yes I’m a Designer really useful, there is a ton of free content there to teach you the basics.
Websites like Pixabay and Unsplash are really useful for royalty free stock images, Pixabay even has music and video. Coolors can be fun and helpful for creating colour palettes. Fontello is amazing for creating custom glyphs that you can just insert right into your text.
An odd one but I use The Free Dictionary a lot, the thesaurus section makes a visual and interactive mind map which is so helpful! The idioms section is also useful if you’re trying to think of snappy taglines or copy.