Designer of the Week: Meg Robichaud

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meg2-1Designer of the Week Meg Robichaud is an independent illustrator and designer who specializes in illustration work & icon design. She can also be found solving other various design problems. Here, she brings us many great questions and concepts to ponder. Read on to hear her unique perspective on “design heroes,” her thoughts on comfort in creativity, and her opinion on the design industry as a whole (let’s just say, it might make you all warm and fuzzy inside).

Name:  Meg Robichaud

Location: Nomad (but officially, Vancouver?)

Website: meg.is/awesome

Design school attended: The Art Institute of Vancouver

How would you describe your work?
Oh, this is a hard one. I suppose it is some sort of intricately reductionist, retro inspired pop art—clean and approachable. Or to put away my thesaurus, line drawings of all my favorite things (largely tacos & Star Wars).

Where do you find inspiration?
Honestly? From any friend kind enough to let me keep talking long past when my latest rant warranted holding their attention. Eventually one of of us will spout a revelation worth drawing. More accurately, I draw from retro objects and packaging a lot, especially shapes and colours. I think the movies of my childhood always make their way back in as well. Something about those old set designs that are crying out for someone to draw them. And of course, I like to keep up with other designers through instagram/twitter/dribbble, and I assume it’s sinking in somewhere along the way.

Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
You know, I’ve been answering this question for a long time, and I think it’s recently made a big shift. I used to admire people based on their work—Ash Thorpe, Allan Peters, Tim Boelars, DKNG (aka Dan Kuhlken and Nathan Goldman), Mary Blair, Paula Scher—and I mean I still do, of course, but recently my list of favorite designers has shifted criteria. Instead of, or at least in addition to, admiring their work, I look up to other designers based on their attitudes.

Meg Lewis, who owns being weird and encourages everyone around her to love their own brand of weird. Becky Murphy, who doesn’t take herself too seriously, and as a result her work is coated in a thick layer of quirky & fun. Ryan Putnam, literally the most humble person on the internet, only challenged by Nick Slater. Mike Monteiro, who puts up with nothing, teaches everyone to do the same and uses his following for social change. These are the people I admire. My favorite part about my amended list is the fact that I *can* admire my peers for the glimpses I get of who they are as people. We work in an industry with room to be yourself, where you can let people get to know you—and that is pretty damn cool.

(I’m trying really hard not to name my pals here—Rogie King, Justin Mezzell, Matt Helme, Tad Carpenter, Jen Mussari, Timothy Reynolds, Molly Jacques—for no good reason. It doesn’t seem fair? They are my favourite designers. They’re the ones I learn the most from, through a mutual trust that allows for open and honest critique and shared processes and mistakes.)

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Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
Eeeeh, not really.  Most of the time my favorite project is the latest thing I made, and I’m already sick of looking at everything else. But if I had to choose I’d probably pick the serial podcast illustration series. This was a passion project. I spend entirely too much time listening to podcasts. I use them a lot when I’m working, if I want to stay in the zone during a big illustration. I use them a lot when I’m traveling solo to explore a city. I use them to make all otherwise boring tasks (grocery shopping, washing dishes, brushing my teeth…) entertaining. I just had to get this one out of my brain so I could get back to work! NPR, if you’re listening and are looking for someone to draw your podcasts all day, I’m your girl.

Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Eeeeh, not really. To side step your question slightly, or rather to answer it as “all of them.” I think the thing that I struggle with the most in my career is being too comfortable in my styles. When a client comes to me now, I say “well here are ~4 examples of styles that I am comfortable with, this is how long each will take, and these are their limitations.” They choose one, get exactly what they expected, and my estimates are accurate. Perfect. This is the best outcome for everyone involved. Except that I’m comfortable. Or falling behind—to phrase it in a way that should hopefully light a fire. Every now and then I’d like to tack on “but I’m getting kind of static and I’d love to try this new style. Last time I tried it it turned out pretty badly, but worth a shot, right??”

Of course the correct solution to this problem is the same problem every designer has: Find more time for side projects. But who has time for that.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I have three goals set for my career right now. First, I’d like to contribute to something bigger, as a part of a team. I spend a lot of time working solo, and you can only reach so far as one person. Second, I’d like to get more comfortable speaking and sharing what I’ve learned. I have some experience, but I look forward to a future where going on a stage doesn’t put my stomach in knots. Finally, I’d like to take on bigger personal projects. A colouring book, perhaps.

What’s your best advice for designers today?
Don’t let anyone bully you into the hustle. The hustle is not real, and you are more than the designer who can put the most hours in. Of course you should work hard. But, be defined by more than just “designer.” Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and your biggest competition is burning out, not some other designer. You need to take care of yourself: Get enough sleep, turn the computer off, give yourself permission to give up for the day—you did your best, that’s all you can do, try again tomorrow.

So if someone comes to you with some crazy deadline, remember that you can say no. You have a bigger picture to look at. More than likely they’ll say, “No problem, what’s reasonable?”

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