Mailchimp Celebrates Its Illustrators: Stephanie Wunderlich

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This post is brought to you by our friends at Mailchimp

Mailchimp champions authenticity, originality and expressiveness—we believe building a successful brand and business requires staying true to yourself. By creating unique narratives using exaggerated proportions, off-kilter concepts and unexpected combinations, our signature illustration system celebrates the idea of individual expression and imperfection. And in this series on PRINT, we celebrate the brilliant creatives who use their visual alchemy to help us reach all-new heights.

Stephanie Wunderlich has long wowed us with her wondrous work.

Her illustration exists in a space that is neither strictly painting nor drawing, but that always shows the artist’s hand at play—something that gave Mailchimp a new visual flavor.

We began working with the Hamburg-based creative two years ago; we sent her a brief and asked her to go against convention in her response, and she delivered. (Not that it was easy—as she says, “To be expected to find new, odd forms of interpretations for well-known topics puts a lot of pressure on you, but at the same time it really challenged me to grow as an illustrator.”)

Her work is now a beloved element of Mailchimp’s aesthetic. Here, we chat with her about her illustrative approach, her influences, and more.

What materials (or programs and devices) do you use?

The main element of my style is paper cut illustration, but I also mix in some drawing and digital editing in Adobe Photoshop. For the Mailchimp illustrations in particular, I made analog drawings with different pencils and brushes, which I later composed digitally.

What is your process?

I start with a lot of sketching, collecting whatever visual interpretations come to my mind.

After refining and boiling down my ideas, I present a first choice to the client.

What are the benefits of working with cut paper/collage?

The working process is just really playful and flexible. Before using glue, I can always change things, move them around intuitively, trying out different colors and shapes. There are a number of elements and a defined area. It feels like having a theater stage on which I can rearrange the props until the composition seems just right, full of tension and harmony at the same time. Each part is communicating with the other and following a sort of inner logic. Then I glue it on.

What I also appreciate about paper cut illustration is the bold and graphical visual language. I like the rough and edgy appearance. In paper cuts you see the traces of analog work: the imperfection of a shape cut by scissors, the shadows and the textures. In my studio, there are always colored papers in random shapes still laying around from previous works—many coincidental color-shape combinations just waiting to inspire me.

The technique also forces me to keep finding new ways to simplify, reduce and see things in an abstract way.

Are there any other techniques you like to experiment with?What I would really like to learn is animating my illustrations. I have already [experimented] a bit with GIF animations in Photoshop, but the options are rather limited. I guess my next step is to get familiar with After Effects.

What does your workspace look like?

I work in a house full of many artists; there, I have a wonderful bright room, which I share with a photographer. My work space is split into two areas: my computer desk, which is always clean and tidy, and my analog table, which is pretty much a creative mess full of paper snippets and unfinished illustrations.

What are your stylistic influences?

All sorts of rather graphical design/art, like Russian Constructivism, Bauhaus, Art Deco, Socialist poster design, Japanese graphic design.

Who are your favorite illustrators and designers?

I love drawings by Yann Kebbi, David Shrigley, Dennis Eriksson, JooHee Yoon or Patrick Kyle. I like the painterly work of Romy Blümel or Gérard Dubois. And the graphical style of Henning Wagenbreth or Icinori. As for the strong visual ideas, I like Christoph Niemann or André Carrilho.

Where do you find inspiration away from the page?

I really enjoy going to museums and looking through architecture or interior design magazines. When I was a teenager I always wanted to become a furniture designer. What probably frightened me was the third dimension, so I studied graphic design.

What’s your best advice for illustrators working today?

Believe in your work. Broaden your horizon.

Look also at work outside of contemporary illustration. Engage with many forms of art and narrative. Study illustrators and painters of different eras.

It’s important to think about where your work fits, but don’t limit the work you make to what you assume will get you jobs.

Try to create self-initiated experimental work where you don’t have to meet clients’ expectations.

Make the most interesting and special work you can!