In the Studio: Nick Radford

Cornwall, UK

Using a ‘less is more’ approach, Nick Radford can succinctly communicate an idea using a limited colour palette and the emblematic chunky graphics of screen-printing.

I know you recently created work for an LG Tone campaign. How did you approach that brief to complete what needed to be conveyed?

The brief, which involved something like 30 illustrations, was very much a humorous concept developed already by the art directors, to accompany copy already written. It was my job to communicate their ideas visually with the right tone, humour and clarity, to sit with the text. So my approach involved finding the right balance stylistically to convey this, through the usual approval process – delivering roughs and sometimes (because of the tight turnaround) going straight to final. Being a US client meant the time difference worked in our favour!

How would you convey your illustration in five words?

Minimal, bold, graphic, playful, trad-digital.

Pick three things that are most valuable to you in your studio and explain to us why you have chosen those and what story there is behind them.
  1. A pencil – all ideas start with a sketch, developing the composition and concept.
  2. My computer – unfortunately my job revolves a lot around looking at this darn screen.
  3. My guitar – always good to pick up for a break, especially when ideas aren’t surfacing when you need them.
Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you…

I live another life as a highly unsuccessful musician, with releases on Freestyle and Ubiquity Records as Frootful ( and The MightySceptres ( respectively. Shameless plug, I know.

Working within illustration and creativity can have its highs and lows. What are your three constraints and three motives to work during the day?

3 constraints – Time. Having what you thought was a really good idea rejected. And unrealistic expectations for the turnaround and delivery of artwork.

3 motives – The rewarding nature of seeing your work in print or in context. Money (hey, we’ve got to earn a living somehow)! And biscuits (based on a reward basis for achieving certain things in the day).

Which project, to date, has tested your style and working method?

I’d have to say the LG Tone campaign, because it required drawing so many people. Usually I prefer to suggest a human presence (where necessary), with just feet or hands for example, to keep things minimal and appeal to a wider audience, without feeling the viewer might not relate to the tastes in fashion depicted. This approach can also avoid issues of equality in gender, ethnicity and political correctness. Whereas the LG brief was a case of, ‘draw this person doing this’. I was out of my comfort zone, but I think it’s important to put yourself in these situations, to push yourself stylistically.


Describe a typical day for you.

I’m usually in the studio (the attic in our house) by 9am, and need to crack on with things when I’m busy. It helps to work office hours to be able to liaise with clients and Folio. Things might start with some emails, then the working process begins with a few sketches, working things up into the final illustration(s) in whatever medium, then supplying the artwork in a digital format. It depends on the scale of the job I’m currently working on, and where I’m at within that job. By 6pm it’s tea / bath / bedtime for Ernie, our 2 year old son (soon to be joined by another sibling)! Then we usually relax, cooking dinner with a record or the radio on, or in the summer months it’s nice to nip out for a surf, swim or cycle. In the winter, this might be making music or volunteering at the local arts centre to take in a film instead. The flexibility of being self-employed means I’m lucky enough to work parenthood and these other interests around different working hours.

How have you seen your style develop during the entire time you’ve been an illustrator?

The tight timeframes encourage an efficient working practise. Vector work in particular can be easy to knock out quickly, so working within these margins has brought about a style that encourages singularity and keeping things minimal. Not only to meet a deadline, but to communicate an idea as effectively as possible.

What do you do when you first approach a project?

Try and think of a good idea that answers the brief – my favourite projects are the conceptual ones. This might begin with some research and reference gathering, and/or sketchbook work. It’s getting that idea in your minds eye before you start working things up. But also working out how much time you are prepared to spend on the project for the fee involved.

What advice do you give yourself when you’re stuck?

Take a break, it’s important to give your mind some breathing space when things aren’t happening. Work hard, play hard; or indulge in some art, film, whatever floats your boat. You can find inspiration from the most unlikely of sources.