Blake Woman - Mélanie Johnsson
Tell us a bit about yourself, and your life so far…
I am Mélanie, a French graphic designer and illustrator, with some Corsican and Swedish blood (the mix definitely encourages my craziness). I was raised in the suburbs of Paris and went to art school for three years in Paris. After graduating, I travelled through South America on my own for five months, photographing every magical thing I saw and drawing a lot of exotic animals. Once back in France, I freelanced for a while for a design agency and then travelled again for a few months to the US this time, striding along the Californian coast and getting inspired by the views. But I came back to Paris craving more stimulating surroundings. So I moved to London and was lucky enough to land a graphic designer position in a great company called Black Tomato. Working there for a year gave me the confidence to finally go freelance again, here, in the UK. I have been freelancing full time for a year now and it has been one crazy ride. I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going.
When did your interest for drawing start?
I can’t recall ever not drawing. I’ve always loved it. And I guess my parents always made sure I had a lot of paper and pencils around me at any time so I could doodle. I think we all love drawing when we’re young, but some people give up really quickly (because they’re not happy with the results they’re getting). Drawing takes a lot of practice. So even if you don’t like what your drawing looks like, keep on drawing, forget about the result and do it for the pleasure of making something.
How much did growing up in Paris affect your taste for design and aesthetics?
Paris was a beautiful backdrop to grow up with, the light and the architecture there are stunning. I couldn’t really say how it affected my taste as I grew up seeing and getting inspired by things coming from all around the world. I think growing up in a really creative family had a bigger impact on my aesthetic. Both my parents are designers, my grand dad was a graphic designer and photographer, and my godmother is an architect! I was raised in a design cocoon, constantly inspired and challenged by what they were all doing and making everyday.
Best advice for someone looking to do the same.
Work hard on what you love and be stubborn when it comes to your aesthetics. Work with people that care about what you do as much as they care about their own business. Forget about the rules, try to carve your own path and most importantly, do what makes you happy!
Who is your typical customer / client?
I don’t have a typical client. I love working with different types of people and industries. I have clients in the fashion industry, the music industry, the travel industry…But I also work with individuals on logos, letterings or other artworks. And also with some design agencies where the pace is much quicker and the projects completely different. I get bored very quickly, so I love a little bit of a challenge! And working on different projects in different fields is amazing because it allows me to express myself each time differently.
Was working as an illustrator like you expected?
Funnily enough, if I’m asked about my work, I will more likely say that I am a graphic designer. Graphic design is what I studied, I learned the rules and the tricks and I got taught by passionate people about typography, composition, colour…But illustration originated second. It came because I needed something more. I wanted to bring elements of handmade, elements of surprise to what I was designing. I had always liked drawing, so just after I graduated from art school in Paris, I went to Chile for five months, and just started drawing and painting again, more and more everyday. It was and still is all about practice when it comes to drawing or hand-lettering. Even today, I still don’t draw that well, I just have my own style and go with it. It’s a great means for me to express myself and I’m just so lucky I now get to draw and design for a living. So, yes, in a way, working as an illustrator was like I expected: I have to pinch myself everyday to make sure all of this is not a joke! It’s pretty awesome and I feel very grateful for all the opportunities.
Talk us through your daily routine:
I don’t really have a routine…but I do wake up quite early every day (without an alarm, that makes me happy) around 7 in the winter and even earlier in the summer. I try to go for a small run every mornings. I just need to get out of my head a bit before getting to my desk and starting work. Running for 20 minutes is just enough for me to feel fresh and ready to start the day. Once back from the run, it usually goes in the following order: shower, clothes, breakfast…and I’m ready to take on the world! My studio is at home, so I don’t have much commute and that’s kind of awesome. I’ll usually work on different projects from 8:30 to 5:30, sometimes later…Then, I’ll just keep on working on my own projects, be a bit more chilled and will definitely not answer to any emails past that time (unless there’s something crazy urgent). At the studio, during the day, I’ll always end up spending as much time on my computer as I do addressing envelopes, doodling or painting for projects. If I have to spend a lot of time on my computer, you’ll find me listening to my favourite podcasts and learning about awesome stuff. I really don’t have a routine, but I do have my little habits!
Top 5 coffee table books:
I like a book with a crazy, striking, colourful cover that shouts ‘Look at me, I will inspire you in a minute!’ So on my coffee table, you’ll probably find either one of those, that I usually rotate depending on the mood…
Kenzo, by Antonio Marras
Eames, beautiful details, by Eames Demetrios
Art Nouveau Revival, Musée d’Orsay
The Wes Anderson Collection, by Matt Zoller Seitz
Saul Bass, A life in Film and Design, by Jennifer Bass
How would you describe your style?
Colourful is a big one. Happy, tactile and honest. Strong, striking and badass is definitely what I aim for.
With all the success so far, what is the long term goal?
Long-term goal is to keep doing what I love, refining my style whilst working with more and more passionate people. I’d like to get more fellow creatives involved to work with me on new ideas and exciting projects…I’m just so very excited about the future!
Text and photos by Thea C. Sneve Løvstad