Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Ciara Chapman ("CC") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

CC : My educational background started out in Fine Art Printmaking where I was encouraged by tutors to pursue a career in graphic design. I went on to study Graphic Design but I found I was still being pulled back to my Fine Art roots. Illustration is the perfect marriage of the two disciplines.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

CC : I am motivated by working on projects that excite me and working with people and organisations I enjoy working with. Illustration is definitely more of a lifestyle than a career. I am never without my sketchbook no matter where I am or what I am doing.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?

CC : I chose to become an illustration designer. I had taken a break from the art world for a few years because I wanted to work in a profession that would help me earn more money however I realised it wasn’t right for me. I was miserable not being able to find time to work on my illustration work and even had a 3 year artist block that was terrifying. It was obvious that I had taken the wrong path and when the opportunity to work in a Fine Art Printmaking workshop came up, I jumped at the chance to right my course again.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

CC : I often design emotions and feelings that people and organisations are trying to convey. Sometimes it is to create awareness and other times it’s for a particular event. I love to draw people and animals, expressing emotions but also really developing and conveying the personality of the characters involved in the work.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?

CC : Be prepared to receive far more rejection than success. If you are serious about your design you have to stick with it. It’s important to look at other designers as forms of inspiration and not to consider them threats. There is enough work to go round and we all have different strengths to offer.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?

CC : Great designers listen to those around them, great advise comes from the most unlikely of sources. Be confident in your abilities but aware that you can always learn more. Look at other designers at forms of inspiration not threats to you and your own career.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?

CC : I think the best design often looks so simple that you think ‘I could do that’ but in fact it took great consideration, lots of drafts and a considered eye for the designer to reach that point. I think a great design has certain key elements like colour, function, aesthetic and emotional appeal.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

CC : Good design often connects directly with technology and progress. I recently watched Back to the future and could not believe how close the technology and progress that they conceived and designed in that movie could be so close to where we are now in the world. Progress and change feed off things like design. They are so important because design can often break the moulds of function and push things forward.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

CC : I’m currently working on a Graphic Novel to explain chronic pain to those that can’t understand it and those experiencing constant pain. To be paid for working on a project like that would be an absolute dream.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?

CC : My dream project is my Graphic Novel about Chronic Pain. It’s a 3 book series that is challenging my drawing ability and forcing me to improve as well as pulling on all my design and fine art experience. It’s a wonderful project I am endeavouring to find the time to work on, a passion project to explain pain and thank those who have helped me.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

CC : I think my secret ingredient is capturing a moment in time and connecting it to the viewer.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?

CC : My favourite designers are Pascal Campion because of his ability to create worlds that you feel part of, Gabriel Sancho for his ability to express so much by illustrating so little as well as being very humorous, Tim Easley for his style, use of bold colours and thick lines, children’s illustrator Cory Shaw for his characters and spaces as well as his sense of restraint and fashion designer Una Burke for her incredible work with leather, creating bold designs and incredible pieces.

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?

CC : My favourite designs are anything by Pascal Campion, Gabriel Sancho, Tim Easley, children’s illustrator Cory Shaw and fashion designer Una Burke.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?

CC : I think my greatest design is My Chronic Pain Diary. It has been a lifeline for me as well as a project that has forced me to improve every day and it has given me the confidence to connect with people I wouldn’t have been confident enough to approach in the past. I also had a fear of using colour in my work and mainly worked in black and white before starting My Chronic Pain Diary, now it looks like a rainbow has exploded all over my work which is an enormous step for me. I like to have a little fun in my work too and sometimes use humour to convey my weightier themes.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?

CC : Focus on the specific aspect of design that you want to work in as a goal and get tunnel vision when it comes to achieving that goal.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?

CC : I think if I hadn’t become a designer I would probably be a fine art printmaker. In another life if I had a stronger stomach and an endless supply of cash I would have a guinea pig and rabbit sanctuary with donkeys and goats to round things out.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?

CC : Design for me works for the viewer on a conscious and a subconscious level.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?

CC : My biggest supporters are my husband and my mother. My mother is my earliest supporter and she helped me work and focus on realising my dream to go to art college and never stopped supporting me since. My husband is a very talented graphic designer and he has supported me in my pursuit of illustration as a career wholeheartedly.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?

CC : Family support, tunnel vision and a strong sense of who I am and what makes me happy.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?

CC : The challenges are the same now as they have always been. Making sure work is coming in as well as going out. Technology is an expensive tool for a designer so keeping up to date with your hardware is also vital and costly.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?

CC : I think there should be an up to date website. Personally I love websites and social media feeds that present final works as they looked as works in project as well as the end result, I think it shows pride in your work. Nothing compares to a printed design though, seeing it on paper makes it real for the designer and client and it shows a different aspect of the finished work.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?

CC : My next project is my dream project, a Graphic Novel about Chronic Pain. It’s a 3 book series that is full of action, emotion, heartache and possibility.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?

CC : My ultimate goal is to have a sustainable business and brand that would mean working on projects that I love using technology that I love without needing to worry about a pay cheque.

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?

CC : People expect me to continue to move forward and push myself and my abilities to grow my illustration business into a recognisable brand.

DL: How does design help create a better society?

CC : Design pushes function and function leads to a better standard of living all round in society.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?

CC : I’m especially excited about my Graphic Novel which is titled ‘Amelia’ and looks at Chronic Pain and how it impacts life. People who live in constant pain are superheroes and it’s time to celebrate that fact.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?

CC : My Chronic Pain Diary gave me the most satisfaction. People contact me all the time about that project, it lead me to work in festivals, art exhibitions, magazine editions and created exposure for me through press articles like the Irish Sun newspaper and Cork’s 96fm radio.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?

CC : I would like to see more of a connection between fine art and design in the future. I think it pushes boundaries.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?

CC : To see where design is headed we can look at sci fi movies and tv shows from twenty years ago, it’s a genre that is almost prophetic in its ability to see where the world is headed.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?

CC : Depending on the project it usually takes me ten days to a month to finalise.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?

CC : I always start with my sketchbook. Thumbnail sketches and just random thoughts that pop in, things usually snowball from there into a final project.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

CC : If it doesn’t feel right on a gut level, it’s not the right project for me.

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?

CC : I think both are true. Design can often prompt technological breakthroughs but the reversal is also true.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?

CC : Half of my work is physical sketchbook work and the other half is dependant on technology. I would be lost without my MacBook. Photoshop and my Wacom Tablet.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?

CC : I use a Wacom InkSpace tablet and Photoshop Cs in my work.

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?

CC : Colour and materials are vital for design, they are the difference between good design and great design.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

CC : I would like people to ask me about different parts of my process especially the software side

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?

CC : I wish I had done that

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?

CC : My ideal partner would be someone in a creative director role with an interest in business.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?

CC : I think the festival I worked on last year was a big learning curve. My work was moved from a 2d world into a 3d world so I leaned on a lot of artists around me for help and they had a direct influence on my design.

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?

CC : Agatha Christie has a major influence on my design. Her ability to create whole spaces through her little details are the word version of excellent design.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?

CC : Work on it every single day whether its a five minute sketch in a notebook or a twelve hour illustration session, it all matters.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?

CC : Sia, I find her music and videos incredibly inspiring in a design sense. The whole package of her brand works as a design unit. Agatha Christie to get a sense of her ability to create such vision in her work. Ed and Lorraine Warren - they are artists and demonologists, their world view is fascinating to me.

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?

CC : I haven’t had a lot of awards or recognition so I’m not sure this question applies to me

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?

CC : Blue, Home, Pizza, Bunnies and the Moleskin notebook range.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?

CC : Whenever I get bogged down in the details, I look across the room at my rabbits flopped out on their mini rabbit bed and think ‘man, they’ve got life sussed’ it usually takes me out of myself enough to get back to it with a brighter attitude.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?

CC : I motivate myself by having the physical space around me exactly how I like it before getting started. My home feels a little like Wonderland sometimes and I’m Alice with rabbits hopping around the house, colourful works in progress all over the place and small animal furniture dotted around. I love my work space!

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?

CC : It was very clear from when I was very young that I would work in the Art World. There was never any question about that.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?

CC : I imagine a thousand years from now the world will either be flourishing because people copped onto global warming or else there will be a new apex predator altogether.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?

CC : I like to have a bit of fun as an illustrator and don’t take things too seriously. Life is a long time if you do it right and I want to look back at my portfolio and smile.



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