Atmospheric vector illustration by Norwich based freelancer Ollie Hoff
Influenced by a passion for gaming and film, we explore Norwich based Ollie Hoff's timeless illustrations.
Hi Ollie, tell us a little about your background; where you grew up, what drew you towards working in illustration and graphic design, where did you study, etc.
I grew up in a small town called March in Cambridgeshire. From a very young age I’d always been drawn to design, and pursued it ever since school. I studied for my BA (Hons) in Games Art & Design at Norwich University of the Arts. After graduating in 2012 I worked a few jobs while freelancing on the side until making the jump to full-time freelance about a year ago.
You currently live and work in Norwich. Are there any particular places that inspire you?
Living and working in Norwich has been amazing so far, I think because of the Arts University in the city centre there is a huge artist presence here. East Gallery at Norwich University of the Arts often has interesting exhibtions on. The Playhouse is pretty awesome too (it also has a great beer garden which definitely helps!)
There is a real minimalist, textured aesthetic to your work. Can you describe your style in your own words for our readers.
I come from a graphic design / UI heavy course at University and I think that shows with the icon work I produce. Gaming and film are a big source of inspiration for me.
I describe my design style as minimalist with heavy textures. I come from a graphic design / UI heavy course at university and I think that shows with the icon work I produce. I’m falling in-love with textures more and more, it really can give a depth of meaning to a piece, if done right. I follow so many talented artists online that there is always inspiration to find. Beyond art, gaming and film is definitely a big source of inspiration for me.
Is there a recent commission or project that you’re particularly proud of that you can talk us through?
I’ve been very lucky with the clients I’ve got to work with so far. If I had to pick one it would definitely be working with Xbox UK on the Christmas wrapping paper illustrations. Xbox pitched the idea to me and I jumped at the chance. The project needed to incorporate a number of video games and needed to be done in a short amount of time, it was a lot of work but completely worth it.
I’m trying to take more breaks from the screen though at the moment, going out for walks really helps when I’m stuck for ideas.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? How do you typically switch off?
I’ve always been a gamer so jumping online with a couple of friends is always a great distraction. A lot of my work revolves around gaming, so it’s familiar environment to be caught up in. Other then that I’m a film and TV junkie; another great source of inspiration when it comes to fan-art which I try to do every so often. I’m trying to take more breaks from the screen though at the moment, going out for walks really helps when I’m stuck for ideas.
Can you give our readers some insight into your studio? What view do you have from the window? What are the 4-5 most coveted things in your studio or on your desk?
Currently my studio is part of my flat, I’m lucky to have a large window looking out into the complex I’m in. My desk is definitely cluttered but everything has it’s place. If I had to chose I would say having (1) a physical clock; I have the time on my laptop and phone but having a physical ticking clock helps me stay focused. (2) One of Counter-print’s many amazing design books. I have been currently looking through ‘From Japan’. (3) I think a notepad has become a must for me now. Writing down to-do lists at the start of the day helps me get a bit more organised. (4) I’m rubbish at keeping them alive, but a nice plant is always a must too!
Self employment can be feast or famine; what do you feel are the main challenges for you as a professional freelance illustrator?
I think honestly it would be that there are so many good freelance illustrators out there now; it makes it really tough when competing for commissions. Making connections is really important so you can spend a great deal of time sending emails. Being your own boss is insanely rewarding, but it means you have to be constantly hunting for the next commission.
Being your own boss is insanely rewarding, but it means you have to be constantly hunting for the next commission.
What is included within your designers toolkit?
I try to keep my toolkit down to a minimum. My 15’’ MacBook Pro, an iPad Pro and a notepad, are all I really need. I always start a project by doodling out the idea, pick the colour scheme and then jump onto the laptop and start laying things out. The app Astropad on my iPad is also mega useful. It turns it into a drawing tablet for the Mac. It’s super useful when a mouse becomes a bit heavy-handed.
Do you have any grand ideas you’re itching to get off the ground?
I’m very fortunate that I’m now working as an illustrator full-time and my main focus is to ensure this continues. I’d actually really like to work with more games companies in the future, the as these jobs are always really fun to work on. Securing agency representation has always been a goal, so I hope to push for that later this year too!