Creative Makers: Jacqueline Colley, Illustrator and Pattern Designer
Based in East London, Jacqueline Colley specialises in creating explorable illustrations and patterns.
Her playful designs celebrate everyday curiosities and often take inspiration from her passion for travel. Working across pattern, product, editorial, packaging and set design, Jacqueline Colley has collaborated with a diverse list of clients including Ohh Deer, Flow Magazine, Chilly’s Bottles and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Earlier this year we invited Jacqueline to join us as an industry speaker on our brand new Illustrated Merchandise: Making & Selling for Illustrators Course, where she joined us for an exclusive Zoom Q&A, sharing the story of building her brand, how she got started on her creative career; the inspiration behind her products and a few key words of advice for those just starting out.
Here we share a few highlights from that session.
Her work is now focused around pattern and illustration, however Jacqueline originally studied Graphic Design. When finishing the course, her passions didn’t quite match up with her portfolio. “I naively came out of my degree thinking I would definitely get a job and then no one wanted to employ me as a graphic designer because my portfolio was all drawing” Jacqueline explains “I wasn’t one of those people who really wanted to go freelance – I didn’t have the confidence for that. I wanted a job, I wanted to be in an office, I wanted someone to tell me what to do. I felt like I still had so much to learn – and I was right”.
Managing to secure a place on a graduate scheme with H&M, Jacqueline found herself on the first rung of a career ladder much better suited to her love of drawing. She then spent time building in-house textile design experience working for different licensing studios and brands and ended up working for Oasis in a job which allowed her to collaborate with the likes of The V&A Museum and London Zoo. When the time came for Jacqueline to go it alone, having this book of contacts made the “terrifying” transition into freelancing much smoother than anticipated.
I wasn’t one of those people who really wanted to go freelance – I didn’t have the confidence for that. I wanted a job, I wanted to be in an office, I wanted someone to tell me what to do. I felt like I still had so much to learn – and I was right.
After making the jump, Jacqueline’s freelance career grew and grew with one job feeding into the next. “There was never really any plan” says Colley. As her career has grown, Jacqueline has diversified her income streams by working simultaneously on brand collaborations and selling her own products online. Products range from tiny illustrated pins to big comfy art throws, with all sorts of printed products in between. All this is available from Etsy, Not On The High Street, Iamfy and Print Club London as well as her own online store.
Whether it is a new range for her shop or a collaborative project, Jacqueline’s career is led by her passions. Her love for – and more recently, longing to – travel has sparked some of her most popular designs including the Morocco-inspired Cacti prints and the Palm Springs design she drew for Ohh Deer. Bags of ephemera collected while travelling, including vintage packaging and match boxes, provide a fresh dose of inspiration whenever it is needed.
As you might imagine from looking at her intricate work, Jacqueline’s process is lengthy and intricate. It always starts with research, then a moodboard (her favourite step), followed by rounds and rounds of sketching before moving on to final designs and playing around with several different colour variations. To make this a sustainable way of working, Jacqueline fully embraces the opportunity to license a design from her portfolio multiple times and relishes seeing a single illustration on everything from notebooks to wallpaper.
The problem with social media is we are constantly barraged with people achieving, achieving, achieving so even when things are going well you don’t feel like they are. We are all in the same boat. We are all playing the same mind games with ourselves.
Looking at such a successful career, it is easy to assume everything has been plain but this is rarely the reality. Like so many, Jacqueline has suffered with self doubt throughout her career – a challenge that social media has only added to. “The problem with social media is we are constantly barraged with people achieving, achieving, achieving so even when things are going well you don’t feel like they are. We are all in the same boat. We are all playing the same mind games with ourselves.”
To avoid the overwhelm, keep it simple and keep it small. You don’t need to do it all at once. I launched my shop with photos that I hated and a website that was crap. Done is better than perfect.
Jacqueline has a number of ways to counteract these negative thoughts, such as displaying positive typographic statements around her studio, and keeping track of everything she has achieved in a given week. Most importantly, Jacqueline prioritises productivity over perfection, a lesson many business owners should take note of. “To avoid the overwhelm, keep it simple and keep it small. You don’t need to do it all at once.” she says “I launched my shop with photos that I hated and a website that was crap. Done is better than perfect.”
Illustrated Merchandise: Making & Selling for Illustrators returns in September 2021 and tickets are on sale now! More information on the course content and how to sign up can be found here.
Interested to hear more? Check out our IGTV interview with Jacqueline Colley on Instagram.