It’s a tough old world out there for young designers looking to break their way into the industry and more often than not it’s best...
Since finishing uni a mere nine months ago, illustrator Kev Speck has launched himself into the design community with a vengeance. With clients ranging from Toni & Guy to The Financial Times, the big question is… how did he do it?
Hello and welcome to the world of Thunder Chunky, how do you do today?
Hello there, I feel dandy today; another day, another dollar and all that.
For any of those fine people out there who aren’t acquainted with your work, describe a bit about yourself and what you do.
Rightio, I’m a 23 year old freelance illustrator from London (well Wimbledon to be precise). I graduated from university around nine months ago and have been illustrating my socks off ever since. I work from home (it’s a bedroom/studio kind of thing), but it works for me.
Ok, spill the beans, how have you managed to do so well in such a short time since finishing uni?
It is all a little surreal. It seems I’m starting to appear in things which I used to read during my studies. Digit, Computer Arts, Pixelsurgeon, TC! they are all things I used to refer to for inspiration (I still do) so to be associated with them is amazing for me. I’m made up. Although I have no beans to spill, there really is no secret, I’m no Clark Kent in the industry. It’s going to sound lame, but it genuinely is down to a lot of hard work. It has been ’24/7′ for a very very long time, and I love it. I get people all over the world emailing me now, yet I am under no illusion that I’m at the top of my game. There are people that have been around for a lot longer than me and there stuff is incredible. I try to raise my game with every image, and I aspire to be a key figure in this crazy world.
What are the main things you’ve learnt since jumping head-first into the ‘real-world’?
Oh wow, there are so many things. It was drummed into me ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know’¬ù, and to some extent it’s true. Of course, there has to be some talent and passion for the job, but build up your contacts and get out there and meet people, don’t shy away behind a screen and wait for work. In fact don’t wait for work full stop! Plus favors go a long way in this industry.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time doing freebies for people in exchange for exposure, which has resulted in someone seeing that and then commissioning me for work. Plus Plus, never see a fellow designer as competition. I hate that, every other illustrator I’ve met along this journey has been very very cool (you all know who you are), I mention no names.
Your style of work is reminiscent of a certain Mr McFaul. Is there a connection there?
Firstly I take that as a big compliment. He’s doing amazing things right now, and he is one of those illustrators at the very top of his game, and good luck to him, he deserves to be where he is.
I first met John (sorry, Mcfaul) back in my foundation year at the ‘Surrey Institute’ five years ago now I think. I’m not going to embarrass him, as I know he’ll read this but he was the sole inspiration back then for me doing what I’m doing. He taught me the importance of texture and colour in an image. He also helped me work more laterally and encouraged me to push my work as far as I can go. I owe a lot to him for his persistence and confidence in my work.
Beards With Beef is a design collective, of which you were one of the founding members. How are things going on that front?
We’re fazing out the Beards With Beef, and trading under BWB now. It was quite embarrassing calling clients and saying on the phone ‘hello, it’s Kev Speck from Beards With Beef’. They would either crease up laughing or just wouldn’t get it. BWB is much better.
Back to your original question, we are splendid. To be in a collective with three of your best mates is cracking. It was founded back in May last year with Rob Hare (my current flat mate) and Matt Campbell, and from what started as a bit of fun is now a very serious business. We’ve taken on some new blood recently, in the shape of Paul Tinker, and things are going well. The fashion industry seems to love us, which is a touch, but we’d love to venture into new grounds. The site itself is days away from re-launching, and it’s a lot more professional with a lot of new stuff on there no one would have seen, so check it out folks.
Your work shows quite a wide range of techniques in it. Do you see yourself more as a digital vector designer or a felt-tip doodler? What direction do you reckon you’re more likely to head in?
To be honest I am very bad at drawing, in the sense that I cant. My doodles are something I do when it gets too much staring at the same screen all day. I think my work is going very vector at the moment, which I’m excited about, but I will always try and give it a balance by trying to use different techniques in my work to try and keep it as fresh as possible.
For any of those budding university design students out there, fretting over the impending doom of real life, what would be your advice to them?
Be careful. The saying ‘spend money to make money’ has its advantages but you really should think about things on a wider scale. Plan well and be confident not arrogant.
What’s on the plate for the rest of 2005?
I really would hate to say. I never would have said I would have got this far in four months. I always said to Rob last year 2005 is going to be big for us, and so far it hasn’t disappointed.
There are a few projects in the pipeline with some great talent including Mcfaul himself and Richard May. The rest I’m going to stay tight lipped about, it’s more interesting.
Finally, what’s the one thing everybody should do today?
Drink plenty of water.
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