Designer interview: Nicky Ovitt


Today, our designer interview is with Nicky Ovitt, one of our Design School graduates, with a signature illustration style that is inky, playful, spontaneous and sincere.

When did your interest in design first start and how did that come about?
I have drawn for entertainment and comfort since I was very young. In my teens I wanted to be a fashion illustrator but in those days it was the safe route to become a graphic designer and since both my parents were fine artists they advised me to have a “trade.”


What steps did you take to get to where you are now as a designer?
I went to art school to learn the basics of design and gained an excellent foundation in techniques, art history and design principles. After school I worked hard to learn on the job, so many of my skills came from doing or being taught by generous co-workers. Through all my varied positions I have kept an open mind and adapted my design focus to fit whatever industry I was employed in at the time. I’ve worked in a print shop, at design studios, for weekly newspapers, and freelanced for companies like Levi’s— ALL of it excellent experience!

What was the most important lesson you took away from “The Art and business of Surface Pattern” e-course?
The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design assignments got me excited about drawing again. At the job I had just left, we had very condensed timelines and rarely did we create in our own styles or spend as much time as we would have liked on a project. The ABSPD got me to “see” again, as well as providing valuable business information and giving me structure when I was most needing to recreate myself.


What difference did it make to have a supportive community of fellow students and how important do you think that will be going forward?
The ABSPD community was and continues to be a big part of my daily work life. Many of the graduates are in communcation with each other and I think for those of us working solo it’s a heartening to know someone across the world is on the same path and can share the experiences and information.

How would you describe your style?
My inky style is charming, child-like and honest when creating iconic illustrations. I would say the same technique when drawing decorative patterns becomes sophisticated-folky.


What kind of designer do you want to be known as?
I’d like to be known for my inky style and have a customer base that’s always interested in seeing what’s evolving in my work. Jill Bliss, Cath Kidston, and Amy Butler come to mind as designers who’s work is instantly recognizable and artists who continue not only to follow trends but create their own.

What are you working on currently?
I’m finalizing a collection for a quilt fabric manufacturer that I just signed a licensing deal with. I have been asked to keep the info under wraps until the collection is ready for retailers so I can’t say who, but I’m very excited about it as this had been one of my main goals for 2013. In 2014 I’ll be further researching agents, Surtex and other manufacturers.


What advice would you give emerging designers wanting to build their portfolios?
I would give other designers the advise I often need to remind myself of: Shut off the email and other distractions! Make lists of subjects and themes to draw, spend at least 1 hour (or more!) drawing daily, reseach the industry as much as you can. Connect with people you like and ask lots of questions but don’t forget the power of Google. :)

What would be your dream design gig?
For a while my only answer to this was to design a fabric for Oilily. Now I’ve begun to reconsider as I think my style is not necessarily their look. That’s another thing I’m more aware of now: what brand is my style really appropriate for? My dream design job *in this moment* would be to design paper goods for Chronicle Books and/or Rag & Bone.


Looking ahead what are your major goals for the next couple of years?
I’d like to continue to grow my business so my inky illustration is the majority of my income. Currently, my freelance illustration work for clients is in a wide variety of styles. Dream clients include: Anthropologie, Galison, Chronicle Gifts, Crate & Barrel, Land of Nod.

If you were a pattern what kind of a pattern would you be and why?
I would be a detailed, imperfect, swirly, decorative, and embellished abstract. I have a pinterest page with inspiration and patterns like this. The excess appeals to me, I love body adornment and the images of royalty in my vintage children’s books.




For a decade I worked in-house as a designer and art department manager for a successful manufacturer of apparel and accessories for major private label brands. Currently, Speedo contracts me to provide spot prints and patterns in a variety of popular art styles for product development. In 2013 I was selected as one of ten international designers to participate in Repeat(ed), a fabric design competition at My signature illustration style is inky, playful, spontaneous and sincere.

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