Jenni Sparks Interview


Jenni Sparks is an illustrator, designer, and map maker. Originally from Somerset, England, she is now based in East London where she has her studio. Known mainly for the detailed culture maps that she creates, she also loves lending her fun and humorous style to typography, clothing, and small animations. She has worked with clients such as Nike, Adidas, Carnaby St, BHV Paris, Grazia, Variety Magazine, Absolut, Lonely Planet, Harper Collins and Sesame Street.

Tell us a fun fact about you I love trashy tv and anything regarded as 'low brow'. When I was working from home I watched so much Jeremy Kyle that I worked out the magic formula he uses to deal with his guests and made it into an illustrated infographic. It ended up going viral and one day a producer from the show contacted me. I ended up going to watch the show with my sister and getting a backstage tour - Jeremy Kyle even put my illustration up on the screen before the show started!

How did you get into illustration? I always drew and painted for fun as a child, nothing felt better to me than to shut myself away in my room and listen to music and make art. I knew from early on that this is what I had to do with my life, there was no back up plan! In terms of getting myself out there, it was about pretending to be confident even though I wasn't at the time and just contacting LOADS of people. Living in London is expensive but it definitely helps accelerate a creative career.


Who or what inspires you the most? I don't really seek out inspiration as such, because you just have to keep your eyes open. Anything can be inspiration if you look at it with a creative eye. I really like mundane stuff like motorway signs, no smoking symbols, anything that reduces a concept down into a bold, simple image that transcends language.

Top three clients you've worked with? Sesame Street - I cried when I got this one as it was basically my life when I was a child. Lonely Planet were great to work with in general and I have so many of their books. Finally BHV department store in Paris, because I got treated like royalty and they turned my illustration into an exhibition in their observatory room and flew me out to Paris to attend a party for it.

What tools (digital or not!) do you use to create your work? Photoshop, a Wacom graphics tablet, pens, paper, paint! It's good to have a range of materials to work with.

What's your favourite resource for inspiration? Brain Pickings - it's nothing to do with design but there's lots of articles about philosophy, psychology and art. Filling up my brain with information usually inspires me, and the design process tends to be a bit of an unconscious thing. Music also is a big part of my life, so I listen to a lot of mixes on a East London radio station called NTS and that usually sets me up for a creative day.

What would your dream project be? Collaborating with a musician and animator to make a sound/video installation piece. Or working with a fashion label to make a collection together.

How can fans keep up-to-date with your work? Instagram


Do you have any tips for artists thinking of doing freelance? Be prepared to spend a looot of time on emails, talking about pricing and contracts and timelines. And make sure that, every now and again, you take the time to step back and evaluate your body of work. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in client requests, and end up pushed down a hole you don’t really want to be in.

What would your dream project be? Creating a children's book!

How can fans keep up-to-date with your work? Instagram


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