A Cup of Tea With…Ollie Brown

This month we’re celebrating typography, and naturally, this week’s Instagram #thortfulTakeover creator has a talent for it.

We sat down with Ollie Brown to discuss his love of travel, animals and of course, typography…


You have a very distinct style of typography – where did you learn to perfect your skill? The style of typography was developed while making the logo for my website. I experimented with various shapes and line styles, aiming to make something unique and punchy, as well as being legible for easy reading. I made a full alphabet of my new typography to make sure it would work, and look good as part of my illustrations.

Animal puns feature heavily within your designs (and they’re very funny!) – what inspired you to run with this theme?
I’ve always had a love for nature and animals, constantly making sketches and drawings of animals from a young age, especially lions! This is part of the reason for a lot of my card designs. There’s such a large range of animals in the world, that there are near endless possibilities for new card puns! They are a topic that many can relate to, and quickly see the link between the pun and the illustration.

Another reason for using animals in my cards is my passion for travel. I’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing countries and the animals that live there, so the travel and nature aspect go hand in hand. I’m also starting to develop more travel based designs such as my ‘Bon Voyage‘ card, which incorporates a number of travel essentials for the avid traveller.

Bon Voyage card

How often do you spend working on one illustration?
That’s a tough one, it really varies on the type of illustration being created. There are a number of attributes to consider with each card. What is the main animal/topic to be used? How many layers will be needed? How detailed does the card need to be? How much typography will be used? And so on.

Some designs can take a day or so if they are a short pun or message, and few layers. More complex designs can take up to a couple of days – sometimes even being recreated entirely if they do not look right for the message on the card. I will always sketch out a design with pen and paper first, so that adds to the time taken before I create the digital version and finalise it.

Is there anybody in particular who inspires your work?
I wouldn’t say there is any one person that inspires my work, I think it’s a useful exercise to see what others are creating, whether that be from a social media platform/exhibition/illustration fair perspective. It can be a great inspirational tool to see a new technique, use of colour and even new styles being created. It can provide you with an inspirational boost to experiment with your own designs and develop ideas in a different way.
What’s the ONE essential item you couldn’t live without for your job?
There are a few tools that I couldn’t live without, but my most essential would have to be my brush pen from Tiger. It allows me to draw with great precision, draw various line thicknesses and feels very smooth when drawing on paper. I highly recommend it.

Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you…
With all my travelling around the world, I’ve not yet set foot in the USA. Seems I’ve been to at least one country in most continents, just not there!

What’s your favourite social media platform?
That would have to be Instagram! It’s quick and easy to upload an image of something being worked on, photo filters are a nice touch, and there are instant responses from anyone looking at related topics to the hashtags.

Let us in on the next design you’re working on
I don’t want to give too much away, otherwise where’s the surprise?! Ok I’ll give you a taster – it’s not animal related this time, but links well to the holiday season!

Finally, name three designers who we should be following on social media…
There are a lot of great designers out there that deserve a follow – my top three would be:

Owen Gildersleeve – I’ve not had the privilege of meeting him, but I’m a big fan of his work! He creates a number of complex paper based designs, different shapes and layers cut out of paper to make striking compositions. I remember purchasing my first copy of computer arts magazine a few years ago, and being compelled to buy it because the cover was so interesting. It happened to be a piece of Owen’s work, I hadn’t heard of his work prior to buying the magazine, so it was a great discovery!

Maliki Favre – Another great illustrator to follow, her bold use of colour and elegant line work make some really stunning pieces. I always look forward to seeing her latest posts on Twitter and Instagram.
Basia Grzybowska (Basia Illustration) – I had the pleasure of meeting Basia at an illustration fair last year and was blown away by the impressive style and colours used. She is based in Brazil and her love for travel and nature was evident in her work. I think I was attracted to Basia’s work because of how well it related to my own! We still even keep in touch to hear how each other are doing which is nice!
See more of Ollie Brown’s designs on thortful here.