News

8th July 2019 | London
The Process: Ryan Todd on developing ideas and continuing to learn after graduation.



At our last legendary doodle social event, Ryan Todd took to the stage, albeit last minute, and delivered a talk which discussed his own internal ideation process, how he conceptualises his creations and why he feels everybody should look at the world a little differently. You can get a more in-depth read of al this by following the link at the bottom of the article. 

Anyway, we were so impressed with Ryan's ideation process and how well he managed to explain it that we reached out to ask him some further questions about his life and work. 


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Gap Milan Furniture Fair - Ryan Todd


You’re very known for your minimalistic, witty illustrations that put a lot of emphasis on communication. Have you always had this style of working, or did it manifest itself gradually?


I come from a graphic design background so from a visual point of view, I think I’ve always been drawn to creating work that is aesthetically graphic in nature. But even before I starting working so minimally I have always been interested in ways to inject humour into my work. When I was back at university I started out by simply personifying objects and creating imaginary scenarios for them. I found it funny to think about what type of personality they would have and how they would interact with other objects. But it wasn’t until I worked on my first zine ‘Another Way’ that I really started to think about creating work that uses wit to communicate ideas. 


If so do you find it’s more challenging to work in a minimal way, instead of adding a lot of detail into a piece of work?


When you pare back an image to its simplest form, every shape has focus and there is nowhere to hide. It often takes longer to achieve the level of graphic acuity I’m looking for instead of simply adding in detail. Also, from a conceptual point of view, it can often be a lot harder to distill a complicated subject down into such a simple image.


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The Other Side of Town - Ryan Todd


Do you have a dream client you haven’t been able to work with yet?


I’m a massive basketball geek so would love to produce some NBA related work, perhaps for Nike or Adidas. 


At our Doodle Social event you went into some very interesting points about your ideation process. Could you expand into this again?


I am very interested in creative thinking as a process rather than seeing it as this random, magical part of your work where ideas just pop into your head. 

Essentially, an idea is simply a new connection between existing elements and the processes I employ in my work help to make those connections much faster and train my mind to be more proficient at discerning them. These processes include creating a subject map that disseminates a subject into hundreds of characteristics which can then form connection points with other subjects.

Alongside the techniques, I use a growing toolbox of idea frameworks and visual cues. So when I have to create an illustration about a given subject I already have a library of visual starting points already documented which I can then start breaking apart to form new ideas.

This whole approach also gives you a much deeper understanding as to why an idea works as well as it does. When I see a clever idea used in a piece of advertising, artwork, photography or installation, instead of simply thinking ‘Wow! That’s so clever!’, I have learnt to break the idea down to understand the underlying conceptual framework.


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Card Collection - Ryan Todd


Did this process evolve over time, or did you find it was more of a lightbulb moment?

I’ve been employing these processes in my work, in different ways, for years. I’ve read a considerable amount from other creative thinkers and inventors about the approach they take to thinking creatively and I’ve been able to pick and choose techniques that work for me and specifically benefits what I do. This whole approach is something that I’m still adding to and refining but more importantly, the more I use these techniques, the better equipped I seem to be at discerning connections and generating new ideas.


Do you have a favourite theme, or subject to illustrate/take inspiration from?


I am always looking at the environment around me for subjects and ideas to toy with so whether I’m cycling to the pub, catching the train out of London or sat in our garden with my feet up, I draw most inspiration from the visual language of everyday life.


Do you find it challenging to juggle both family and freelance life?


I think it’s actually a hell of a lot easier to be a parent when you work as a freelancer as opposed to working in a full-time job. I can work from home when it suits me and most of the time I have the flexibility to take time off to spend with the family and make up for it later in the week if I need to.


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Loligo - Ryan Todd


What’s been your favourite project of work to date?


The work that I get most excited about pushes me out of my comfort zone into a new medium or process. One group of projects involved producing artwork and objects made from hardwoods and valchromat (a high-density, dyed fibre wood) with my designs etched out and filled with coloured resin. It was a completely new medium and was a very steep learning curve but the result was all the more rewarding for it.


What advice would you give to anyone starting off in the industry, or as a freelance illustrator?


I think the biggest piece of advice I could give is to keep learning. A Lot of students think leaving university is the end of education and the beginning of working life when it’s actually just another chance to develop your skills and figure out what you really want to do. My first job was at a big advertising agency followed by a graphic design studio before I quit to set up my own agency only to realise that I should have been an illustrator all along. I’m always thinking about the type of projects I’d like to work on and new techniques/mediums I’d like to learn.


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London Design Festival - Ryan Todd


BONUS QUESTION: Would you rather have toes for fingers, or fingers for toes?


As an artist, my career might take a considerable turn for the worse if I had toes for fingers so I would say the latter!!


You can check out Ryan's portfolio and channels by visiting his website.

You can also read more about his Doodle Social talk here.


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