Tell us your career story! Did you always want to illustrate computer games? How did you get into the industry?
I grew up in Sheffield then studied Graphic Design in Newcastle and Sequential Illustration in Brighton. During the early years of my career I built up a network of illustration clients and had commissions for children’s books, magazines and greetings card publishers. I moved back to my home town in 2004 to manage a family gallery business, alongside my own freelance illustration work.
I met Tim in 2010 and we’ve been working together on and off ever since. I was originally the lead designer at Team Cooper, working on Flash-based Digital Amusements before we started working in HTML5. Later we became more focused on branded games and eventually transitioned into what is now Peek & Poke.
My role at Peek & Poke has evolved as the company has grown. In the early days I was responsible for most of the design work and set up the systems and processes that we use to generate our graphics. I’m currently responsible for managing our awesome design team and our pool of freelance designers and illustrators.
I’ve always loved games in all of their forms, so being a full-time designer here is an ideal job for me. As a child I used to make up my own board games and later on I created one for the main project in my Master’s degree. It was always just for fun and I never really considered that I’d end up in the games industry, but looking back now it feels like it was always meant to be!
Which programmes do you use?
Adobe Illustrator has always been my main professional tool. When I was at uni in the late 90s, I remember meticulously painting a children’s book illustration with flat gouache colours when a friend suggested I should try working digitally to achieve a similar effect. I knew straight away that vector-based design suited my natural style and I’ve used Illustrator almost every working day since.
Creative Cloud is essential for our graphics workflow. In particular Photoshop, which we use regularly, and also Adobe Animate. I sometimes use Procreate on the iPad for sketching and concept work.
What does your average day look like?
I like to walk to the office (or sometimes run, if I’m feeling particularly energetic!). After an essential morning coffee I set to work in front of my Mac. The specific jobs throughout the day can be quite varied. I enjoy designing artwork for new games, customising graphics for clients and designing promotional materials, but at busier times of the year I spend more time managing design projects.
Do you have a specific process and where do you get your inspiration from?
Like many other illustrators, I guess my natural drawing style is influenced by my childhood. I watched a lot of kids cartoons in the 80s (Dogtanion, Smurfs, Flintstones, Dangermouse etc.) and spent hours reading the Beano, Dandy, Garfield and Asterix books. They probably all had an influence as I developed my own style of vector-based cartoon illustration.
At Peek & Poke, we’ve adopted a graphic style for game assets that’s stripped back and ultra simplified, using a limited palette of flat colours and geometric shapes. This is low in file size, flexible for recolouring and suits a variety of different brands so ideal for what we do. Working in the games industry also helped me to broaden my skillset with user interface design and animation.
We are a close-knit group and this has helped us to develop and refine the process of generating artwork for our games. We always try to keep our clients up to date every step of the way and share visuals throughout the project.
What do you love most about your job?
I genuinely look forward to each work day at Peek & Poke HQ! I spent the first few years of my career working on my own, but now I really appreciate working as part of a team. It’s good to contribute my skill set with other talented people to produce a great end product. It’s also really satisfying to get positive feedback from clients and to see other people enjoying our games. We’re all passionate about what we do here and I think that’s the key to the success of Peek & Poke.
What do you get up to outside of work?
Most of my time revolves around my family. I have two young kids and we all enjoy outdoor adventures, biking, exploring the countryside and holidays by the sea. Any other time I have to myself is spent on creative pursuits like teaching myself the piano, writing stories and making my own art prints.
What is your all-time favourite game?
My personal golden age for games was the early 90s. I spent many hours exploring Monkey Island, directing Lemmings and racing Micro Machines on my Amiga 500. But I must admit, I spent more hours playing Sensible Soccer than any other game in my life. It was an essential after-school ritual for me and my friends and the first game I was really addicted to.
What is your zombie apocalypse plan?
The first thing I would do would be to assemble a team of friends and relatives and head straight to my nearest Amazon distribution centre. We would gain access on the pretext of picking up an undelivered parcel. After securing the perimeter and assigning armed guards to all key entry points, we’d settle into our new warehouse home.
Every day would be like Christmas with a supply of giftware, toys and games to keep us entertained for years. There would also be a plentiful source of non perishable food and an array of weapons including rackets, bats and golf clubs not to mention a selection of battery-powered tools and gardening equipment for fighting off the mouldy brain munchers!
Then I would make a pot of coffee, find a good book and wait for it all to blow over.