Posted 15 January 2019
Written by Xanthe Simmans

Illustrator Xanthe Simmans’ advice on staying true to your interests as a student

When you’re studying a certain subject at university, it can be natural to feel like you can’t stray too far from the course title. But what if the work you want to make doesn’t quite fit in with the status quo? This was the question graphic designer and illustrator, Xanthe Simmans, grappled with during her final year on a graphic design BA. Overcoming the feeling that she had to be just a designer, she embraced her illustrative instincts, and started to blend the two disciplines. Rather than it feel like a choice between one or the other, she simply chose both – and as a result, started producing work that felt truer to her interests. She tells us more about gaining the confidence to follow her intuition.

While at university, my peers were producing projects that were heavily design-based. I always used to see design and illustration as two separate things that couldn’t be merged together. As a result, I always felt like my work wasn’t valid and would ignore my illustrative instincts. Despite my efforts, illustration would always bleed through into my work, and by third year I admitted to myself that I wanted my work to embrace illustration, alongside design.

Instead of separating the work, I started experimenting with how I could blend the two in my spare time. It made the experience more enjoyable, and by embracing this practice – instead of ignoring it – I quickly discovered my style. The projects started to have more life and were stronger in what they were trying to convey, and my illustration skills improved exponentially.

“I always used to see design and illustration as two separate things that couldn’t be merged together.”

The earlier you identify what you want to do in life, the easier it is to direct yourself and your work towards that area. To make the most of your time at university, don’t be afraid of trying new things and producing the work you like, instead of what you think other people will like. Trust me, you will enjoy your time more, gain deeper insights and work far better this way. But remember to always be humble and remain open to new ways of working.


Written by Xanthe Simmans