You’ve probably seen illustrator and designer Donough O’Malley’s work before: he created the red octopus of Brighton Fringe’s 2018 brochure cover. Having grown up in a “small, quiet, rural place” in Ireland, Donough moved to the UK to study an illustration foundational degree in Bristol.
After graduating from University of Brighton’s Narrative and Sequential Design Masters course, Donough initially focused on illustrating fiction, such as the World of Norm series of children’s books. He mainly works in editorial, advertising, and branding commissions that now include non-fiction books.
“Fiction is a little bit whimsical: you’ve got a lot of space to create things but in the non-fiction area you have to have things factually right. One book I’ve finished recently is a lift-the-flap book on Chemistry: they need to know what a chemical molecule looks like and I don’t want to be screwing that up.”
Donough has also studied Graphic Design in London, which has steered him to “a simpler graphical style. Looking for that simplicity in paring down what you need to get a message across. Normally when I start off with a brief it’s draw, draw, draw, lots of drawing, if time allows for it. Once I have an idea or an essence, I boil it down into the simplest form that I possibly can that gets the message across clearly, and hopefully in a fun and humorous way”.
Once the flurry of drawing has subsided and he has settled on a final idea, Donough will “work it up larger, in pencil. Then move things around: I like to have things align and be connected in some way, so there’s a form and a grid to it. Once I’m happy with those drawings, I can add more detail. I scan it, then I draw out all the elements again on my computer, using vector tools. Each little shape will be its own object so I can move them and change the colour however I want.”
Although Donough takes inspiration from a wide range of illustrators – including Brighton-based artists Leon Edler, Leigh Pearce and Ryan Gillet – he looks to designers now, “for a sense of styles, shapes, colours and patterns. Anything from the mid-20th century, such as Dutch designer Wim Crouwel. His work has graphic patterns and geometric shapes. I see something in the shapes and the colours and think ‘maybe I can create a character or scene from his work’.
“With the sport theme, I thought great, I can have some fun here, I can do whatever I want. After just spending Easter weekend in Brighton (lots of beach walks with the dog) I watched the volleyball players down there. It struck me that there are a lot of elements here, a lot of action and dynamism so I thought, OK this could work.” It certainly does! Let’s hope that summer plays ball, so we can all try emulating such dynamism on the beach ourselves…