Graphic Artists are pushing the boundaries of how design and illustration interact. The internet is allowing graphic artists to connect, inspire and encourage each other to develop their own unique style and, as a result, we have an unprecedented wealth of talent waiting to be discovered. Some of these Graphic Artists you may have heard of, some of them you may not, but each are bringing something entirely new to the table that’s challenging designers to find a different way to approach art. Whether that’s drawing on their own experiences or being inspired by the films they love, these designers all have an incredible style that makes them the most influential and groundbreaking graphic artists around today.
1) Butcher Billy
Butcher Billy was thrown into the spotlight with his renditions of comic covers for Charlie Brooker’s satirical TV show, Black Mirror. Tapping into a cult TV series with a growing following was an ingenious move to spark interest around the Brazilian illustrator, who already boasts clients such as Foot Locker, Michael Jordan and Stylist Magazine. Like Charlie Brooker, humour and satire pervade Billy’s work, bringing contemporary pop art to life and drawing on cultural icons from the past century.
Juxtaposition seems to be the defining characteristic of his design. Butcher Billy ironically throws together two characters, songs or films with no real connection to each other to unease and throw the viewer. The Joker is seamlessly merged with Alex from Stanley Kubrik’s infamous The Clockwork Orange. Morrissey pulls open his purple suit to reveal his Superman costume hidden beneath. Classic comic book characters are hurtled into the real word through David Bowie, Brad Pitt and Robert Smith; merging the real and fictional worlds in a dramatic explosion of colour.
Butcher Billy’s creative style is bold and loud with a heavy focus on typography, thick outlines and clear imagery. Although the designs are purposefully noisy, they retain clean, defined shapes which draw attention and keep it there. Most of his work blends the comic strip with the vintage movie poster, this format perfectly reflecting the content and style of his designs.
“I like to create freely” Butcher Billy recently told Digital Arts, “and then realise bits of an artwork are influenced by the mood of a movie by Tim Burton, the brushstrokes of a piece by Salvador Dali, with a soundtrack from an early album by David Bowie”. The entire spectrum of the arts are represented through his illustrations, all coated with a heavy hint of nostalgia.
2) Janne Iivonen
Finish-born Janne Iioven now lives in Brighton and is charming the UK one illustration at a time. His cheerful, bright graphic art depicts ordinary situations and offers alternative ways for us to look at everyday life. Vibrant colours and clean, concise linework dominate his designs, which have recently been featured in The Guardian’s widely read Long Reads and Esquire Magazine. Other clients to date range from The Financial Times to Verizon, Heineken and Toyota, who go to Iioven when a touch of realism and honesty is required for their brands. The situational elements to his designs help create his truthful style.
He starts his illustrations using Ball Point pens and Col-Erase pencils to sketch out the initial concepts before moving onto the computer. Clip Studio Pain EX is used for “digital inking and colouring” which Iioven says allows him to do mechanical drawings that would be too time-consuming to figure out on paper. Since many of his illustrations rely on spacing and positioning, the software helps form accurate plotting of the scene.
It is the simplicity and honesty with a small but comical hint of satire that attracts massive clients to Iioven. Each scene carries significance when looked at alone, or helps illustrate a point conveyed by the article it accompanies. “The absurd and the surreal” are his self-proclaimed favourite elements to add to his designs, with visual gags and playfulness injected into daily routines.
You can see more of Janne’s work on his Pinterest board and through his regular social media posts on twitter.
3) Jonathan Ball
Jonathan Ball already has clients such as MTV, Sony and the BBC under his belt, with no signs of slowing down. He is a Welsh graphic artist and founder of Illustration and Animation agency, Poked Studio. Vectors and 3D designs dominate his work at the moment, drawing influence from the gaming industry to create vibrant and exciting animations. It’s unsurprising that his dream venture would be to direct an entire movie where his characters would have free reign for a feature-length period!
He has a reputation for fun and entertaining character designs who he situates in detailed worlds through weird and wonderful digital graphics. “A passion for low brow art forms and popular surrealism styles” sets Poked Studio away from the rest. You are transported to different planets, worlds and ages which are brought to life through apps, games, products and print.
These other-worldly designs are created with Photoshop, illustrator and Cinema 4D for the after effects required with animation. Aside from animation and character design, Vectorism is experimented with depicting both his own characters and popular cartoons. A slight sinister streak runs through some of his designs, allowing his cartoon-style content to appeal to an adult audience.
Jonathan is also a regular speaker. He appeared as a tutor at the Brillantengrund Master Classes in Vienna to spread his wisdom of the art of Character Design. You can even buy prints and products of his outstanding world here. From posters to eye-masks, his design style has formed an entire brand that the public can’t get enough of.
4) Raphal Vicenzi
Belgium Graphic Artist Raphal Vicenzi is a self-taught designer otherwise known as My Dead Pony. Alongside his agency COLAGENE, he has worked with clients such as Universal, Virgin and Baume & Mercier. Thanks to his unique application of patterns and gradients over photography and illustrations, Vicenzi has been kept in high demand with an ever-growing public profile.
Brooding models perpetuate throughout his portfolio of illustrations which draw upon his interests in fashion photography, black metal, typography, punk and collage. His Pinterest board accordingly organises his work across his main passions, displaying the range of skills he utilises in his designs. Photoshop and a Wancom Intuos Pro tablet help build his dramatic collages with layer masks and textures. His own watercolour patterns and textures are then applied on top which explains the delicacy of his designs.
Although soft, pastel colours are used in lots of his designs, Vicenzi also employs a darker colour pallet in his more dramatic collages and work. After all, his Behance profile does name is as a “Graphic Destroyer”. His work mimics fashion sketches and takes them further by distorting the images with bold typography, custom patterns and beautiful illustrations. The collage effects that are applied in almost every single one of his designs add a signature depth which contrasts with the elegant illustrations it merges with. Not only is his work a favourite for boutique posters, but a collection of his most ethereal and iconic designs have even been collected in a paperback available for you to browse for inspiration and admiration!
5) Dragan Djurdjevic
Enthralling, dark and memorable are three words that best describe Dragan Djurdjevic’s Graphic Art. After graduating from the Novi Sad school of design in Serbia, he has been making waves with his distressing and magnificent illustrations and designs.
“I use ink on paper to draw”, he said earlier last year, “when making digital art I draw on a Wacom tablet and use Photoshop. I like the opportunities that technology gives you to express yourself, and of course, it's always fun to play with a drawing tablet and Photoshop.”
His illustrations are incredibly complex and detailed, portraying every kind of emotion through the facial expressions of his subjects. The intricate lines, shadowing and textures create a dark, theatrical atmosphere that harks back throughout time with an almost Medieval approach to drawings.
Colour is applied in the digital stage of his illustrations. Looking through his portfolio you can see the development of a single black and white shape take a more vivid form as blocks are filled in and shading is applied. Despite colouring in his work using Photoshop, his favourite medium is still “different kinds of pens on large white paper”.
His work is deeply personal, with himself and his family members often featuring as subjects of his designs. He told Made In Shoreditch that despite using events and emotions that he’s actually experienced in his work, what makes the work so dramatic are the “overemphasised additions that show how I feel about them or my response to them”. His self-portrait featured below has become his iconic illustration; the pen work and shading making him strikingly pop out from the dark red background is a fantastically eerie design.
6) Yo Az
Yo Az is a Parisian Graphic Artist who started his design career in advertising. His artistic style uses geometric shapes and patterns to create brilliant, intricate designs. By starting his designs with a pen and paper before moving to the computer he seamlessly merges the media forms while allowing his imagination to take full reign.
His work can be bought from Society 6 in the forms of framed poster prints, iPhone cases and t-shirts. The vector patterns that make up the body of his work allow his designs to transfer to a huge range of mediums. Cultural icons such as Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction, animals and individual portraits run through his portfolio.
The experimentation with colour highlights the sheer level of detail which is incorporated into each design. Rich golds, reds and blues have an oriental influence showcasing vivid sculptures that could be anywhere in the world.
One of his highest profile projects to date has been “Playing Arts”; a collective art project that saw illustrators and designers from around the globe collaborate to each design a playing card in their own distinct style. Yo Az featured in the second edition of this worldwide project, designing a geometric King of Hearts. His token usage of royal colours accentuates the jewels which are bestowed upon the King, with the vector lines creating an almost robotic appearance. Largely self-taught, Yo Az is looking to exhibit more of this work as the year develops but for now, is feeding his growing fan base on the internet.
Have we missed out a Graphic Artist who has played an influential part in your career? How does your design style and process compare to these six? Each designer must take a unique approach to their projects, whether you’re designing for a corporate client or letting your imagination run wild for personal projects.