Bold, Bright and Simple

Illustrator Andreas Samuelsson never grows tired of the endless possibilities within the simplest of forms. Although he has an education in advertising, Andreas quickly realised that working in an agency wasn’t meant for him, and decided to embark on a life as a freelance illustrator instead. Constantly aiming for the clear and clean, Andreas finds his voice by peeling away everything unnecessary down to its essentials, usually accompanied by a vivid colour palette. The result is bright, clinical and distinct—a trait that was quickly recognised by several stakeholders within the world of visual expressions.

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Hi Andreas. How did you get into the world of illustrations?
After working as a graphic designer in my own company from 2001, followed by a few years of advertising studies, I quickly realized that I was into a more artistic approach and illustrations. I started sketching the different ideas I had and quickly came in contact with It’s Nice That, right after they were founded, as well as Human Empire in Germany, who both shared my work. The internet was still quite small back then, and it was an exciting world that started to develop. In 2007 I illustrated an entire spread in The New York Times, which later led to a series of large commissions that really became the start of my journey. In 2011 I signed with Stockholm-based Agent Molly & Co and I’ve been working 100% professionally ever since.

It can be hard to work as a freelance illustrator. How did you manage to make it into a professional career?
I’ve always been extremely focused on what I want and I try to create my own path at all times. I’m always curious and open to allowing my creativity to move forward at a relaxed pace. I’m not in a hurry. I always try to question myself in a productive way. It’s incredibly important for passion and craft to meet, as well as to recover in between client work and even create something for myself, free of demands. I look at every day as a blank page. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve made a thousand images. Every day is an opportunity to look at what I do in a new way. I suppose this has led my profession to where I am today.

Looking at your portfolio, you have a strong signature—both in terms of the bright colours, techniques and lines. How did you discover it?
It’s been a process that has taken me many years to land, but of course is based on every impression I’ve encountered. I’ve always had a framework and base approach that I've tried to stay true to, but I’m still working to create an even more personal signature. I want to find a line that is my own. A free, but clear form that represents me. That is very important to me. 

Please describe your approach and style.
I would probably say bold, bright and simple.

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Please tell me about your use of colour.
Black is probably the starting point. Then I try to balance it with a popping colour or a more subtle pastel colour scale. I truly love playing freely with colour, creating unexpected meeting points between them. It’s a constant struggle of pushing yourself to find an unexpected combination. I often gravitate towards bright red and cobalt blue, two colours that always will be favourites of mine. I even find it interesting to play with simple basic colours and creating ideas around that. To lock myself into a standardised scale. Strong and intense colour is also a way for me to express emotion and energy.

Your illustrations have very few elements, but at the same time a lot of story (pretty impressive). Where do the ideas come from? 
Most of it I pick up from everyday life. For instance the things I surround myself with or see on the street. Anything from a beautiful glass to a house. I enjoy gathering the impressions I’ve seen with spontaneous thoughts and then trying to edit them down to a simple image that documents this.

What comes first—the colours, the elements or the idea?
I always start my work with a pen and standard A4 paper. The feeling and freedom of this is unbeatable. I sketch quickly and freely without thinking too much. When I feel that an idea is good, I bring this sketch into the computer and hand draw it with vector graphics. Thoughts about colours are always with me from the start, but they fall into place at the end of the process. I’m searching for balance and simplicity. The image should be as clean and clear as possible. I take away everything unnecessary until I’m satisfied.

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What’s your favourite thing to draw?
I would guess it’s a circle. I really enjoy thinking freely around a simple form and what you can do with it. The more you hand draw, for instance a circle, the more it comes alive. After thousands of tries you’ve found your own line and you own that feeling. An orange circle becomes a basketball, a red one becomes a tomato, and so on. I never grow tired of that. 

How would you describe Swedish design and creativity?
I enjoy thinking with a wide perspective and that everything is connected. From illustration to typography, to architecture to sculpture. I might look at a house by architect Johannes Norlander and then get inspired by stylist Thomas Lingsell or a vase by ceramist Carina Seth Andersson. I guess I enjoy the simple but impactful that many Swedish creators are great at making. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what Swedish design is, but I think Sweden is good at picking up references from the entire world and making the best out of it. 

And what about the Swedish illustration scene?
Personally, I find it hard to separately describe illustration. I think what inspired me about Sweden at the beginning was a mix of graphic design, art and illustration. For instance what Carl Johan de Geer and Inez Svensson from 10-Gruppen did pattern wise, which is unbelievably beautiful in colour and form, as well as Fellow Designers’ graphic simplicity and typography, Sweden Graphics’ broad expression with the clearly worked across boundaries and Henrik Nygren’s simple graphic illustrations. HC Ericson is a person who has been important for me when it comes to typography, colour and composition. A creative who has inspired me a lot here in Gothenburg on composition and freedom is Daniel Götesson. Today, I don’t look too much at anyone, because I feel satisfied in my own world. By the way, I’m very rarely impressed.