Freelance Illustrator / Designer | Dan Leydon

Our next guest is with freelance illustrator/designer Dan Leydon. Dan has freelanced in the sport industry, so it was great to discuss his journey and experience to date.

Hi Dan, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Can you tell our readers about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?

I’m a freelance illustrator and motion designer. I studied product design in college and have been freelance ever since.

As a full-time freelance illustrator and designer, what does a normal week look like for you?

I don’t really have a normal work week, I tend to work every day. I get up at 7am and usually do a bit of work at about 8am, then I go walking for a bit, I usually do my shopping, house stuff during the day. I’ve also been working on my fourth book ‘Subculture’. It’s a look at football culture and streetstyle so I’ll chip away at that for a while then I’ll tend to settle in for the evening and put some more time into my client work. I’ll try to be in bed by about 11. That’s generally it, some days I do more if I have a looming deadline. I find chipping away at stuff allows for more breaks and this lets me, hopefully, catch any mistakes. I get my work done but I’m rarely busy, I like it that way.

What are the most enjoyable and difficult parts of your role?

I love getting ideas and executing them. I love making things happen, it feels like I’m spotting patterns that no one else can see and making them into something interesting. The most difficult part is easily keeping a work life balance. I could spend all day putting a new book together or collecting reference photos or researching new methods for my work but then I have to contend with a headache from focusing all day, or tight hip flexors. Forgetting to eat is also a big freelance thing, sitting at a desk in the zone and you’ve forgotten to tend to your stomach. When you stand up the hunger hits you.

Your work has been featured by some high-profile clients from a range of industries. In sport, by the likes of Nike, Liverpool FC, the Bundesliga and Sports Illustrated. Any standout pieces of work or projects you’re proud of and would like to share here with our readers?

I recently designed a sticker set for Facebook/WhatsApp, this was a nice step up for me as I started learning motion work in July 2018 so to get to use the skills for that type of project was satisfying. It shows you can reach things that are currently out of your grasp. If people want to view the sticker pack it’s in the sticker keyboard in WhatsApp, it’s fantasy football themed and has my name beside it.

Who are your favourite illustrators at the moment and what do you think it is that makes them so brilliant?

I could go on for hours, here’s a list: Victoria Semykina, Igor Bastidas, Gian Galang, Jonas Bergstrand, Charles Drawin, Matthew Shipley, Dave Flanagan, Dan Evans, Anna Cattish, Pernille Orum, Alberto Mielgo, Zi Xu. I find something in each of their work that really makes me smile. There’s a lot of different styles there but I think they all have one thing in common, there’s a joy in their work, tangible expression. I can feel it. I could give you another 100 names!

What tools/software would you recommend to aspiring illustrators?

There’s a lot available so I’d advise go for cost effective. The Adobe package is progressively more expensive and adrift from what seems to be affordable for people starting out. Procreate is amazing for illustrators, it’s a £20 one off fee I think but you need an iPad and Apple pencil. Then I hear clip studio paint is great but I’ve never used it.

Here’s my full application list: after effects, photoshop, illustrator, InDesign, procreate, and I use google drive for a lot of organising and writing.

What general advice would you give to those individuals looking to pursue a career in design, specifically focused on sports? What are the key skills required?

Adaptability, professionalism and good taste. The more you research a field, the more you can hone in on what is needed and you can aim your development to match up with certain niches. Things move fast, you need to evolve constantly.

What do you do to switch off outside of work? Any hobbies?

I don’t! I am trying though, I walk a LOT, I work out, I stretch, when travel is available I do that a lot, I’m doing up my house currently so that takes a lot of time.

And finally Dan, where can people find you on social media to connect?

Right here.

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