Mélanie Johnsson, queen of pattern and colour, is an illustrator, graphic designer, letterer, surfer, planet lover, environmenstrual activist...a talented and busy human! We chatted to Mélanie about what makes her tick, her brilliant Instagram page and her top tips on living a more sustainable lifestyle. We loved this chat with Mélanie and hope you do too.
Tell us about your background. What was the journey that led you to where you are today?
I was born in France back in the early nineties and was lucky enough to land in a very creative family. Both my parents are designers and they taught me a lot in my younger years. I always knew I’d end up doing something creative for a living so I studied applied arts in Paris for three years and then decided to go explore the world! I travelled for over a year, while doing the odd freelance design jobs here and there as well as painting and drawing a lot.
After a while, I decided that London would be the best place to start my career as a graphic designer (yes, that’s what I started as). I landed a full time job as a graphic designer at a luxury travel company, a great job that I left a year later because I knew I wanted to make it on my own! I’ve been freelancing ever since, gradually switching my career from design to illustration...because illustration is my first love and that’s what I’m most excited about when it comes to creating for clients and brands. I’ve grown so much over the past five years and I’ve worked with some amazing clients. It still feels like the beginning though!
Your Instagram, in particular, is a celebration of colour, design and pattern. How important is it to you to build a community and connect with the people who follow you?
It’s essential! I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and the love of the people that follow me on Instagram, especially the ones that have been here since the beginning (I started posting on Instagram back in 2013 I believe). I love sharing happy, joyful and meaningful things on the platform because I know it can make people feel good, and who wouldn’t want to do that?! Social media and the internet can get a little depressing at times so I really want my platform to bring joy, although it doesn’t mean I won’t talk about serious subjects when need be...
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Everywhere! It’s hard to pinpoint where I find inspiration...I believe anything can be inspiring, it just depends on the way you look at things. I do love spending time in nature and outdoors, it resets my mind and I’m pretty sure it makes me more creative because of it. Otherwise, I find inspiration in the usual suspects: books, films, fine art, music...Anything beautiful and hopeful inspires me.
What do you look for when collaborating with other brands?
I always have this mantra in mind, which is “Protect our planet and its oceans, nurture and preserve your mental health, spread as much joy as you can” so whenever someone gets in touch to collaborate or work with me, I think...Does this person care about the planet and its inhabitants? Do they care about mental health? Is their mission to spread joy and make people happy? My ideal client usually answers yes to these three questions, but sometimes only two, or one, and that’s ok. This really helps me find clients that have values similar to mine and make for great partnerships. I’m very open about what I believe in and I think it attracts the right kind of people!
This year you released the first issue of Spellbound, a magazine which you designed and illustrated, and interviewed people around ‘Joy, Planet and Mind’. What made you want to create Spellbound and when can we expect the next issue?
I’ve been obsessed with art books and independent magazines ever since I was a little girl...so creating a magazine from scratch had always been a dream of mine. I had the idea - and found the name - for Spellbound a few years back but I don’t know why I didn’t start working on it until last year, when I thought “Come on, this is it. If you don’t do it now, when will you?”. I absolutely loved the whole process of creating Spellbound. From interviewing some amazing people to designing the whole magazine, to creating illustrations and buying a barcode for it as well as checking proofs from the printers...it was all amazing!
The first issue came out in March, just before the UK lockdown and although it wasn’t the best timing, the magazine was really well received! I’m so happy that Spellbound found its people and brought them lots of joy. I’m currently working on the second issue, which I would like to publish in the Spring 2021. Keep your eyes peeled! ;)
What have you worked on or achieved over the past few years that you are most proud of?
I’m proud of how my career has evolved...and how I've managed to stick to my values and work with amazing people as well as collaborating with brands for good causes. I’m also very proud that I successfully switched from graphic design to illustration, without any previous experience or contacts in that industry. And finally, I’m very proud of Spellbound! It’s a real passionate project that I created on my own and on the side of working really hard on client work. It shows that if you really want to do something, you will find time for it, I promise you! (Ok, I may have worked on weekends for most of it ha).
What’s been a pinch-me-moment for you?
I get pinch-me-moments all the time! Basically, every time a sustainable brand I absolutely love or an awesome client gets in touch with me saying they want to work together...I do a little happy dance! I still find it absolutely amazing that people reach out to me and I don’t have to spend time chasing anyone.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who is looking to start their design journey?
Figure out who you are, stay true to yourself and your values, work hard and have fun while you’re at it! I’m actually going to release my very first online course soon, where I’m basically giving away all my secrets, tips and tricks. It’s called How to be a successful illustrator without losing your mind...I’m super, super excited about it and I can’t wait to teach people everything I know and help them have the best creative and design journey ever.
At A LITTLE FIND you can find brands and products for all your home and beauty needs, with a particular focus on sustainability and being kind to our planet. What would be your 3 top tips to help encourage others to live more sustainably and mindfully?
My top 3 tips would be:
1- Question everything you own and see if you can switch from something wasteful/bad to something reusable and sustainable. You’ll be able to find lots of things in your home that you can change once you’ve used them up!
2- Follow the right people on social media who will open your eyes when it comes to being more sustainable in every aspect of your life. They aren’t hard to find, there are lots of “eco-influencers” out there!
3- Don’t be too hard on yourself. We’re all on a journey to live more sustainably. Do things at your own pace while keeping yourself accountable.
What are you looking forward to for the year ahead?
I’m looking forward to working on exciting projects with cool people, to publishing issue 2 of Spellbound and also the birth of my baby girl in the Spring!
What would you say 2020 has taught you?
2020 has taught me that we need to support each other now more than ever. It has also taught me to keep positive no matter what and spread more joy as well as supporting the makers, dreamers and doers.
This month we’re focusing on ‘wellness’. What does that word mean to you and how do you apply it into your lifestyle?
I’m very focused on wellness in my own life. If I don’t feel good, mentally and physically, I won’t be good at my job and most importantly, I won’t be happy. So I make sure to take care of myself whenever I can. I exercise, eat well, spend a lot of time outdoors and in the sea all year round (yes, even when it’s freezing) and I always go to bed early. I’m a bit of a grandma, but without my sleep, I get too grumpy and I can’t focus. I also love a good bath...it’s a little guilty pleasure I can’t live without, especially in the winter!
What do you look for when finding the perfect gift?
I look for something that will bring joy to the person I’m giving the gift to. I think of them and what they love and imagine how the gift could add a little spark to their life. I obviously look for something sustainable from either a small business or a maker. Something handmade maybe? It all depends on who is going to enjoy it...
What is your favourite item from your ‘finds’?
My favourite item has to be the 365 Days of Gratitude Journal by CGD London...because I truly believe that being grateful for what we have can make us feel better, happier, more grounded and even more creative!
It’s always fun to end with a quickfire round...
Mélanie shares her top 9 favourite finds...
- Getting Stuff Done - CGD London
- Bladderwrack & Pumpkin Body Balm - Haeckels
- Lipstick Queen Sleep Mask - slip™
- Botany Bay Candle Mycelium - Haeckels
- La Vie en Rose Quartz Face Roller - Angela Caglia
- Mint Sea Soak Bath Salts - French Girl
- Pink Silk Turban - slip™
- Holi(sex) Intimate Oil - Agent Nateur
- Tripler 3in1 Exfoliating Clay - Plenaire