Born in the northern part of Sweden with a love for patterns that goes way back, Sofia Englund has found her new superpower, designing patterns. Here she tells us more about where she finds her inspiration, why she loves the beginning of a creative process and one of her favourite quotes (mine as well) on how to reach your dreams.
Meet, Sofia Englund
Let’s start off with a obvious question, why the love for patterns?
I’ve always loved patterns, whether it’s gorgeous Indian florals, fun conversationals or quirky geometrics. I think that people really connect with patterns, and I have very strong memories of patterns from my childhood; I can remember the patterns on both of my grandmothers’ dresses, wallpapers and teacups. Imagine a world without any patterns – how dull and boring would that be?
For me as a designer, patterns are also a form of storytelling. We gather inspiration and create collections based on things we see and experience, or a feeling we want to evoke, and then we put those elements together to convey that mood or story. It might not always be obvious to the consumer, especially with more abstract patterns. Making patterns almost feels like a superpower sometimes. I can come up with an idea for what I want to see in the world, create it myself and put it on products straight away. I love that, and I absolutely love the whole process of making them.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what you work with today.
I haven’t taken a very straightforward route to where I am now, but I’ll try to keep it relatively short 🙂 I grew up in Luleå in the north of Sweden and I’ve done many different things since graduation: summer job in Greece, Au Pair in London, studied film production for 3 years in Australia and screenwriting for 2 years in Sweden. Then I went backpacking, worked as a Divemaster in Borneo (where I met my British partner), worked in TV operations in London for four years, moved back to Sweden and did some odd jobs here and there, until I finally started my own business as a freelance translator and copywriter (which I’ve been doing for the past 4,5 years now).
Now we live in a lovely little village in the rural countryside, where I work from my home studio and split my days between translation/writing and surface pattern design. It’s always been my dream to work with something creative from home, but I used to be focused on writing. I discovered surface pattern design just over a year ago, when I came across a course by Bonnie Christine on Creative Live. I’ve been obsessed ever since and I’ve taken lots of courses, including Make it in Design module 1-3 and some excellent courses with Design Garden Classes.
For those who don’t know your work, how would you describe your style?
I feel like I’m still working on finding my style, but I would say fun, quirky and whimsical. Sometimes pretty and sometimes edgier, depending on the project, what I feel like doing, and the intended target audience. I’m not sure I will ever be one of those people who have a really distinct style, like Rifle Paper Co. (love Anna Bond’s work though!). I like variation in life and would probably get bored after a while.
Is there some part of the process of creating a pattern that you like more? I really love the beginning, when I start a brief and anything can happen. Researching, moodboarding, pinning on Pinterest, looking in reference books and sketching – I really enjoy that process. I love coming up with the ideas and letting my imagination run free. I’ve become quite addicted to drawing; it’s something I have to do every day now. The most difficult step is finishing the design and getting the colour balance right, but it’s so rewarding when it finally comes together.
How important is it to follow trends in your industry?
In general, I would say it’s very important to be aware of them. I think it depends on your style as well (if you do more traditional work for example, then it might not be as important) and what market you’re in, but I don’t think anyone can be completely immune to them as no one exists in a vacuum. If you want to sell your designs and stand out in this very competitive industry, you need to be able to produce what clients and companies are looking for. However, there are many designers who don’t care about trends at all and do perfectly well, so I don’t think it’s a deal breaker by any means.
Who are your dream customers?
I would absolutely love to design a fabric collection for an organic fabric company, like Cloud9 Fabrics or Birch Fabrics, and I’ve always loved stationary, so seeing my designs on greeting cards, notebooks and gift wrap would be great. And as a Swede, I’m going to have to say IKEA 🙂
Now to the classic question, what’s your biggest inspiration or/and where do you collect inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. Pinterest is a big one, but I feel even more inspired when I flick through visual reference books, like vintage books with illustrated florals or pattern books. I love to look through books, sketch motifs and just let my imagination run free.
Any favourite pattern?
There are so many amazing patterns in the world, but I really like “Lustgården” by Stig Lindberg. I love the whimsy, humour and energy in that pattern! There’s so much to look at and discover, like the hands that are sticking out of the water and holding the yarn – it’s a great example of storytelling in patterns.
How would you describe Swedish pattern design? Something that is significant for Swedish designers?
Hmm, hard to say actually, but maybe contemporary Swedish pattern design tends to be a bit more clean and minimalist in general, with a softer and more limited colour palette compared to other countries. I think there’s a bit of a surface pattern revolution going on right now, with the boom from the US and the UK spreading, so the next few years could be very exciting for the Swedish pattern industry.
If someone is thinking of being a surface designer, what would be your top 3 tips?
-Immerse yourself completely and learn and draw inspiration from as many sources as possible: study art, photography, film, graphic design, illustration, children’s picture books, etc. (no need for university courses, just self-study).
-Find your tribe and a creative support network (there are lots of Facebook groups for this, especially if you take online courses).
-To quote Bonnie Christine: do something every day that helps you move towards your goal, even if it’s just five minutes – it all adds up in the end.
What are your big hopes and dreams for the future?
I would love to be able to draw, design, illustrate and make patterns all day every day. Big pie in the sky long-term goal: to have an international agent. I have no problem at all with the business side of things, but I would definitely prefer it if someone else handled the admin stuff so that I can focus most of my time on creating. That would be fantastic! 🙂
Let’s end with some quick ones,
Stripes or dots? Dots
Colour or black/white? Colour
Flowers or geometrics? Both
Drawing on computer or by hand? By hand
Curious to find out more about Sofia Englund?