Creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum – the best designers and artists are constantly in conversation with the work of their peers, drawing inspiration and pushing boundaries. To celebrate the connected nature of creativity and uncover some new talent worth following, we asked seven designers to share the creative minds that have been inspiring their own approach to creativity lately.
The responses were wide-ranging and showcased just how important it is to look outside your own specific discipline for creative inspiration.
From 3D clay models to colourful decorations to funky type forms, the creatives recommended below are making art that pushes boundaries, mixes mediums, and illustrates the power of point of view. Read on to learn more about some inspiring creatives you should follow this year.
Olivia Odiwe's delicate details create a therapeutic experience
"I discovered Olivia Odiwe in 2019 when my twin brother Simon sent me a link to her Instagram," Adam Ryan, head of Pentawards told Creative Boom. "Her work is heavily influenced by modern culture, film and music. I spent hours on her page admiring her innovative portraiture style where she would blend faces of iconic hip-hop or grime stars using bright colours."
Ryan has been particularly struck by Odiwe's clay work: "Around 2020, Olivia started using clay most wonderfully. She recreated iconic album covers in 3D but on a miniature scale. The delicate detail of the small sculptures is placed on the album cover to bring it to life. These would all be filmed, and a time-lapse would be posted. It's so therapeutic to watch: the precision, craft and detail show a serious talent."
Bethan Wood's designs inspire exploration and abundance
Strauss shared just how formative Wood's work has been for her own creative practice recently: "It is very refreshing that Bethan Laura Wood doesn't shy away from embracing decorative elements. In recent years, I tended to reduce my design languages to the absolute essential, finding beauty in radical minimalism and shy tech. Yet lately, I found this approach increasingly boring and therefore more challenging to plant meaning in my designs.
"I started to develop an appetite for more fun, organic, delightful, and narrative expression. Ultimately, her work has motivated me to become more explorative myself again and embrace the concept of abundance – which means much needed to escape the sea of sameness."
Stefan Diez's designs toe the line between refined and experimental
"I've always had a child-like intrigue, and so tend to be drawn to designs and designers that re-interpret functional everyday products in new and playful ways," Greg Furniaux, senior designer at blond, told Creative Boom.
Furniaux shared that one artist who often inspires him is the German industrial designer Stefan Diez. "Diez's work often inspires me, as he combines refinement, innovation and simplicity without losing any of the experimental, fun character," adds Furniaux.
Recently Furniaux has been particularly inspired by Diez's conceptual BOA table for HAY, a development of the Soba collection for Japan Creative (2015). "I loved the interactivity of the hidden twisted rope fastening - it has now been reimagined in aluminium tubes. Instead of rope, the pieces now come together with a satisfying engineered click. It's a masterful balance of playfulness and precision; the exaggerated chunky drain pipe forms and tool-free construction makes it feel like a giant version of building toys like Lego Technic or K'Nex, which the big kid in me loves."
Joseph Töreki's digital chemistry is at the forefront of mixed-media design
"The act of translating materials from one reality to another has become a new form of craft," says Lars Dittrich, a designer CMF strategist at Seymourpowell. One designer Dittrich admires in this space is the multidisciplinary artist, Joseph Töreki.
According to Dittrich, Töreki's work "beautifully captures this fine line between the virtual and the physical, exploring a traditional craft (ceramics) and his fascination with digital art, to make both practices inseparable and imperishable."
Dittrich shared that he particularly loves "the experimental process which goes into creating [Töreki's] digital glaze collection. After firing unglazed, hand-thrown clay vases, Töreki photo-scans the objects before applying a digital glaze. Building on a deep understanding of heirloom glaze recopies, techniques and materials, Töreki, acting as a digital chemist, gives integrity to his digital ceramics."
Renee Melia's striking colours and patterns balance light and dark
"Renee Melia, an incredible Australian illustrator, was one of my biggest sources of inspiration for 2022," Charlie Tallis, a designer at Taxi Studio, told Creative Boom. Tallis shared that she came across Melia's work on Instagram and immediately fell in love with her striking colour palettes, use of patterns, and the way she uses dark tones and bright pops.
"Renee uses colour in a way I would not naturally think to," she continues. "The way she takes a simple subject matter, yet manages to create a distinctive and unique piece each time, is truly inspiring. It reminds me that there are always new and exciting solutions to every brief."
Daniel Irizarry follows through, from a strong point of view to a flawless execution
Ben McNutt, the chief creative officer at Butchershop, is a big fan of designs by Daniel Irizarry, creative director at Athletics."Design without an idea is just style. And yet an idea is only as good as its execution. There are those in our industry who are great at the concept or the execution. It's the rare designer who can see the throughline from one to the other. Daniel can."
McNutt praised Irizarry's range, reflected through his brand work and personal designs - but the through line is always a strong point of view, an ability to fully engage with his subjects without including anything extraneous.
"In sketch or improv comedy, they talk about 'committing to the bit'. You might be able to throw in all kinds of things that, on their own, could be funny but would ultimately detract from the joke or take it off course. So, it's best to commit to the bit. Daniel's a designer who commits to the concept. He only lets in what's essential to its strongest execution and guts the rest. That's how you get brands with a clear, distinct POV view. Brands that actually say something. Clarity is everything. There's a lot of noise in these wild (albeit fun) digital times. Daniel's work avoids it while still pumping out some ill, fresh stuff."
Anna Mills' hand-drawn designs overflow with personality
Mollie Kendell, a designer at Lantern, has been following Bristol-based graphic designer Anna Mills since her university days.
Kendall told Creative Boom that she "always loved [Mills'] manual approach to design with her hand-drawn illustrations and embroidered letterforms. Her style has a human, hand-drawn quality where each character feels like they have their own personality. Dancing on the line between analogue and digital processes, each piece feels like it hops and dances into place across the screen. She creates fluid letterforms and illustrations, bringing them to life by manually drawing frame by frame to create wiggly, twitchy animations."
Kendell shared how Mills' work has a direct impact on her own, saying Mills inspires her "work more manually, escape the screen and rethink how typography can be imagined to have its own personality and movement."
Recently, Kendall particularly loved Mills' 36 Days of Type designs. "The animation consists of hand-drawn frames brought together to show each letterform morphing and taking a new shape, with a changing personality of each character. Her style is inspired by printed ephemera and letterforms; she takes this photo-copy style into her work. This is brought into the small details of her work with changing dials as the characters move into place."