Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

This week we have a great interview with Tom Lane, the designer behind Ginger Monkey. I'm a fan of his style and I have even created some pieces inspired by some of Tom's work, the Frilly Bits Tutorial is an example.

At Ginger Monkey I design, illustrate, write, talk, dance, swing and sparkle with passion and intent...

My outlook is colourful, open, thoughtful and honest. It's underpinned by drive and enthusiasm and peppered with an unquenchable thirst for the fruits of life and the challenges it can hold.

1. First of all we would like to thank you for taking the time to provide Abduzeedo with this interview. Please tell us more about your art and design background and what made you become an artist and designer?

No Problem! Well, luckily for me I stumbled upon the subject of Graphic Design, A friend was studying photography at art collage and was experimenting more with layouts and manipulating the photographs than he was taking them. I watched over his shoulder and was intrigued. I quit my uninspiring job to go back into education and become a graphic designer. During that time I just opened up to this new visual world I hadn’t really taken much notice of and it all started to make sense. I felt this consuming excitement for the subject, what circled around it, and learning in general. I was hooked, and have been on a nice little ride for the last few years. After Graduating from my degree I was offered a teaching position for a year and looked to fill in my spare time with some freelance work. By then I was illustrating my ideas as well and I was getting some great feedback from companies and individuals I was contacting for work opportunities. With what felt like a strong portfolio for a graduate and some industry recognition from the ISTD and D&AD and the feedback I was getting, I started to feel that I was able to carve my own little place in the industry. I set up Ginger Monkey a few months after graduating and have been plugging away at it for the last 3 years.

Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

2. Which tools do you usually use? Both "traditional" (pencil, markers...) and digital.

My main tools are my Wacom tablet and my intuition! Without them I'd be a bit stuck. I use watercolours paints for creating depth, texture and colour for certain pieces but I rarely use drawn off the computer elements but I will plan to some degree in my layout pad with fine liners.

3. Do you work in a office? What is your routine like? What are your research resources?

I have a cool little studio to myself smack in the middle of a very busy part of Bristol city centre. It's right next to a gym, supermarket, a few big bookshops and lots of coffee shops! I like to get to work bright and early and get cracking on what ever is cooking in the commission department or to work on the million and two personal projects I seem to have going but haven't completed! Obviously my days and weeks are dictated mostly by deadlines and the task required to meet them but I make time to do my own stuff and update my website etc as I go along. Otherwise, things will definitely get a bit out of control or neglected.

My research resources cover, the internet, mostly flickr and the numerous stock libraries and I'm always browsing the blogs. I get to book shops a lot, scouring the Art & Design section and the magazine racks pretty regularly. I have a good library of my own built with what could only be described as a slight fetish for the smell of print. I do like to get out with my own camera too.

4. Could you describe for us your typical 'start to finish' workflow when working on a design?

I listen, then I listen a bit more and then get everything in writing and read my brief a few times making notes, highlighting sections, pulling out vital info. If there is something I'm not sure off, I'll get in contact and chat through. Clarity is my first step. Time, money and reputation wasted otherwise.

Then i'll look into things I've identified from the brief and get my own research done so I'm starting to get a feel for things. I'll then start to brainstorm the subject matter and make lists broken down into sections such as message, focus, depth, structure, colour etc so I'm weighting up the options.

By now I'm itching to get cracking so take what I think are the best routes and begin making the piece by what ever means necessary. I don't produce roughs though as they never indicate well enough what I'm thinking.

I'll get the piece to a stage that I think conveys strongly where it is going as early as possible so that the client can give me the thumbs up to keep going. This then continues until we're both happy and everything gets signed off and I thank them with a polite invoice!

5. What, for you personally are the pros and cons of being a designer?

The only cons for me come from being a freelance designer. I'm not paid when I'm sick or on holidays & I'm not always paid on time! The pros, however, completely out weight the cons. I feel the benefit of my efforts first hand. I'm heavily in control of what work I get to do. I get to wear a lot of hats, metaphorically speaking of course. I've learnt about so many new things because I needed to in order to survive. I feel there is endless possibilities to what I can achieve and what I want to create. I'm in charge of my time so I can pursue more interests.

Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

6. How does your job as an artist and designer influence your life? Do you feel that you see things around you differently for example?

My work is an absolute passion that has become intrinsically bound to all aspects of my life and it's a very happy one! If I'm not pursing getting better, trying new things and making the most of what I have to offer it effects my general well being. This has meant I'm very aware of what is happening out in the world. I don't necessarily read all the mags and blogs but I do heavily absorb the visual world around me. Doing what I do has given me the confidence to keep pushing and putting my mind to things. I think that really comes with the territory of being a designer, seeing problems or obstacles and over coming them.

7. We like to know what artists do in their spare time to get some fun. What do you do? Sports, television, movies?

Fun comes to me in many different ways and there is definitely no dividing line between my work and personal life, thats what I love about it! However, I listen to Audio Books (currently getting through Stephen Kings back catalogue), I go to my friends club nights to get sweaty to loud music and make a point of getting out and about with my girlfriend seeing and experiencing stuff in our local area. I work out at the gym next to my studio which I strangely find fun and I've a big HD TV with PS3 that calls to me throughout the day. I'm also pretty obsessive about film so the local cinema is a good friend of mine.

8. What are your favorite 5 websites, and why? - Don't why but I compulsively type it into my browser when ever I open it. I love reading about all the transfer deals and rumours in the footy. great website with lots to look at and read - full of amazing inspiration - great for research and inspiration
and last but not least - good all rounder

9. Once again , thank you very much for the interview. As a final word, do you have any tips for upcoming artists and designers?

Be enthusiastic. Don't be obsessed with creating style, just be obsessed with getting better and your voice will come out. Explore, experiment and be open to learn new things.

For more information visit Ginger Monkey's website at

Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

Interview: Tom Lane from Ginger Monkey

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