Through this series, Community Spotlight, we are highlighting a range of designers who inspire us with their boundless imagination and resilient spirit. We hope that in doing so, they too will bring inspiration to your doorstep.
For this Spotlight, we got to know the immensely talented Diane Rooney, a freelance surface pattern designer and illustrator with a passion to help and inspire others in their own creative pursuits. She designs textures for 3D models alongside her husband and simultaneously runs her own design brand within their business, making her a truly versatile and remarkable design entrepreneur. For those of you looking to start your own design business, we recommend you keep reading!
Q: Hi Diane, would you mind introducing yourself to our community?
Hi lovely people. First of all, thank you to Design Cuts for inviting me to feature here.
My name is Diane and I live in Cornwall, UK but was born in London and have lived in many places including the USA ad Norway. I’m mum to four, including twins, and grandmother to seven! Alongside my husband, I run a small creative business specialising in creating 3D digital content. We’ve been working together for over 15 years, and as a business for 11 years. We met online creating content for the same 3D online store and got to know each other through collaborating on products. My husband is an accomplished 3D digital model designer and I design and create textures for the models. More recently though, I’ve decided to create my own design brand, Diane Rooney, within our business. When I’m not designing or working on admin for our business, I love going on walks, spending time with my family when I can, especially with the grandchildren, and working on various creative hobbies including quilting, embroidery and crochet. I love a good book, usually on Audible, listening to podcasts and watching a good thriller film. Oh and don’t tell anyone but I love Disney and Pixar films too. It’s great having grandchildren who happily sit and watch them with me ;)
Q: How long have you been with us at Design Cuts?
I think I bought my first product back in 2015 but it wasn’t until 2019 or so that I really got hooked on the products, team and community. I rediscovered DC after listening to The Honest Designers Show and then following Tom on social media.
Q: How did you get into design, and more specifically, surface pattern design?
Well, that’s actually an interesting story. First of all, it’s a bit of a cliche, but I’ve always loved art and being creative since childhood. I grew up in a home with really creative parents and my grandmother was an accomplished seamstress. However, I was first introduced to design, specifically desktop publishing and web graphics, back in the mid-1990s. My father, and his then business partner, set up the UK’s first cybercafe, Cyberia in Whitfield Street, London. At the time, I had four small children and was a stay-at-home mum. My dad set me up with a new (then) PC and asked if I would design some web graphics for him and explore the “World Wide Web”. It was very different back then. Boring grey backgrounds, rainbow buttons, and bars. I had a very early version of Photoshop plus a website design program that was very primitive. And that began my journey into digital art and design. Along that journey, I discovered some software called Poser and 3Ds Max via Computer Arts magazine which is how I began designing textures for 3D models.
I loved designing patterns, especially for clothes and interiors for 3D models. Designing the actual models wasn’t my thing so I stuck with the patterns. And my design journey evolved from there to designing for the paper crafting industry and more recently fabric. It’s actually a smart way to design - one design can be used across a number of industries. I taught myself initially, using both Photoshop and Illustrator. I particularly love Illustrator for designing more complex patterns. I have since joined a couple of online surface pattern memberships so I can keep my skills up to date.
It hasn’t been a straightforward journey from then to now. It’s been peppered with a lot of heartache, life-changing events, life-limiting illness, divorce, and loss as well as lots of joy including moving back to my childhood home of Cornwall, finding love again, and of course, grandchildren. Once my children were older and left home, I felt able to really start my career in design. Definitely a late bloomer.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I think the easier question would be, where don’t I find inspiration?! I’m so fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful counties in the UK, Cornwall. We are surrounded by picturesque coves, beautiful rolling countryside and stunning beaches with Caribbean blue coloured sea. Cornish wildflowers, quaint cottages and tin mine engine houses are peppered far and wide across the county. There’s no question that the natural world around me is a huge inspiration for my work. And then, it’s my family and the joy of living a simple life. My children when they were little, and now my grandchildren inspire me. My first fabric collection was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, a story my daughter loved as a child. And obviously the Disney film of the same name. One of my favourite books about inspiration is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. I highly recommend reading it.
Q: What do you love most about design?
For me, it’s the juxtaposition of structure and creative freedom. I love that there are graphic design rules. And then figuring out how to interpret and apply those rules within your own unique voice. Oh and how to successfully break the rules completely. Something I’ve yet to figure out. Still so much to learn.
Q: What future aspirations do you have as an artist and creative entrepreneur?
To have a successful and sustainable design brand primarily focused on designing and creating digital content. Mainly patterns and illustrations. I love to create products that inspire others in their own creativity, to bring a little bit of joy too. Once that’s established, I’d love to teach others to do the same. I already have a wealth of knowledge and experience and I want to pass it on. I’d love to create my own online community within my brand.
Q: What are your top tips for designers looking to start their own business?
First and foremost, be yourself and believe in yourself. Often easier said than done and it’s not always been easy for me to do that. I’ve struggled a lot with “imposter syndrome” and that can hold you back. Don’t get caught up with people talking about an over-saturated market. Or that feeling like you’ve missed your time or moment. I believe in true authenticity. You have to tell your own story. Be your true self. No one can create how you create. Keep focused on your own work. There’s nothing new under the sun, as they say, so it’s about doing it your own way. Creating your own spin on it. Keep learning. I can’t say that enough. Whether you read books, watch YouTube, sign up for classes, it’s important to keep learning. One of the things I love most about Design Cuts is the learning hub and the live lessons/tutorials. And practice everyday, even if it’s just for 10 mins. Whatever it is you want to learn, you need to do it consistently. It’s the fastest way. Be patient, nothing happens overnight. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be kind, be courteous and patient. But do ask those who are doing what you want to do or have a skill you’d like to learn. Not everyone will answer your email/DM and that’s ok. Move on and find someone else to ask. Everyone had to start somewhere.
Q: How did you first start getting clients?
In my very early days, clients found me online. One of my first design jobs was design and creating graphics for a baby photo book for Jessops. The creative director was looking for a specific scrapbook style look and a UK designer. At the time, I was creating scrapbook kits and I’ve always mentioned that I’m a UK-based designer and so that meant my website was one of the first she came across.
I rarely have clients now. I prefer the creative freedom of doing what I want! However, I got both my fabric deals by doing a face-to-face pitch (before Covid!). My first fabric deal was with Makower UK and I pitched to them at the Craft and Hobby trade show here in the UK. I usually go every year to keep up with the trends in the craft and hobby industry and to meet up with other creatives. I’ve always loved Makower’s fabric collections and felt that my style was a good fit. I created a digital portfolio that I had on my iPad and asked for an appointment with them. Trade shows are very busy so it’s not always the best time to approach a company but having been for a few years I knew that the last day is usually quiet so that’s when I asked them. It wasn’t an immediate yes, but they liked me and said my work had potential so we met up again at their premises. Within a year I was designing my mermaid collection for them.
I definitely recommend researching companies you want to work with and find the right people to send your portfolio to. And know that rejection is ok. Every rejection I get makes me even more determined to improve and reach my goal.
Q: What are your favorite DC products to use?
While strictly not a product, I absolutely love the Product Academy. I’m determined to create great products for my shop at Design Cuts and love what Matt has done to help people achieve that. I refer back to it often, especially when creating my previews which often takes as much work as the actual product. I’m grateful to Matt and his team at Design Cuts for their continued support. The Product Academy really does work.
I absolutely love the fonts at Design Cuts, especially the duo ones as they’re a huge help when I’m designing my previews. My favourites are: Brilliantly – A Stylish Serif, Greatly Font Duo & Logo Templates, Beautiful Minds – A Versatile Font Family, and Bosca.
Other products I love are the Procreate brushes. Although I primarily work in Photoshop and Illustrator, I do love drawing in Procreate, often just for fun. And I now start all my ideas by sketching in Procreate. I have all of Lisa Glanz’s brushes and find I use them the most.
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