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 our weekly dose of creativity, we were able to pick Sophie Melligan's brain and learn all about her art journey. Between her full-time job, podcast, website, blog, and online shop, it's a wonder she was able to fit us into her packed schedule! That being said, we are very grateful she did, for we got to know yet another exceptional Design Cutter.

Q: Hi Sophie, would you like to introduce yourself to our community?

Hey Design Cutters! I’m Sophie, also known as Sofillyletters. I’m originally from England but I now live in Wellington, New Zealand. Four years ago I finished my degree in visual communication design and have been working as an in-house graphic designer ever since. I’ve always been creative and as a child, I much preferred sitting inside with my crafting box creating away instead of playing outside. 

That preference has very much followed me into adulthood where I love to be snuggled up inside with a good book or creating some fun new artwork! I love to design pieces around books, animals, and food although I’m currently in a big mood for drawing moths.

Sofillyletters is my wee business where I aim to be your friendly honest designer bringing you fun, relatable and helpful art and articles. As a designer and illustrator, not only do I do client work and commissions but I also have a shop full of prints and stickers.

Q: How long have you know about Design Cuts?

I found out about Design Cuts from listening to the Honest Designers podcast. I’d used similar websites in the past but had never come across Design Cuts until I heard Tom talking about it on the podcast. I actually ended up joining the Design Cuts Ambassador program back in 2019 where I picked up my first set of products and now it’s my go-to place for any new Procreate brushes or mock-ups.

Q: What was your graphic design journey?

I wouldn’t say I’ve reached the point where I have a signature style per se but I bloody love drawing letterforms. I’ve always loved books and it’s my ultimate goal to design a book cover for a young adult novel.

Throughout high school and university, I always loved the idea of graphic design and typography. A big part of my day job is still a lot of print magazine design although that’s slowly decreasing. I started dabbling with brush lettering around 2016 and loved the style of writing letters and words in ink with a paintbrush. It really sparked my love for unique and custom type that wasn't just a standard font. Soon after that, I discovered hand lettering and the rest is history! 

During the NZ lockdown in April last year I picked my watercolours back up and began practising illustration more. Now I’m in a fun phase of watercolour, letters, and illustration, and I’m really enjoying it!

Q: What does your design process look like?

Usually, I start with research, whether that’s further research into the project or just looking for inspiration to spark the conceptual stage. Then it’s onto conceptualising, sketching out a range of ideas to run through with the client. If it’s a personal project, I skip this stage mainly as I usually have a decent idea of the piece I want to make. Next is developing the favoured concept, or concepts, and making the final draft ready for the magic to happen! Once everyone who needs to be is on board with the final draft I start making the final piece. My favourite program for lettering and illustration is Procreate.

Q: Where do you find inspiration for your work?

All over the place. Books, magazines, movies, many a corner of the internet. But also life; a few of my stickers are based on family pets including my own cat Ollie.

Q: What project are you most proud of?

It changes a lot of the time. Usually one of my most recent pieces is my favourite. Some of my favourite pieces have to be my watercolour drop cap series, I hand watercolour painted and then illustrated on top of all 26 letters of the alphabet in a wee galactic-themed series. It was a lot of work but I really love how they turned out!

Q: Where do you hope to be in 5 years' time?

I’d love for my small side business to be my main business. My ultimate goal is to quit my full-time job and make a living through my own designs while raising a family. As mentioned above, I’d love to design a book cover, maybe even a few in five years' time. I’d love to have a whole range of products, larger than my current range, that I can have featured in gift shops nationwide, or even internationally. 

Q: Which graphic designers do you look up to?

Ever since discovering Jessica Hische as a late teen, I’ve been an utter fangirl. She sparked my love for hand lettering when previously I’d never even considered hand lettering to be a thing.

Often being in NZ you get a little jealous of those in America and Europe because of how easy it seems to make products and get a hold of crafty things, so I’ve always tried to keep some kiwi artists in my sights to keep my head on track. Pepper Raccoon is the perfect example of this. She’s a fellow Wellingtonian and is killing it with her art! 

I’m also a big fan of Lauren Hom, Stefan Kunz, Tiffany Tan, Sibylline Meynet, Ian Barnard, Martina Flor, Rachel Smythe, Annie Dornan Smith, Nikki McWilliams, Risa Rodil, and Noelle Stevenson.

Q: What's your top tip for other designers?

Keep going. Most of the time you won’t like what you make. You’ll look to your idols and wish to make the things they make but just keep making what you’re making. Try other media, explore other styles and image treatments, find what works for you. Trust me, I’m still on the journey, still struggling to follow my own advice. And if trying all those things doesn’t work; take a break, have a walk, read a book, then come back to it.

Q: What are your favorite DC products to use?

One of my top three Procreate brushes is the Gel Pen from Quiver Supply Co’s Procreate Lettering Toolkit. I use this all the time when I want just a little bit more texture. The other brushes in the pack are great but I cannot recommend the Gel Pen enough! Then I can’t not recommend both the Letter Builder and Grid Builder sets by Stefan Kunz and Ian Barnard. They revolutionised lettering. The Letter Builder helps to improve consistency and the Grid Builder is all about improving your composition.

Thank you, Sophie, for letting our community get to know you. If you would like to explore more of her illustrations/lettering or show her some love, you can head to her Instagram!

If you're interested in reading some of our other community spotlights, you might like: