Illustration of Tilly Cullen

Creative people power

Tilly Cullen is the creative talent behind the Atticus Journal Volume 27 cover design. We talk to her about her work and inspiration

“I really liked the idea of people being the driving force behind creativity, and people solving society's challenges,” says Tilly. “And I was thinking about the diverse range of ideas and processes featured inside Atticus when I was coming up with the cover design.”

She explains how her initial sketches helped her visualise her ideas around diversity. That thinking evolved into this design – called the ‘Exquisite Corpse’. Some of us might also know the ‘Exquisite Corpse’ as the parlour game ‘Consequences’ or ‘Picture Consequences’, whereby each player writes or draws their contribution on a piece of paper which is folded over before being passed to the next player to do the same. We have the surrealists to thank for the ‘Exquisite Corpse’ label.

“I wanted to do something playful that encapsulates child-like spontaneity,” she says. “All the different characters in this design – creative people, but also people working across many other fields, with their different opinions and thoughts – are drawn individually. Then I started switching out the different heads, torsos and legs. I wanted to mix and match different parts of their bodies to see what looked the most interesting and to see how the different parts worked with other parts.”

The design not only works visually; it also works brilliantly digitally. “It shows there is not just one way of doing things. There are all these different ways of understanding and learning, which is what Atticus is all about,” she says.

A question of style

“I was always interested in illustration as a pathway,” says Tilly. “Illustration has always been a part of my practice. But my year studying coding has made me a lot more driven by digital. I also like to focus on ethics and bias in digital spaces – and I like to think about the ways in which we can consider ethics and bias when we are creating.”

She talks about the coming together of digital, not only with illustration, but also with other media – like textiles – where she has been experimenting with the incorporation of electronics into the fabric. “If you touched what I was making, you would get an audio output too,” she explains.

For this task, her style was stretched by the use of so many different illustration styles in one cover. “I was definitely pushed outside my comfort zone,” she says. “My illustrative style has always been quite naive with simple line drawings, so this brief definitely made me think about including other styles, which was definitely a challenge.”

Coming together of ideas

Tilly is not only concerned with creative output put also about helping to bring about change. “I would like to be in a position where I could actually make a change and help people like me who are young and starting out, especially women of colour,” she says. “I would like to help us all be able to see a diverse range of people who are able to use a range of products and remove the bias around what designers are putting out into the world.”

She also talks of universality, globality, and how important it is to think big, across countries, regions and continents – seeing everyone.

Onboarding the graduate

Tilly graduated from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, in graphic communication design with a sandwich-year spent at the Creative Computing Institute, where she studied coding. “It was such an amazing and rewarding experience, and it's great that it has led to the opportunity to design this cover,” she says.

In fact, Tilly has now been offered an apprenticeship with WPP. “But I am so happy to have had this opportunity to design this cover – it is a sort of bridge between university and coming into the industry,” she says.

published on

09 December 2022


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