Freelance Illustrator


RyanPutnam (Freelance Illustrator)

Ryan Putnam is an illustration designer and potter. His goal is to combine craft functionality with fine art integrity and the exacting principles of design.

San Francisco, USA • July 30, 2017

What led you into design?

I’ve been drawing and making things most of my life. In high-school I was making more fine art but when I went to college I thought I could make a better living as a graphic designer. Nothing too romantic, more pragmatic, but I ended up loving design.

What does a typical day look like?

I wake up and get my son going for the day. 3-4 days out of the week I will go on a run. Then I commute to my shared studio space. Write a bunch of emails and then start working on client work. That’s a pretty typical day but I try to add time in the day at least once a week for personal work. I’ll also go throw pottery 1 or 2 nights a week.

What’s your setup?

I have Macbook Pro and 27in Cintiq as my main setup. I use my iPhone 7 a lot to take reference photos too.


Where do you go to get inspired?

Usually, I find the best inspiration in nature. Going on a hike or hanging out at the beach is when my best ideas usually happen. Lately, I’ve been seeing some musicals, going to museums, chatting with other creatives outside the design field and that has been super inspirational too. It’s interesting to see how other creatives solve problems.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

This might not be the answer you are looking for but it’s top of mind for me. The other week I saw Hamilton and it was mind blowing. I know this is not a digital product, but it still has many similar goals, constraints, and challenges as building a product. To me, Lin-Manuel Miranda is a master designer with the theatre as his palette. He seamlessly weaves disparate themes, cultures, and genres to create a product that is hailed as a masterpiece and loved by an audience with diverse backgrounds.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

This changes almost every month, lol! The latest stuff I have been most proud of is a little shop I put together called Do Better. I sell some prints and donate all proceeds to organizations combating hate.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

I have my own company so most of my challenges feel self-imposed, ha! The biggest challenge is to juggle all the different hats I have to wear. I not only a design and illustrator but I am a manager, producer, bookkeeper, client specialist, and on and on. As my business grows I am starting to delegate these task more but it’s still a lot.

What music do you listen to while designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Don’t stop practising and don’t be an asshole. Our industry is always changing so you have to be constantly pushing yourself to learn more and be better. This goes for attributes outside of technical design skills. You have to always be trying to make yourself a better human.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

You can buy some prints at Do Better and all proceeds going to groups that are trying to make the world a better place. I also have some ceramics and prints for sale here.