How long did it take to teach yourself how to use graphic design software?
I'm still learning. I had a couple of days training many years ago but I just picked up the basics of creating icons using the Pen Tool. I pretty much rely on this one simple tool to create all my designs which is mad really. Real designers use Illustrator and other cool software and I've managed to build a business using InDesign's Pen Tool. I find it quite funny really because I'm by no means a graphic design pro and don't ever think of myself as a Graphic Designer - yet My Icon Story is built around my ability to design icons and minimalist art designs. If the shoe fits right?
How would you define an ‘artist’ in the digital age?
Wow a tough but easy question to answer all at the same time. I don't think you can define an artist in the digital age because anyone who creates anything online or on their phone to be viewed digitally is an artist - from an Instagram photographer to a Tik Tok content creator, motion graphics designer to Augmented Reality and using softwares like Leap Motion. Technology has made art accessible for everyone and I'm constantly inspired by the creations of others.
Do you think art is more accessible to both creators and consumers these days?
Absolutely. There are so many free tools for people to create their own art and content, and self-teaching is so common especially in the world of online tutorials! Whenever I'm not sure how to do something when designing I just YouTube it. Art for consumers is definitely more accessible. Online market places like Not on the Highstreet and Etsy make buying personalised art easy and affordable, whilst specific online art curators like Art Finder and Fy have thousands of art prints from tof artists and designers from around the world.
What are the challenges of being an artist as well as a businesswoman?
Unlike a lot of artists I really do love the business and commercial side of things, and I've always wanted to have my own business. It just so happened that my businesses ended up being art.
The challenge however is that I could spend all day focussing on the creative side of the business like designing new icons or creating content for social media. Don't get me wrong, I do love an excel sheet and the satisfaction of seeing all the numbers come together - but I definitely prioritise the creative and design side of the business.
One of My Icon Story's USPs is that we offer a free icon request service - so if a customer wants a specific icon, I'll design and add it for free. There have been a number of times where customers have requested three, four, five and even six icons at a time and I've not charged any extra because I want my customers to have the best possible print and experience. The businesswoman in me would charge for the extra design time but I am getting much better at thinking with my business head over my heart.
What kind of art fills your home?
I live with my husband in a one-bed flat and we have very different ideas when it comes to art. I like a mix of styles and often pick up prints from exhibitions or places I've visited. I have Matisse prints, black and white photo prints of New York, a huge Wildlife Photographer of the Year print, the exhibition poster of Camp: Notes on Fashion from the Met in New York and of course a selection of my own My Icon Story prints.
I created a My Icon Story for my husband and I which represents key moments in our relationship. But the one piece (which I don't even know if I can call art) is a huge framed Dennis Bergkamp signed Arsenal shirt. NOT something I would ever choose to have on the wall but something my husband decided to put up whilst I was away on a girls' holiday! It will be relegated to a spare room when we can eventually afford to move out.
Bespoke wall art is so popular right now – how do you stay ahead of the curve?
As a standalone product, My Icon Story is a personalised print, but the foundation of the business is visual storytelling. Our point of difference is the marrying of our icons and design-your-own service.
I'm really proud of the interactive design platform I've built for My Icon Story and our customers love the creation process. The greatest consideration when I came up with the idea for My Icon Story was to make the creation of a personalised print as rewarding as gifting or receiving one.
There is a lot of talk that retailers need to create engaging experiences for shoppers in-store - but creating a unique and fun experience online is even more important, especially with the volume of choice customers now have. I built My Icon Story's design-your-own service with a digital and experience-first approach. Simply put, we're not just another personalised gift you order online - we can take our design-your-own functionality to an in-store or pop-up environment and create a unique and engaging experience using iPads or touchscreen technology.
Why are personalised gifts in such high demand?
Shops, retailers and brands have sales year-round which means that we don't need to wait for birthdays or Christmas to buy the things we want. Even booking a Michelin star restaurant is within affordable reach through the likes of Bookatable or Groupon. The conundrum of what to buy the person who has everything is so common now, making personalised products the perfect gifting solution. Something that is personalised holds more value and meaning because of the thought that has gone into choosing and personalising it. It is also far less likely to be thrown away - something that is a growing consideration in the rise of sustainability.
My Icon Story is completely self-funded – what’s the key to successfully self-funding a homegrown business?
In all honesty it has been a real struggle to keep business going without the support of additional financial help. Before I left my full-time job I saved up the money I needed to build the website and get things off the ground but I hadn't done enough research to cover all the additional running costs let alone enough money to support it with a big marketing launch.
After a year out of work I had to find freelance roles to support myself and the business and I've been doing that for a year and a half. I've now got to the stage where I can't grow the business any further without investment or a cash injection but I'm unbelievably proud about how much I have achieved on my own.
Which of your icons describe your life at the moment?
Oh wow! That is such a hard question to answer as I could choose at least 10 different icons based on everything that's going on right now. Outside of business (and husband) the gym is my other great love. I recently competed in the Turf Games and have just signed up for the summer edition so my training is about to go up a notch. With Turf Games in mind, I feel that this icon is appropriate.
Visit My Icon Story's website here.