Robert Samuel Hanson – Interview

I’m pleased to present you the Berlin-based illustrator Robert Samuel Hanson, who accepted to answer our interview. His work shows interests in pictograms and functional design like the work of Lance Wyman and Paul Rand, who had definitely influenced his work. I invite you to read and discover his illustrations…


Tell us more about you. Who are you ?
I am a freelance illustrator. I’m originally from the north of England but now I live in Berlin. I’m 36. What else should I tell you?

What’s your interest about illustration and design? When did you start?
I suppose like so many people doing this for a living it started when I was very young, drawing was always one of my favourite things to do throughout most of my childhood. My schoolbooks were always covered in doodles and drawings. Because of this I always had an interest in art but never really seriously thought it could be a career choice, and it wasn’t until I was a bit older that I started to get really interested in design. At the time I was working as a teacher in Japan and started drawing again to entertain the children in the classroom and that, combined with being exposed to so much amazing design and other inspiration, was really the proper beginning of it as a serious career choice. In addition to that I got to know a few artists and creative people at the time and just thought, I want to be doing what you’re doing. Up to then I’d somehow never considered it a feasible option for me somehow, whereas now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What project has given you the most satisfaction?
I love editorial work. Something about the time pressure and that it will be going out into the world really soon after you send your final file makes it really satisfying for me. Provided you come up with something good.
I’ve also worked with a company called Counter Print for quite a long time now and have done various illustrations, magazine covers and posters. This has been the opposite of normal editorial work though, relatively little time pressure and something that has built up slowly over time. We did a book together last year, which was a really special project for me. The people behind it have become friends as well so it’s probably been one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done.

You have your own style of illustration / design. What inspires and influences you ?
I really like functional design such as road signs, signage, pictograms, etc. I’ve travelled by ferry a few times this summer and absolutely love the life jacket pictogram you see on them. I’ve always had an interest in architecture and I think that definitely creeps into my work. Living in a big city as well means you get so much graphic inspiration. I think I would really struggle without that.

What does your typical day look like ?
I take my daughter to kindergarden in the morning so I’m always up early but don’t make in into the studio until around 9:30 or 10:00am. If I have to come up with ideas or concepts I will quite often stop off in a cafe and work there for an hour or two so I can’t get sucked into looking at something pointless on the internet. Otherwise I will be in the studio until around 6:30pm. I used to work much longer days and more irregular hours but having a child has put a stop to that.

Is there any designer / artist / illustrator /… from the past, you appreciate a lot?
In terms of designers Lance Wyman is a name that immediately springs to mind as someone who has definitely influenced my work. Paul Rand as well. That and lots of illustrators and artists. Saul Steinberg, Ronald Searle, Paul Klee, Magritte, Fischli & Weiss among others.

Some projects to come ?
I’m working on lots of illustrations for a very well known software company, which will hopefully see the light of day soon and the identity for a clothing company that a friend is starting. That one is a bit unusual for me but I’m really enjoying the process of it so far. I also keep promising myself that I am going to make time to do more personal work and go back to working more hands on. I spend far too much time in front of my computer these days.

What advice would you give to the young illustrators and designers?
Well I can only talk from personal experience, which for me was that it took me a long time to get to the stage where I was able to make a living from illustration. Not just in terms of getting established but also my own development and getting to a point where I was producing good, interesting and, importantly, commercially viable work. So my advice would be persevere, you obviously need a bit of talent but hard work is probably more key to being successful at this.

The last word…
Thank you.



/ Interview : Dennis Moya – September 2012  // All the illustrations / designs are © Robert Samuel Hanson.