Artist Spotlight: Tina Touli

by Dinah Hillsdon

posted on 10-23-2017

We first met Tina Touli at OFFF 2017, and since then have become increasingly fascinated with her unique form of visual crafting and digital story-telling, in which she uses a blend of physical and digital objects to create mesmerising work. We spoke to her to find out more.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative background?

I am Tina Touli, a London-based multidisciplinary graphic communication designer, art director, maker, speaker and educator. I enjoy to build solid concepts and to constantly blend things from the physical and the digital world, working across different platforms and mediums.

I always loved communicating through any form of art. Since I was little I was keen on dancing, drawing, playing music, and others. I attended a music school, which kept me involved with all disciplines of art from architectural drawing to acting. Only few months before graduating I realized what I wanted to do in my life. When a friend told me about design, a field that would allow me to combine everything that I was passionate about, audio, motion, visuals, etc. I knew exactly where I belonged.

I studied MA Communication Design at Central Saint Martins and BA in Graphic Arts and Design at Technological Educational Institute of Athens. I worked on various studios such as Pearlfisher and Blast Design, while currently I work at Tina Touli Design, my private London based multidisciplinary studio and I teach the “Digital Illustration” short course at Central Saint Martins.

I have been invited to present my work in different events, for instance, the Adobe Live Stream at OFFF Festival in Barcelona and the Adobe Creative Meet Up in London. My designs have been repeatedly awarded by associations like L’Oréal Professional Paris, Hewlett Packard, Adobe, Transform Awards, European Packaging Design Association, etc. In addition, my artwork has been published in various publications, such as the “Creative Packaging Structures” and the “Playful Graphics”.

What defines me the most is persistency. I enjoy to continuously challenge myself, by experimenting and setting up new goals, never giving up on them. What motivates me and keeps me going is the excitement of something new. Learning and creating something different from what you did last time, something that you did not expect, is what excites me the most.

How would you describe your style?

Multidisciplinary. I like the potential of design. I am open minded about mediums, materials, textures, processes, interactions and techniques. I usually start my projects by building a simple concept and creating strong designs by interacting with the “objects” from the physical and the digital world. Most of the times, I combine various approaches and work across different platforms and mediums trying to I find for each project the most appropriate technique, being always open to any design solution.

I enjoy working on different projects which require diverse skills and techniques. What motivates and excites me the most is the challenge of working on a variety of projects with different needs, which require different mediums and skills.

Where do you look for when needing a shot of inspiration?

Anything around me can be inspirational and an “object” for investigation. A hole on a t-shirt, a wrong print, the foil paper that we wrap our food, even the sketchbook as an object itself. When I am struggling to find inspiration from my immediate surroundings, I am looking at the work of other professionals from totally different fields. I will avoid seeking inspiration to other designer’s art, who are working in the same field as I. The more unexpected the recourse of inspiration is going to be, the more likely it is to create original work. It is also really helpful to create an archive with your images of inspiration and to always keep notes of your ideas, so you can refer back to them.

What’s been your biggest challenge to overcome in the design industry?

What defines me is persistency. I like to continuously challenge myself, by setting new goals and never give up on them. This can be really challenging since it can easily lead me to a non stop working pace. I sometimes find it hard to convince myself stop working, even for a few hours, which is important for a designer to do in order to regain his/her energy and keep being creative. What helps me to overcome this challenge is keeping daily schedule filled with various activities and tasks as for example, going to the gym.

(Behind the scenes shot of Tina’s artwork created exclusively for Adobe Stock and Create Magazine )

What are your perceptions of stock images, and do you think the perception is changing?

It goes without saying that stock images can be a great help for designers for various reasons. For example, they can reduce the project’s costs, since there is no need to hire a photographer, etc., and they can enhance your creative process, by allowing you to easily and quickly visualize your ideas. Stock images aren’t what there used to be. For example, Adobe Stock does not only offer a huge number of images, it is actually moving away from ordinary stock photos and offers a great variety of high quality images contributed by talented photographers and other designers.

What artists and designers should we be following?

There are so many great designers out there that is worth following! One of them that comes to my mind is Rik Oostenbroek, a really talented illustrator and art director. He is working on various fields of design and he’s known best for his dynamic forms and unique abstract shapes. Cyril Vouilloz, known for his unique playful approach in typography, is another great designer who has been a huge inspiration to me. Last but not least, Javier Jaén, a graphic designer, known for his symbolic, playful language, who is another inspiring visual artist worth following.

What features did you most like the most about using Adobe Stock?

It is great how you can quickly and easily search, download and license your images right inside your Adobe Creative Cloud apps! Everything is so much efficient when you don’t have to search the number of the image and go back to the website to license it. Another feature that I like a lot, is that Adobe Stock allows you to drag and drop an image on the search area which will produce a list of options of similar images. There is no need to try to find the key words which describe what you are looking for, as long as you have a reference image.

What’s been your favorite project to work on to date?

One of my favorite projects that I worked on lately was the poster for the 30 years of Adobe Illustrator, created during the Adobe Graphic Design Live Stream. It was not only because of the outcome, but because of the challenging process and the exciting experience. Inspired by the way in which we flip the pages of our notebooks, representing the past, the present and the future, I created a three dimensional paper sculpture and used it as a guide for the design. It depicts the number “30”, a horizontally symmetrical number, standing for the 30 years of Adobe Illustrator. It was so exciting to work on this poster with the support of Michael Chaize and all the amazing people watching the live stream, and share the way in which I am working and challenge myself to design a poster for this special anniversary, live over just three days, two hours every day! It is important to enjoy, appreciate and receive satisfaction from every little thing that you do, without worrying about the outcome. The best work comes when you have fun making it!

What music do you currently listen to whilst working (if any!)?

It is really interesting how music, something not visual, can have a great impact to what I am working on. For me, when I design there has to always be some sort of sound/music playing. It helps me ignore everything around me and concentrate on my work. When I start a new project, at the stage of brainstorming, I don’t really have any preference on the type of music, since most likely I will be concentrated to build a concept without actually listening to the music. But still, there has to be some kind music turned on. When I am designing, it depends on my mood, I usually prefer to listen to rock music. Finally, when I am doing more technical muscle-memorized work, I prefer to listen to speeches or even “watch” a movie on the second screen, so everything becomes more interesting and enjoyable.

While scrolling down on your social media pages you should have undoubtedly noticed that most of the images are nowadays motional images, such as videos, gifs, boomerangs and cinema graphs, not just static images as it used to be before. I find myself thinking of motion on my early stages of design, even while brainstorming, something that I did not used to do before. It goes without saying, that moving image, an existing tool which became a trend, now is playing a really important role in the design processes and outcomes. We live in a technological era and we will definitely see a great development at the digital techniques and outcomes, such as moving image.

I am not sure which exactly are going to be the new trends, and personally I am always trying to avoid them as much as I can. Trends are changing day after day, but a good design is something that you will remember the next month, the next year, and over the passage of time. It is important to always follow the evolution of the trends and to keep challenging yourself and experiment with the new mediums and techniques, concentrating on those that you enjoy the most. Evidently, motivation is what keeps humans up to their toes.

To see more of Tina’s work, check out her website, Instagram and Behance portfolio.

Topics: Creative Inspiration & Trends

Products: Stock, Illustrator, Creative Cloud