Handmade Design in a Digital World

In an age of mass-produced design, these artists add a human touch.

Abstract handmade design by Julia Dreams.

Image source: Julia Dreams / Adobe Stock.

by Malcolm Thorndike Nicholson

posted on 02-26-2020

It might seem like decades ago, but it was only around 2014 that Normcore was the design trend on everyone’s mind. Fashion designers like Marc Jacobs were throwing Patagonia fleeces on runway models and Jerry Seinfeld became a fashion icon. Stonyfield yogurt and SodaStream were celebrated for their dull, mass-produced design, and Times New Roman was an acceptable font. There seemed to be a consensus against hipster preciousness and the relentless drive to stand out as unique.

If half a decade feels like eons ago, it’s because we’ve entered homier times. Now people seem to be craving something approachable, artisanal, and even a little imperfect. It feels like everyone is picking up a craft like knitting, pottery, and watercolors. And it’s not just millennials sick of tech — Gen Z is embracing the sensual delights of handmade crafts on TikTok: papa pots, an account almost exclusively of pottery making, has 1.4 million followers.

The world of vectors and graphic design has eagerly followed suit. Adobe’s first design trend of the year, Handmade Humanism, captures our retreat to a cozy, colorful world of brushstrokes, soft lines, and matte finishes — designs which, even if they never leave the virtual world, follow this urge to get away from polished mass-produced visuals toward something that feels touched by the human hand. Our collection is full of down-to-earth illustrations of food, lips, faces, and women sunbathing or doing yoga.

Image source: Ollysweatshirt / Adobe Stock.

Artist Olga Davydova creates work that combines whimsy and fantasy with a notable fondness for the everyday, from flowers and moths to the various holidays. Her work falls on the slightly more polished side (a perfectionism she attributes to being in art school since she was six) but remains rooted in a love for the craft.

“I usually sketch my ideas out before starting to work on them digitally,” Olga told Adobe recently. “When working from hand, there is nothing better for me than a black pencil, soft eraser, and good matte acrylic paint with 3-4 favorite brushes.”

Once she settles on a few designs, Olga gets to work digitizing, “Right now I use Adobe Illustrator almost every day,” she says, “I’m crazy about this awesome program. I even wrote five tutorials about working in Adobe Illustrator.”

Image source: Ollysweatshirt / Adobe Stock.

Julia Dreams, another artist from our Handmade Humanism gallery, is also a proponent of starting from hand.

“I always create a sketch before starting to work,” she told Adobe, “usually with watercolors. This helps to be accurate when drawing an element and to have an idea about the composition.”

Julia owns a graphic design studio, and her embrace of tactile crafts like illustration and watercolor are clearly apparent in her designs. Her digital paper backgrounds have a playful handmade quality that you can almost reach out and touch.

Julia loves technologies and software that allow her to work anywhere that inspiration finds her. “I really love the combination of working with an iPad Pro and the Adobe Draw program,” she says. “They allow me to continue my work anywhere and in any environment.”

Image source: Julia Dreams / Adobe Stock.

For both artists, technology is a liberating rather than limiting force. Far from keeping them from getting their hands dirty with ink and pigments, it allows them to bring their work to a much wider audience and environment. “I’m very glad that my illustrations are being created at this time,” Julia says. “Today, artists have a great opportunity to sell and share their illustrations from all over the world.”

For Olga, technology is even a source of inspiration. “My style is closely linked with technologies,” she says. “I try to add an authentic feel to my works, and over time I feel this need more and more. Perhaps the high presence of digital technologies in our lives is the reason.”

The work of Olga Davydova, Julia Dreams, and the rest of the Handmade Humanism collection flourishes in the fertile juncture between handmade art and technology. Their work gives us a sense that technologies and software, while potentially distracting and alienating, have to potential to reconnect us with the world. They can let you bring your doodles and sketches and favorite pigments anywhere a tablet or laptop can go. And given the popularity of these designs, it’s clear there’s an audience for their warm, personal style.

Image source: Julia Dreams / Adobe Stock.

Handmade Humanism often thrives on a DIY, outsider-artist, quirky sensibility. You don’t have to be an art school graduate or a professional designer to contribute. With hundreds of designs and vectors available to license, just about anyone can use them to adorn their own patterns, fabrics, invitations, or even ceramics.

To encourage the spirit of Handmade Humanism, Adobe has even released two vector collections for free to help you get started: a painted floral poster set and a collage and cutout kit, both by Adobe Stock artist Lera Efremova. With so many resources available, why not try your hand at printmaking or creating customized stationery? It’s never been easier to bring a personal touch to the digital world we all live in.

Image source: Lera / Adobe Stock.

Olga Davydova

Olga (aka Ollysweatshirt) is a multidisciplinary artist, member of the Artists Trade Union of Russia since 2018. She loves to discover the opportunities for bold color combinations and strong geometry. Her favorite themes are people, nature, science, and the future.

Julia Dreams

Julia is a designer, illustrator, and watercolorist. She also owns a graphic design studio and resource shop.

Lera Efremova

Lera is a designer and illustrator. Her work combines painterly hand-drawn and digital elements and collage.

Topics: Creativity

Products: Stock, Illustrator, Creative Cloud