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Case Study

Kathryn Robertson

Sunderland, UK

BA (Hons) Graphic Design

Kathryn Robertson graduated from BA (Hons) Graphic Design in 2019 and is now working as a full-time freelance illustrator and muralist at The Picture House Studios in Sunderland, launching her own business there. She has worked with Sunderland Council and the University, producing large scale artworks, as well as private commissions from bars and cafés.

I joined the Graphic Design course at Sunderland in 2016. It was a choice between Graphic Design or Illustration at Sunderland, or Graphics at Northumbria, as I needed to stay in the North East. All the courses sounded great but for me, when I read up on what the Graphic Design course included at Sunderland it was an easy choice. I liked that the course covered a range of things, topics that I had not even considered learning as a designer and illustrator, such as motion graphics and computer illustration.

I have fond memories of the staff in the Art and Design department – the tutors are incredibly talented, experienced, dedicated and encouraging. We visited London as part of the course, going to various design agencies to speak to and learn from the industry, including advertising giant Ogilvy on the Thames. I was really grateful to have that experience, because it helped me to learn what I wanted to do as a design graduate, which ended up being working for myself.

I graduated from the Graphic Design course in 2019. For my final project I decided to create and work on a collection of different projects, including a competition entry to a local brewery, an illustrated surfboard I created for The Beam’s City by The Sea Exhibition, and a mural on the second floor of Priestman Building.

Working in public spaces had become my main work from August 2019 right up to March 2020. The work came to a grinding halt in March due to Covid-19, and so I adapted back to working mainly digitally and on private commissions, digital illustration and graphic design, as well as selling my own artwork online.

Recently I worked on a project with Sunderland Culture, where we changed an exhibition of my portraits, Rebel Women of Sunderland, into downloadable colouring-in sheets. I’m very lucky to be able to adapt my work in this way and carry on creating.

After graduation you should pursue a path that feels right for you. You don’t ‘have’ to move to London. There is a design world north of London and you shouldn’t feel like you’ve failed if you don’t make it there. Look into local organisations – Sunderland Norfolk Street Arts and Sunderland Culture, for example, offer lots of local arts opportunities.

I’ve made a working life as a freelancer in Sunderland. I can afford a small studio and I have worked with some great local organisations, but I still get commissions from places like London and Manchester. It doesn’t always matter where you are based. So do your best and good luck!”

Published 26 June 2020

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