How Graphic Designer Lili Phillips Reimagines and Redefines

To create our psychedelic Field of Flowers graphics we reached out to acclaimed Pentagram Partner Eddie Opara for help. His brilliant team includes Lili Phillips, a London-based illustrator and graphic designer. We got a chance to sit down with Lili Phillips and learn more about her creative process and perspective on reimagining with design.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: My name is Lili Phillips (she/her), and I am from a small village in Surrey, South East England.
Shortly after I graduated from Central Saint Martins, London, I began working remotely as a Graphic Designer at Pentagram NYC for Eddie Opara. And despite being sat 3,445 miles away, across the North Atlantic Ocean, I was warmly welcomed by a team of intelligent thinkers and careful-eared listeners. These are the individuals I get to work with every day—I struggle to find the words to describe my gratitude.

In fact, re—inc’s Gamer Collection was one of the first projects Eddie assigned me to. And since then, I have continued to work on a plethora of projects, both freelance and at Pentagram, that place an emphasis on community, challenge traditional structures, and drive cultural conversation.

I suppose I am inspired by a multitude of things: scrolling through my Instagram feed, deleting Instagram, sunny mornings, bookbinding, reading, London book stores, people-watching, and being in the company of those I love.

Q: So much of our company is rooted in the re—inc founders' own quest to reimagine norms and barriers society has placed on us. How do you defy or reimagine norms in your daily life?
A: I defy norms by listening over conditioning. Reading, unlearning and relearning.
Great art is a form of dialogue. My job as a designer allows me to contribute to difficult conversations, and articulate the things I can’t find the words for. That’s an immense privilege.

"Great art is a form of dialogue. My job as a designer allows me to contribute to difficult conversations, and articulate the things I can’t find the words for. That’s an immense privilege."

Q: We're so inspired by your beautiful sketches! How old were you when you began drawing? How did you get into it?

A: I remember (very vividly) as a child being utterly mesmerized by a series of British books titled Felicity Wishes. I would sit for hours, copying each illustration on loose leaves of paper, which I would later force into my mother's hands—hoping to see them framed. Making things for others became an act of love.

And I guess not much has changed. Graphic Design is an altruistic activity that I still begin on paper. I just draw in a different language now; quick thumbnails or loose writings.

Q: What are your biggest tips for people that want to draw and sketch more?
A: Sketchbooks are magically intimate. It's as though you are crawling around one's mind. Thoughts fostered. Ideas exploded. I think everyone should keep one close.

Then, with your tools in hand, make art from your inner self. Marry your instincts with your own visual vocabulary.

And finally, one of my favourite lessons from the manifesto 10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life: “The only rule is work”. We must continue to practice the skills we wish to be good at.

Q: Tell us about your sketching process for Field of Flowers?
A: From the moment re—inc shared their conceptual thinking for this collection, I was itching to draw. Their references included Woodstock, Summer of Love and the Peace Movement, and so naturally I began to envision a collection saturated with colour and hand-drawn, stretched type. (There were no digital tools that existed in the '60s.)
I enjoy making a reader work for its content; forcing them to look a little closer and think a little deeper. This was a great opportunity to do just that, as the nature of psychedelic art is visually intricate and often illegible.

I read (and fell in love with) a book by Ted Owen titled High Art: A History of the Psychedelic Poster, and then ultimately started drawing. My artistic influences came from a few of the featured artists: Bonnie MacLean, Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, and Michael English.

Take, for example, my "Bloom" sketch. I was referencing the fluorescent flowers in Artist Rights Today (a collaborative poster by Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso). It was designed in 1986-1987 to reclaim legal rights to their work in the 1960s.

And so, my drawings were formed from the words I had read and the graphic forms I had studied—fused with external impulse.

When questioned on digital design, artist Bonnie MacLean once said: "I think handwork needs to be kept alive. It’s something people are inclined to do naturally, it’s something we have a human built in desire to do. It always has been, it still is."

This brings me great comfort.

Check out Lili's work at How will you use your crafts and specialties to boldly reimagine?

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