Mathew Wain – “I let the pencils do the running and the mind do the wandering”

July, 2018
Reading Time
6.5 mins
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Image © The Interviewee

We discuss starting on paper and breaking into the design industry with Mathew Wain

This week Creative Chair is coming to you from County Durham, England where we’re talking to designer/illustrator Mathew Wain aka Illesso.

Despite struggling to break into the design industry, Mathew’s skill with a pencil has made him a sought-after talent.

You can see a lot more from Mathew Wain / Illesso on Instagram.


Tell us a little more about yourself and what you do?

My name is Mathew Wain, 26 years old and I have the most adorably handsome face. I am a proud husband to my wife, Amber and a top dad to our puppy, Mia. We live in a small town in the County Durham area where I am incredibly lucky to run my own little design business. It’s a dream come true for me. Growing up I knew I would only ever wanted to be involved with Art & Design. It’s not always that simple and there are a lot of people that claim it’s an unrealistic career path. Isn’t it great to break the mold?

“It’s been an amazing upward”

Art Board

After graduating from University, it was a struggle to find work due to a lack of industry experience so for a short time I was working a dead-end job and one day decided to take the plunge and leave to have a crack at making something work within design. Here I am 3 years later doing exactly what I love for a living and I’m humbled that so many individuals and businesses have chosen to hire me over the years and have kept this dream alive.

I don’t really have a job title other than, ILLESSO. I would say that I am a typographer/lettering artist more than anything but I never like to pigeon hole myself or my abilities. I love to work on all aspects of design and take on all challenges. It’s great to work for/with such an array of different clients and businesses from all over the globe and see your work out there, reaching new heights! Several of my teachers over the years have said “Design is the best industry in the world” and I couldn’t agree more! I’m very thankful to be part of it.

Your work is well received on Instagram. How effective have you found the platform obtaining work?

Instagram is awesome! Without a doubt my favourite app and it has been the major springboard in helping me establish my business. I began using it at University to share snippets of my project work and as time went by I was posting more regularly and connecting with all kinds of people. It’s been an amazing upward spiral from there and I continue to use it every day. I really enjoy updating my online profile and showcasing my work for both new and existing followers and it’s also a great way to look back and see improvement, progression and areas that need more practice and focus. So yes, being on the Instagram wagon has really helped me and I’m sure it has and can help lots of people get something going.


In your opinion, what are the merits of starting something on paper, as opposed to going straight to stylus, or mouse?

It may be regarded as the “old-fashioned” way but I’ll always favour it. There are no restrictions or limitations to starting a concept on paper, I let the pencils do the running and the mind do the wandering and together the flow is second to none. It’s the way I learned and more importantly the way I like to work to get the best results.

Mathew Wain Art Board - 04

Even if a design doesn’t necessarily require a sketch and can be started digitally from the off, I always put together some kind of rough concept so that I have a hard copy of my ideas and something to refer back too. It’s a very rewarding process and I love having an original piece of artwork that is totally unique!

“I’ll try in the future but you can’t knock the paper process and I’ll be sticking with that for now”

Creative Chair - Logos - 01

I was taught to constantly document my thinking and thought process from the start, to explain through annotation and analysis. Some clients really thrive and enjoy being part of that process and seeing the ideas develop, so this is another great reason to begin on paper. Although while this works for me, each designer is different and has their own different methods to suit their workflow. It’s evident that working directly with a stylus is becoming increasingly popular and I’m sure I’ll try in the future but you can’t knock the paper process and I’ll be sticking with that for now.

You mention struggling to find gainful employment straight out of university, paradoxically due to lack of experience. Having been going solo for three years, can you now see yourself working for a studio now?

The 135th 366 Award goes to Mathew Wain for his outstanding creative work.


That was very frustrating and it still is when I look back. I even offered to work for free to gain that valuable experience! But, this is a question I ask myself on a weekly basis and without a doubt the answer is yes, I can see myself working within a larger studio. It was the opportunity I yearned for when I graduated but unfortunately that wasn’t to be at that time. So I suppose it’s still on my bucket list. I would love to be around fellow creatives everyday, discussing design, working on design, brainstorming ideas and collaborating to fulfill a brief. It really would be awesome! I think this was another reason I went on to do a teaching degree, so that I could be in the classroom working on different design projects and ideas with the students. Yes, working in that kind of environment now would be great, so who knows what could happen if the right opportunity presented itself.

And finally, if you died and got reincarnated as a song, what would that song be?

Oh ey, now you’re asking! Well, I’m a massive music fan so ordinarily I would go for my favourite band or something I listen to on a daily basis but right off the bat I instantly thought of Mark Knopfler – Local Hero! It’s the entrance music for my beloved football club Newcastle United, it’s played before every home game at St James’ Park and gives me goosebumps everytime! My other 2 loves, football and music.

Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero"
Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero (1983)
Mark Knopfler
Play on Apple Music
Play on Spotify
Play on YouTube
What began as a fun question to end an interview, has now become a wonderfully eclectic collaborative playlist by 161 people (and counting).
Mathew Wain
Our Forest