Emily Isles might spend her days creating pixel-perfect digital designs at Edinburgh-based Eskimo, but outside of work hours she can be found beavering away in her home studio, creating prints to sell in her online shop – or as she puts it, "in search of illustrated adventures".
Isles' home for the past three years has been a third-floor tenement flat with views over Edinburgh Castle and the sea in the distance. "It's cosy, light, with wooden floorboards and big bay windows," she smiles. "I knew it was the right place to be as soon as I walked through the door."
Scattered about the studio there is memorabilia from her travels. From London's Portobello market is a set of wooden block letters (1), and on one shelf sits an Olivetti Lettera 22 Typewriter (2), picked up in Sicily. It was the inspiration behind her Italian Inventions illustration series. "Its keyboard layout uses QZERTY instead of QWERTY as 'w' is seldom used in the Italian language," she explains. "I still use it."
A bookcase holds stacks of magazines and books (3). "Our house is full of books – I can't stop buying them,' Isles admits.
Isles' magpie-like collecting habit has spread to her walls, which hold a range of prints (4) – some vintage, some from fellow designers and others picked up, like the typewriter and letters, on her travels.
"I also pin my own designs up while I'm working on them," she says. "Sometimes I get stuck on an illustration and need to step back from it for a while – I end up looking at it one day, and just suddenly realising what needs to be done."
Despite the various paraphernalia designed to provide inspiration, all of Isles' projects begin with a good, old-fashioned pencil drawing (5). "Everything starts with a sketch or scribble of layouts and wireframes," she says. "I always carry a pencil and notebook with me – ideas usually come when you're not expecting them."
This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 225.