In an increasingly connected world, illustration trends (opens in new tab) can spread globally very quickly. But there are still pockets of location-specific inspiration to be found.
One such example is sunny Barcelona. The city that gave birth to OFFF (opens in new tab) – one of the world's most vibrant design events – boasts as an incredibly bright and dynamic illustration scene.
We spoke to several of Barcelona's leading creatives about what makes their city special. Read on to discover five inspiring visual trends...
01. Dynamic eclecticism
First on our list is a theme that might initially seem counter-intuitive when discussing trends that draw a scene together. Barcelona has a huge amount of converging influences, with many renowned international illustrators – such as French-born Malika Favre (opens in new tab) and Finnish-born Pietari Posti (opens in new tab) – relocating to the city recently.
"Lots of upcoming internationally working illustrators want to live and work in Barcelona, both locals and foreigners," confirms Posti, who has worked with Starbucks, Random House, Wired and the Guardian.
He calls his adopted home a "big small city". As he explains: "The vibe is relaxed, and the illustration community is friendly and supportive."
"Barcelona is a city with a lot of movement, and the illustration reflects that," agrees Barcelona-based illustrator Marina Capdevila, whose clients include Reebok and Estrella Damm. (If you came to this article from our Facebook or Twitter channels, you'll have seen her image, Good Vibes Only, used as the opener.)
Barcelona born and bred, Alex Trochut (opens in new tab) – something of an icon when it come to the city's illustration reputation – is now based in New York, where he misses the Spanish food and sunny weather.
From across the Atlantic he draws attention to the vivid colours and organic, rounded shapes that permeate much of the city's illustration output. But he backs up the notion that Barcelona's influx of cultural influences makes it more dynamic. "It's as eclectic as the world," he smiles.
02. Vivid Mediterranean colours
One of the most distinctive features of Barcelona's inspiring illustration scene is the rich, vibrant colour palettes. "The Mediterranean feel is something that, in my case, has lured me into making my illustrations full of vivid colours," reflects Lorena G (opens in new tab), a graphic designer and illustrator whose clients include Google and Adobe.
"You just have to walk around the Barcelona port and see all those colourful nautical signal flags – they caught my eye the very first time I saw them," she enthuses.
Petra Eriksson (opens in new tab) originally hails from Sweden. She moved to Barcelona after several years in Malta, and a few months in Berlin. "Since moving here, I definitely feel like I've started working with brighter colours," she says.
Eriksson's experiences prove your surroundings can have a direct influence on your style. And Veronica Fuerte, co-founder of Hey Studio (opens in new tab), agrees. She was born and raised in Barcelona, and describes it as a hub of creativity. "I think the city inspires me to use more colourful colours: bright and fresh," she adds.
03. Playful optimism
It isn't only colour palettes that are affected by Barcelona's unique creative vibe. For Juani Mingarro, one half of creative duo Brosmind (opens in new tab) along with his brother Alejandro, the city's "nice weather and great people" influence the creative process too.
"We feel a lot of optimism in people’s work here," says Mingarro. "Barcelona is constantly changing – it’s a city of transit that doesn’t keep anything for too long. It’s hard to define, because it's more of a feeling, but there's definitely something in the environment that pushes people to create and share here."
As siblings, Brosmind grew up together, sharing experiences and influences. "Barcelona was an important part in our development, but we could have ended in the same place if we'd lived in Paris or Tokyo," he reasons.
"Creative processes are moulded by individuals based on personal experiences: you need to find a place that makes you feel good and inspired."
04. Illustration meets design
World-class Barcelona-based design studios such as Hey (opens in new tab) and Vasava (opens in new tab) are also notable for their in-house illustration skills. And both demonstrate a fusion of styles and disciplines that's notable across the city.
"Barcelona is an open-minded city that has always had a focus on visual arts," reflects Maria Picassó (opens in new tab), a "graphic illustrator" with a distinctive vector style of character design. "Since as long as I can remember, top-notch illustrations and graphic design have filled the streets, especially in poster and billboard form."
Picassó recalls the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, for which mascot designer Javier Mariscal (opens in new tab) was a leading proponent of stylised illustration, design and communication working together.
"For me, the Barcelona 'vibe' is where illustration joins graphic design to communicate in this very stimulating and inspiring way," she adds. "Sometimes it looks simple, even naive and carefree, but it transmits a lot."
05. Simple but beautiful
Petra Eriksson draws attention to an abundance of stylised, graphic pattern work in Barcelona. "If I compare it to Sweden, where I come from, there's a lot more hand-drawn and realistic-looking illustrations," she says. "Here, it's more graphic. I also think there's a level of playfulness in many artworks here that I really enjoy."
For Bruno Sellés, founder and creative director of Vasava (opens in new tab), the balance between simple ideas and playful, stylish execution encapsulates what Barcelona's illustration scene is all about.
"There's simplicity in composition, but complexity in execution," he argues, making the point that beautiful craft has value in and of itself. "Intricate techniques serve the universal language of images."
"Overall, Barcelona's illustration is colourful, vibrant and irreverent," concludes Sellés. "Sometimes it's conceptual, sometimes it's more decorative – but it never leaves you indifferent."