Interview with Spencer Harrison

His works are both vibrant and energetic, inspiring a sense of child-like fun within playful illustrations, patterns and objects for both his personal and commercial projects. We pick the curious mind of one of our Creative Festival speakers Spencer Harrison, a Melbourne-based graphic artist, illustrator and designer with a playful imagination and a desire for adventure.


With degrees in both Nanotechnology and Visual Communication, what led you to a career in graphic design?

My career has been a windy path, following my interests and curiosity as I go to get to the point I’m at today. Initially while studying Nanotechnology, I found I was procrastinating from my science work, by spending my time drawing and mucking around in illustrator and photoshop. I was finding this creative play much more exciting and joyful so decided that a career in science wasn’t for me and I should do something more creative. After I finished science I enrolled in graphic design and have been exploring a creative life ever since. 

We couldn’t help but notice your affinity for side projects. What has influenced you to create personal works such as MNML Thing and Rhythm & Repeat?

Yes I’ve always had side projects, which is I guess where my creativity first started when I was drawing on the side instead of doing my science homework. After I graduated from University and started working I found that client graphic design work wasn’t totally fulfilling me creatively so I started some side projects to push myself further and experiment. The side projects came out of interests and curiosity I was exploring at that time such as exploring minimalism and colour in MNML Thing and exploring repeat patterns in Rhythm and Repeat. I’ve found that all of these side projects have ended up influencing my commercial work, and lead to new directions for my career that have made it more enjoyable! These days my career is basically one big side project as I’m mainly working for myself as an illustrator and artist, exploring my interests and constantly experimenting and learning new skills that feed back into my projects. 


Playfulness is a major theme within your projects, and will be the topic of your talk & workshop at our Creative Festival. How do you incorporate a playful approach into your work?

For me Playfulness is about building into your work a chance to experiment, fail, explore your curiosity and most of all have fun. As children we are so full of creativity and ideas and will easily draw for hours or get lost in make believe fantasy worlds. Unfortunately as we grow older, our industrialized schooling systems devalues free play which leads to many people loosing this innate sense of creativity they had as a child. Getting back to this pure creative play has been something I have been exploring in my work for many years now and which has played a large part in my creative development. I incorporate play in my work by experimenting constantly, trying new materials and trying to make my creative process fun and enjoyable.  

How would you say your creative process has changed with experience?

My creative process has become much freer and more intuitive with experience, influenced a lot by the experimentation and play I do in my studio. I keep a sketch book which I try to doodle in daily and where the seeds of many of my ideas take place. From there I start playing with materials and mediums, trying new visual styles and ways of expressing these ideas. 

These days I incorporate a lot more hand made elements into my work and am very interested in developing my craft further in drawing and painting. The computer is still an essential part of my workflows but I think early in creative projects, the computer can be very inhibiting to coming up with new and innovative ideas. I believe it’s important to see the computer as a tool to carry out specific tasks that you require, but the best way to create and think through creative ideas is always going to be with the head, heart and hands. 


What are you currently working on? And what creative work can we expect to see at the Creative Festival?

At the moment I’m working on a series of new paintings and paper collage works for an upcoming exhibition entitled Synesthesia ( as well as a branding project for a creative conference here in Australia and a Tshirt design for a collaboration with a screenprinter in London. I’ll be looking forward to sharing these new works with everyone at the ING Creative Festival as well as giving some background behind the works. I’ll also be bringing over some new prints and artworks made especially to exhibit at the festival! 


Not only will Spencer be exhibiting his lively creations, but will also be giving his talk ‘Using Play To Unlock Your Creativity’ and ‘Creative Play in Your Day’ workshop during our three-day Creative Festival happening at Dubai Design District (d3). You can take a look at some of Spencer’s work on his website