Interview: Sarah Fisher on Paper Cafe, Typography, and Impostor Syndrome

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This week I'm interviewing the lovely Sarah Fisher of Paper Cafe, a graphic designer and illustrator from Southsea in Portsmouth. She's been an absolute treasure to get to know and I'll certainly be following everything in store for her in her inevitably exciting future! We chatted about creative inspirations, getting ideas from the world around you, and her favourite projects she's worked on. Grab a cuppa, and meet Sarah with me!


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Sarah! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do? When did you first get into graphic design and illustration? Is this something you've been formally trained in?

Sarah Fisher:
Hello! I'm Sarah, I'm a freelance graphic designer and illustrator and I live and work in Southsea. I've always been an 'arty' person and some of my earliest memories are of painting flowers and patterns on a little easel in our kitchen when I was growing up. I studied Graphic Communication & Typography  at the University of Reading and fell in love with the way that type and images can be used to communicate ideas and to solve problems.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start selling your designs online and did you find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Sarah Fisher:
After graduating from university I worked for a design agency for a couple of years before going freelance in 2015. As part of that I decided to open an Etsy shop called Paper Cafe to sell cards, prints, and wedding invitations. Before opening the shop, I had no idea if anyone would like my stuff, let alone buy it! As designers we are very susceptible to impostor syndrome and it's very easy to feel like we don't belong or that people won't like what we're producing, but I've learnt that there is a place for everyone in the creative world and that although it'll take hard work and determination, it is possible to find your niche.

Magic & Musings:
That's a very nice work ethos to have. Which female-identifying and non-binary artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Sarah Fisher:
One of my favourite current artists is Jessica Hische - she describes herself as a lettering artist and her typography is exquisite. Another of my favourite female typographers is Martina Flor whose technical precision and care always inspires me to push my own work to the next level.


Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Sarah Fisher:
Two book projects spring to mind that I'm really happy with, the first is a 140-page book that I designed and typeset for a church in Reading. I loved the project because it gave me the opportunity to turn a long and complex piece of text into something fun and engaging to read, and the various constraints of the project forced me to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions. The other project that I absolutely loved working on was for Quadrille Publishing, where I had the chance to illustrate two colouring books for Cath Kidston. The amount of detail in the drawings was a bit mind-boggling at times but it's made me a much more confident illustrator.


Magic & Musings:
Both of those projects look absolutely stunning; I'm particularly in love with those colouring books! Now, I'm interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Sarah Fisher:
I usually work from home in our space room-turned-studio. I'm definitely a morning person so I try and get all my designing done before lunch, usually while listening to a 'focus' playlist on Spotify. In the afternoons, I often head down to a local coffee shop (Southsea has lots!) for a change of scenery and to get through some admin.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?


Sarah Fisher:
One of my favourite things to do if I've got creative block or am not feeling particularly motivated is to go outside (preferably down to the beach!) and just have a wander around. I'll almost certainly come back feeling inspired by the colours of the sea, some details on a plant, ghost signs on a building, or typography on a shop front.


Magic & Musings:
How wonderful to be so close to the sea! So, what are your favourite tools you use to create your designs? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?


Sarah Fisher:
I'm a big fan of Adobe Creative Suite and use InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator every day. I also have a Wacom tablet which has been something of a lifesaver and I couldn't live without my Canon DSLR. I'm currently reading This Year Will Be Different by Monika Kanokova which I am thoroughly enjoying. It's a very practical guide for anyone wanting to start their business featuring lots of inspiring stories from entrepreneurial women. Next on my list is How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone.


Magic & Musings:
You've said to me that you're really interested in typography. What about typography captures your attention? Is there something in particular about the subject you'd like to talk about?


Sarah Fisher:
Whether or not we realise it, typography is all around us, all the time! I'm continually fascinated by the power of letters to communicate. My favourite part of my job is when I get to design typography in a way that solves people's problems - whether that's by making your book easy to read, or helping your poster convey information effectively, or designing your logo in a way that reflects your business.

Magic & Musings:
I have a rather burgeoning collection of books about typography so I'm definitely with you there. What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in design?


Sarah Fisher:
I wish someone told me that inspiration often comes from the most unlikely of sources. It's easy to scroll through Instagram or Pinterest looking for inspiration, and while they have their value, often my most unique and exciting designs have come from other inspiration that I've spotted while out and about.


Magic & Musings:
Time for a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?


Sarah Fisher:
I do love a good book. Lately I've been getting into John Grisham books - perfect bedtime reading and worlds apart from the creative scene! For a film, if you haven't seen Lion yet, then you really should. It's SO good. An album I'd recommend would be The Social Network soundtrack - a bit of an odd choice I know, but always gets my brain in gear and I like to work away pretending that I'm Mark Zuckerberg making the next big thing ;)


Magic & Musings:
I absolutely adore that soundtrack; I completely understand your interest in it! So, thank you for answering my questions, Sarah. Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?


Sarah Fisher:
Thank you so much for having me! :) You can see more of my work over on my blog at papercafe.co.uk where you'll find lots of creative DIYs, project and design work, photography adventures, and lots more. I'm also on Instagram, Twitter, and have an Etsy shop

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