Meet the Happydesigner: Designer, Illustrator and Marmite lover!

My name is Sarah-Leigh Wills

Welcome to my studio! I am an award-winning Designer, Artist and Children’s Book Illustrator.

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I have spent many years within the arts and media sector, primarily designing and teaching. Through this, I have gained a huge amount of experience by working with clients and students worldwide. Many people ask me what I like about illustration and design. For me, it’s not work, it’s pleasure! If I could wake up and do the same job every day, I would choose illustration!

When I’m not out walking on the moors, playing our record collection or causing a row playing my drums or banjo, I’m a children’s book illustrator. I have a huge passion for children’s picture books and a big collection of them. I don’t like reading biographies or novels! I have a child’s imagination,  which allows me to create the fun and quirky style that children just adore, and, just as importantly, makes them laugh.

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Where it All Started

I have a passion and a gift (passed down from my father) for illustration; “The Drawing Hand“, I like to call it! When I was in college I discovered a passion for design. You see, I have been able to draw since I can remember, and this carried me through school. I started out wanting to be a vet, like many 13-year-old girls, but I quickly realised that my path in life involved pencil and paper. I spent many years around animals. I spent 10 years on a farm, showing and breeding animals. But these days I just love drawing them!

I cultivated a passion for drawing animals at the age of eight. I would spend hours just drawing, rubbing out and re-drawing. I knew from then that drawing animals was something that I would be able to do on a daily basis for the rest of my days, so what better than to make a career of it!

So that’s where it all started. I went to college and studied a National Diploma in Graphic design, and I then went on to study at Falmouth University on the BA(Hons) Graphic Design course. It was here that I won my first award, which was first place in the UK & Ireland in the DAF (Design Against Fur) Award 2007. My work was featured at the London Design Festival.

How Happydesigner Started

slugHappydesigner was founded in 2007. When I was in college I wanted to become a freelance designer. Working for myself seemed the perfect job! I managed to get a few hours a week working for a local design company, Richard Quick Design in Penryn, Cornwall. Here I was able to gain industry experience of live clients, live briefs and quick turnaround deadlines! I was working with local website developers and printers, and have built up a great knowledge of the way things should function within a company. I then thought well, if I can do this kind of work for someone else, why not just do it for myself? So that’s when I decided to make a professional business for myself!  Since that day, I have been working with hundreds of clients across the world, including Pets at Home, Respect for Animals, British Airways, Sky and TalkCoach. I have worked with agencies in the past including Printing.com, Cornwall College and Crunchers.

Teaching Experience

When I left Falmouth and Richard Quick I went on to study a PGCE (teaching degree) as I had a passion for teaching my design skills. I went on to teach for two years on a foundation degree course at Cornwall College. I worked as a visiting lecturer, teaching on the Graphic Design Degree course, for several campuses across Cornwall, including St Austell College and Falmouth University. My fuel as a teacher was to give the students a true representation of the graphics career world. It’s hard going and takes years of dedication to succeed and I wanted my students to be ready for the hard, critical world that awaited them. Being a freelancer myself, and having in-house experience, I was able to bring live briefs and clients into the lecture hall and let the students and local contacts, printers and developers engage with one another. However, through all of this, I always had a string tied within me that pulled me back to becoming a children’s picture book artist.

Working with Clickety Books

One day I had a very interesting conversation with a certain Mr Craig Green in regards to drawing some animals! Myself and Craig knew each other from when we were working for separate companies. It was Craig’s idea to create a new educational resource for his son, who struggled with speech and language. All the resources that were available were not to Craig or his son’s liking and they felt a need to develop something more fun and engaging for children with similar issues. We started off with one character, ‘Jacqueline The Black Alpaca‘, and we now have reached double figures! I am now well-known for my cheeky style within the Clickety Books range. I have been working with the company for seven years now. The company are specialists in speech and language resources for children of all ages. You can see more of my Clickety Books work here: www.clicketybooks.co.uk

Ever since I left college I knew that I wanted to become a successful children’s picture book illustrator, and working with Clickety Books has given me the confidence and knowledge of the book world. I’ve had the chance to see what it is children like and respond well to, and also what sells! So, with all of this behind me, you can see how I got to where I am today!

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A Few Facts About My Work

  • I always create original, creative and professional work.
  • But I am always up for a chat to support you along the way!
  • I have an unparalleled method of working, as there is no company to deal with, no departments and no big bosses! It’s simply one-on-one meetings with me and conversations focused on your project.
  • I create professional designs that can be applied to any medium and any format.
  • And all this is always delivered with a SMILE! That’s free!
  • I have recently expanded Happydesigner and now have a great little team.
 

Personal Projects

Gillie Can Series

I have recently (FINALLY) plucked up the courage to start on my own series! After working on over 200 books for other authors, it’s time for me to start creating my own series. So, I’m proud to present my creation, “Gillie Can”.

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Once I Saw A Band Called Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Recently I indulged my love of all things eighties by writing my own “fan fiction” style book about OMD, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

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NOW AVAILABLE, my OMD book is a children’s book about little Gudrun, whose parents love OMD. But she really doesn’t! Can their passion for OMD win over little Gudrun? Find out this spring! Pre-order your copy from the band’s website here.

Some Quirky Facts About Me

Speaking of OMD, my husband and myself have set up our own tribute band to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark called Manoeuvres. I absolutely love OMD and they’re always on when I’m illustrating. I love playing music when I’m working.

I was certainly born out of my time! I love old music and vintage clothes and am a little bit of an old fart at heart! I like the simple life; staying at home, baking and enjoying family life. But then there’s the little rock chick in me that loves to get out and have a good old boogie or jive at a local gig or concert! Really I’m just the typical arty person, collecting random objects that are only important to me, that kind of thing. Here are a few facts about me:

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  • I LOVE fruit! I should have been a Fruit Bat!
  • I LOVE to make lists! 
  • I LOVE the 60’s; I think I am re-incarnated!
  • I have very clicky joints. Not a good thing really!
  • My work-related idol is Roald Dahl.
  • My favourite movies are anything Sci-Fi/Thriller.
  • I LOVE vinyl records! We have THOUSANDS!
  • I am turning into a Haribo gummy bear!
  • I am only 5ft 1 (all good things come in small packages my dad tells me).
  • I am a keen British coin collector. I have thousands of the things!
  • I’ve recently taken up felting!
  • I’ve rescued some guinea pigs; you can meet them here.
  • I’m currently learning to play the bass guitar and banjo.
  • I play the drums: Congas/Bongos/electric…anything I can tap really!
  • I’m in a band called Manoeuvres – A tribute to OMD.

Logo Designs

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How I Charge For Work

I have no set fee because every project is different! I will happily negotiate for those on smaller budgets and also offer package deals to make some big savings.

But that’s enough of my waffling!

childrens book illustratorNot answered everything? Do you still have questions? Visit my FAQ page to find out more about my services

You want to see what I can do, right? Well just grab yourself a cuppa, slap on some good tunes and have a good old nose around the site! If you’d like to find out a bit more, just drop me a message, I really would love to hear about you and your exciting project. Thanks for visiting and please come back soon! Sarah, aka Happydesigner.

A few of my previous clients

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  • “Sarah’s re-branding of my business has given it a much needed fresh and quirky feel. She provided us with an extremely friendly courteous and efficient service and injected an energy into the project, that only Sarah could.” – Discovery Leisure

  • Sarah is an extremely talented designer and illustrator. She has that rare gift of being able to find something in your business or character that you never knew existed" Craig Green

  • "I hope my recommendation will persuade you to use Sarah! I cannot fault her, for her professionalism, enthusiasm and talent." - Michelle Hawkins, Director: The Flying DoDo

  • "These posters and flyers are perfect”
    - Julia G, Manager at the Truro branch of Pets at Home

  • Sarah is professional, friendly and very knowledgeable, she delivered 100% with a new logo that was spot on! We can't recommend her enough!” - Lucy @ Get Active

  • “Sarah was lovely to work with and keen to make sure that the illustrations were a perfect match for the story. It’s obvious that she really cares about her work and wants you, the author, to be happy with the final results.” – Marion Adams

  • “I was so nervous ringing you as i've never done anything like this before, but you were so friendly and put me completely at ease.” - Donna Purvis

  • "Sarah is amazing - very fast at understanding the requirements, great pictures and never too much trouble. I recommend her wholeheartedly" - Fernando Caldeira-Saraiva
  • Sarah really understood the brief right from the beginning and has been able to translate my ideas and mental images, that at times were quite specific, into magical illustrations that are better than I’d ever hoped. She has absolutely nailed it!” – Gareth Edwards

  • "I can’t speak highly enough of Sarah! She has brought Roopert Snoopert to life in a way I could never have imagined.
    The illustrations are fantastic! Sarah keeps you update with progress from the draft stage right through to sign off." - Paul Micklewright
  • Sarah has a great insight into how to best produce a children’s book and is really helpful in getting you there! I really cannot recommend Sarah enough – brilliant designer, friendly and professional. The experience has been a great one!“ – Jodie Jackson
  • “I am so happy that I found Sarah to bring my book to life. Sarah took the time to listen and really made the effort to make sure that I was happy and her brilliant designs translated the words of my book into a beautiful visual story." - Jodie Jackson

  • “Books arrived safely today- I am absolutely delighted with how they look – I can’t thank you enough – you’ve made my dream come true :)” – Jane Collins

  • "Outstanding illustrator with exceptional talent. You couldn’t wish for a better artist, as it would be impossible to find. Such a spectacular gifted designer who is always happy!" - Rachel Lake

  • "Sarah loves her work, her friendly ‘can do’ approach is reassuring whether you’re on your first or tenth book."  – Darron Jon Love
  • "It's been great working with Sarah as our illustrator! She's been so great in taking all feedback on board and delivers work of the highest standard. Would 100% recommend :-)" - Michelle Gibbs, Doodle Dozen Series
  • "Sarah understood what I was looking for and produced a fantastic logo for me.  She is very approachable and friendly – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her” Katie Jarvis, Fancy Prints

  • “When we first contacted Sarah, Dainty Dizzy was a concept;  an idea to be shaped into a brand.  Sarah took this idea and illustrated it perfectly….and our brand look and feel was born.” – Dainty Dizzy

  • “Sarah’s advice has been invaluable, she could have just illustrated my first attempt but knew there was more to be had from the story and pointed me towards the right help." – Darron Jon Love

  • "She has a keen eye for the quirky detail, she is punctual and a joy to work with. I simply cannot praise her enough.” - Clickety Books

  • "Sarah quickly understood what I wanted to achieve and the look I was after. Sarah kept me informed and brought me into the whole process” – Darron Jon Love

  • "WOW! Love it! I'm so happy with what you've produced- and with so little input from me. FANTASTIC!!! THANK YOU” - Darren Pascoe: 'Red Rabbit Book'

  • "The logos are absolutely fantastic, they are spot on brief and are even better than we imagined!Paolo Pini, Step Up To Languages

  • “Thank you, Sarah, for the amazing work you did on the illustrations for my book. Working with you has been so easy thanks to your enthusiasm, flexibility, support, professionalism and, of course, the amazing quality of your work." – Stuart Neath