Meet Barry: our Studio Manager and chief tea brewer extraordinaire

At Happydesigner, we love illustrating children’s books and you’ll know, if you’ve worked with us, that all the clever drawing is done by our very own Sarah-Leigh.

But there’s another very important person at Happydesigner. He may not be crazy about crayoning like Sarah-Leigh, but he’s a vital cog in machine. He’s the one who sorts out the business side of Happydesigner, and he runs a very tight ship.

Other lighter duties including helping to look after the studio pigs and Erik the cat, and – essentially – making the tea. Oh, and he is Sarah-Leigh’s other half.

So, meet Barry, our Studio Manager. Before you read on, be warned; Barry has an interesting sense of humour and we suspect he may not have taken this entirely seriously! Hmmm…

Where do you hail from? 

Well, my birth certificate states Wolverhampton, although I have a sneaky suspicion that I was the result of a failed secret government experiment into cloning ninja garden gnomes.

What did you do as a child to pass the time? Was everything closed on Sundays?

I loved playing in the local park, usually football (I was something of a mean goalkeeper) and occasionally sailed my boat on the lake. However, I also loved spending time playing my guitar along with my ever-growing collection of records. Was everything closed on Sundays? I wouldn’t know as I spent all of my time either in the park or playing records!

Did you love reading as a child? 

Yep, I read all sorts, from fab comics to science books explaining all about the solar system.

Did you enjoy school?

Absolutely I did! Fabulous days that I look back on with great fondness, although Fagin was a little harsh with us all, especially when we returned without good pickings!

What was the naughtiest (printable!) thing you did as a child?

Naughty? Me? I was a perfect angel and never dreamt of doing anything naughty… Next question…

What were your favourite children’s books and why?  

I learned to read using a strange system called ITA. I still remember many of the books and class them as being amongst my favourites. I also LOVED the Enid Blyton Famous Five books.

Where did you and Sarah-Leigh meet?  

I was appearing as a body-double for Shrek in a low-budget alternative real-life remake when Sarah spotted me huddled in a corner eating a cheese sandwich. As cheese is one of her favourite foods, the magnetism was immediately there, and after she had stolen the sandwich from me and devoured it, we spoke. The rest, as they say, is history.

Before you joined Happydesigner, what did you do?

Crumbs – where to start? Okay – here’s a condensed list: salesman, freight traffic controller, shipping clerk, export clerk, customs clerk, professional musician, nightclub DJ, radio DJ, customer care manager and caravan repairer.

What’s your role at Happydesigner?

I’m described as the Studio Manager which encompasses many things. However, as I’m rubbish at drawing, my role is to do anything that’s required, so long as I stay well away from the pencils and paintbrushes!

Who feeds the studio pigs and Erik? 

This is something we both do, although Erik does have a preferred routine for his breakfast that very definitely does not involve me!

What’s the secret to making the perfect cup of tea? 

Quality tea (Assam), boiling water, unhomogenised Jersey milk, a dollop of honey and a good mug are the components. I could tell you my process, but then again, that’s my trade secret. However, one thing I’m very happy to share with you is DEFINITELY DO NOT put the milk in first!

What do you do in your spare time?  

We don’t have a lot of spare time, but I do like to write songs and compose music. In fact, I released my first ever singles on the unsuspecting public last year and have written theme tunes for children’s animated series.

Who do you like to work with at Happydesigner?

Our service is available to all authors and writers who are looking to have a high-quality, professionally illustrated children’s book created at an affordable price, and we apply the same standards to every book project we work on. However, it is particularly rewarding to produce books that are aimed at helping, supporting and educating children.

What book, disc and luxury item would you take on a desert island?

Oh wow – what a question! Book: How to Escape from a Desert Island. Disc: Music to Build a Raft By. Luxury item: something on which to play the disc!

And on that note… thank you Barry!

If you’d like to talk to Barry or Sarah-Leigh about illustrating a children’s book you’ve written, or if you need a logo designed for your business, please get in touch. And if you’re passing our Herefordshire HQ, why not pop in and sample Barry’s Assam tea?

Written by Jo Smyth (

Some of our previous clients

happydesigner clients