Designer Diaries: Natalie Williamson

Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I’m Natalie Williamson. I design, sell and license Happy Surface Patterns for manufactures and retailers to use on their products. I also produce small collections of stationery and homeware which I sell via my website. My style is quirky bold and colourful with a modern retro vibe.

When did you discover your passion?

I loved to draw and paint as a kid, but never imagined it was something I could do as a real job, so I stuck with it as a hobby instead. It wasn’t until I worked in marketing and online PR, where I worked alongside an in-house design team and external design agencies, that it dawned on me I could do that too. So I learned from them how to work Photoshop and Illustrator so I could design graphics and banners myself.  I went back to university to do a Graphic Design degree and during my second year we had a trip to New York. I went to the trade show Printsource in place of one of my tutors and that was the moment I knew where I wanted to be, exhibiting my designs, creating the opportunity for my work to be used in countless wonderful ways. Being there just made me so excited and inspired to get home and create artwork! 

What made you turn your passion into a career choice versus just a hobby?

It was the fact that I was working hard and although I was progressing and earning more money, I wasn’t earning anymore time. I didn’t get to see my son or husband since I commuted and worked long hours. Once I went on maternity leave with my daughter I knew I didn’t want to continue this way and miss them growing up, so I just went for it. The possible benefits of changing career outweighed any fears I had and at the end of the day, if I gave it a real, wholehearted try and failed, I’d still have gained more time with my children would have no regrets. Failures are great experience and help you in future ventures – so it’s all good!

How do you stay motivated?

I try to stay open and keep noticing and looking and observing at all times. Inspiration comes at me from the most unexpected places sometimes. It might be a funny portrait my daughter does or something someone says on a TV program or in the street. I’m always taking photos and saving images of things that I love or inspire me, into folders and onto Pinterest boards. When I need a little pick me up or inspiration, I turn to these. Also having a couple of kids who both love what I do helps loads too. They’re always keen to draw,  paint and get messy with me!

Can you share a little about your design process? 

I sketch and doodle to brainstorm, which leads me to drawing more detailed ideas this sparked. I take these sketches into digital format to develop in Illustrator, occasionally Photoshop. From there I introduce colour and work up the repeat or placement design. I tend to leave this part of the process quote open, go with the flow and see where a pattern takes me and what other ideas it sparks.

What is your favorite part about having a creative business?

I love being able to inject a little bit of me into whatever I’m doing. It’s almost like a compulsion. I have a concept, theme or sometimes a whole design in my mind and I have to get it out. I love the feeling I get when I’m creating something and it all starts to come together. And then having something tangible at the end that came from me out of nothing. Getting to do this as a means of “work” is the best feeling. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

At one point I struggled with the isolation of working alone late into the nights and also during the day. Having come from years of working around other people and most of those workmates becoming close friends, I began to miss that interaction and company.  I found joining networking groups of other designers a godsend. Having a place to ask questions, get feedback on something you’ve done or share good news is great and has helped me loads.

I constantly struggle with balancing my time between being a mum, working and looking after myself.  Since I don’t have a set 9-5 structure it’s quite easy for me to work longer hours than I did when I was in full time employment and forget to give myself some down time. At one point I got quite run down from working all night, and running around in the day time and not taking any real breaks to eat sleep or chill. I quickly realized (the hard way) this was an unsustainable way of working/living and although I still have times when I work all night (if I’m on a roll I like to keep on rolling!) I know to give myself time off and get an early night the following day. 

What advice would you give to aspiring designers looking to build a successful creative business?

My advice: trust and believe in yourself and most importantly, never stop learning! I think it’s a good idea to try a little of everything you can in the first instance, in order to know what you really excel at and what you get the most excitement and joy from. Once you know what you want to do and where you want to be, go for it and don’t look back. Have a plan and know the steps you need to take to get to your goal.

Whats next for your career?

At the moment and focusing on growing the licensing side of my business, aimed at the young female and kids demographic. I exhibited at this year’s Surtex for the first time which was a fantastic experience and has given me a lot of new contacts, so I’m continuing to work on creating new work off the back of that. 

Where can we find you on the web?

My website is