IDRAW Features: Industrial Designer and Illustrator Ian Galvin

by Matthew Marrocco February 09, 2015

Every so often we get to shine a light on someone who has been an inspiration to us in our career - whether professionally or during educational pursuits. This week we're featuring Industrial and Concept Designer, Illustrator and Chicagoan Ian Galvin. With a career spanning consumer tech, bikes, games and some super-confidential stuff we don't even know about - he's clearly got his hands full churning out some truly great work.

My first impression of Ian was during design school; we both attended The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI and Ian was ahead of me by a year or so. One day I wandered into the Motorcycle design studio to check out what the guys were working on and Ian was busy pinning up one of the most incredibly detailed digital sketches of a motorcycle motor I had ever seen. There was an impossibility to how realistically rendered and detailed it was - the highlights glinted off the metallic parts beautifully. I remember being blown away, complimenting him on the hotness of the sketch, and then being pleasantly surprised at how grateful and amiable he was. We spoke about the design for a brief moment, then I wandered off, half inspired, half demoralized, to feverishly practice sketching some more. It goes to show that being around those who are more talented than you can be great fuel to better yours skills and stay motivated. Thanks for the motivation, Ian!

We're pumped to be able to share Ian's talent with the IDRAW Community. Listen close, friends - Ian is an absolute pro with the chops to prove it.

Ian, where are you from and where did you attend school?

I’m from Michigan in the U.S. and I attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

How long have you been working in the industry and what is your current gig?

I began working professionally in 2008 for Samsung out in LA.  I then became interested in concept art as that had always been a great source of inspiration for me.  I took classes at the Red Engine School and the Concept Design Academy in LA.  I then moved in a different direction and began working on my own as a freelance designer, which was much different than the corporate environment at Samsung, which was great for someone who recently finished their degree. Freelancing seemed like an interesting challenge to try and take on.  Currently I have just finished a series of design projects with MNML, a really cool design consultancy here in Chicago and I’m working with Untitled Motorcycles on a few illustrations of builds they’re completing -- lastly I’m working with Mesopotamia Software on their first in house title, Impulse GP, where I designed the vehicles and interfaces for the game.

At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in Concept Design?

I originally wanted to pursue a degree in Transportation design and was accepted into the program but by my sophomore year I realized that product design would be a better fit for me.  I wanted more diversity in my career and I knew having a product design background would give me that potential.

What are some of your favorite drawing tools both analog and digital?

I love pen sketching, that’s definitely how I start most ideas.  I then bring them into Photoshop to finish.  I also enjoy using a Cinitq when it’s available to me and I always have my trusty Wacom/laptop combo which gives me the most flexibility when working onsite with clients.  Maybe I should ask for a new Wacom for Christmas, I’ve had mine since college…

What were some of the biggest challenges in getting to where you are in your career?

Staying motivated is a huge issue for me, especially working freelance.  There’s no boss to be accountable to so you have to motivate yourself.  Working in a shared space rather than home helps me get into a more professional state of mind.  When I do work from home I make sure to clean up my work area and give myself a to do list for the day that I need to complete before I call it.  I also try to give myself a break now and then without feeling guilty, if I have a few solid days of really intense work then I’ll give myself a day to relax and sketch.  Also I play Destiny, so much fun!

Any favorite projects, either personal or professional?

My favorite design project would probably be the Galaxy Gear Fit.  I got to work with a lot of designers I knew from when I worked at Samsung full time.  It was a very compelling project with a lot of design challenges.

My favorite illustration project is usually whatever I’ve finished most recently, currently that would be a cover illustration for a Spanish magazine, Club Pont Grup.

My favorite concept art project is a personal project that’s sitting dormant now but it was a series of designs created around the idea of a dystopian future where enterprising individuals capture and modify flying military drones for their own purposes.  Not really sure what to do with it now but I have high hopes.


Were there other career choices, or have you always been set on this career path?

Actually I made a real effort to diversify my portfolio after Samsung because I knew it would be easier to sustain myself working freelance if I had a body of work that encompassed more than one field.  Luckily for me there is a lot of overlap in the kinds of projects I take on.  I’m always open to new opportunities and I try to position myself to be ready to take them on when they present themselves; be it new clients or a full time position.

Favorite resources? Blogs, books, websites, etc.

So many resources! I’d say take a look at my blog, iamiangalvin.blogspot.com, for a more complete list but a few artists/designers that I look up to are:

Anthony Jones, Aaron Beck, Sergey Brosa, Kim Jung Ji, Mies Van Der Rohe, and Naoto Fukasawa


How do you stay inspired?

See resources! It’s so easy to find the exact right images for what you need to stimulate your mind that it can overload you. I’ve begun using Pinterest in earnest to filter the sources and types of inspiration I find most useful.  Also you really can’t beat just being around other creative people, especially ones that are better than you, at first it can be intimidating but you have to be confident that you can learn from them and that you have something to offer in return.

 Any advice for anyone just starting out on how to break into the industry?

Be nice, so much of networking is just being able to get along with someone.  Be competitive with your friends, a little professional competition can really push you to learn a new technique or way of solving a problem.  And find people you look up to in the industry and just send them an email.  I’ve stopped being surprised by the return emails I get from designers and artists I look up to that email me back immediately with an answer to my question.

Any other thoughts/comments?

Thank you for asking me to contribute to the IDRAW series, you’ve created a really great resource here and I’m proud to be a part of it.  If anyone has any questions they can contact me at i_galvin@hotmail.com.  And I’m always up for meeting to sketch, I live in Chicago.

Huge thanks(!) to Ian for taking a moment out of his busy freelancing, future-concepting schedule to check in with us and provide some tidbits of pro knowledge to aspiring creatives. We're looking forward to following Ian's career - he's surely destined for greatness.

Be sure to watch as Ian takes over the IDRAW Instagram for the week! We'll be interested to see what he gets up to in Chicago.

Looking for some inspiration? Take a second to check out Ian's various creative outlets:

Facebook | Personal Site | Bēhance

Matthew Marrocco
Matthew Marrocco


1 Response

Liam G
Liam G

July 23, 2019

Great little interview. Loved reading about the journey and path decisions. Looking forward to more from Ian and from IDRAW.

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