There is something special about putting pencil to paper when creating a design. One of our favorite architectural illustrators, Shannin Williams, does just that. Through her physical illustrations, Shannin seeks to bring life to interior designers' plans for their clients. Her passion for hand-drawn designs led Shannin to create The Studio, the only online membership platform for aspiring illustrators to learn the craft of hand-rendering spaces. In addition to her stunning illustrations, we had to mention her design pup: Buttercup the Pomeranian. Today we are excited to discuss her career and creative process.
How did you get started as an illustrator, and how did you discover the niche of architectural illustration?
As a freshman in design school, my professor taught us to use markers and pencils to create a mixed media image of an interior space. From that point on, we were expected to sketch, draw, and hand render our spaces for our studio projects. I fell in love with the process and haven't put a marker down since. Years later, as I practiced kitchen and bath design, I would illustrate all of my drawings by hand and my clients loved it. One insisted she pay me for a drawing and encouraged me to illustrate more. I took her advice and followed my design school passion.
Walk us through your creative process.
It all starts with an idea in my mind. I follow the idea with loose sketching on paper until I am happy with the design. Once I decide on the final option, I begin drawing the image in perspective with pencil, as I am still perfecting the last minute ideas. Once the final is completed, I trace the image on marker paper, overlaying it on a light box. I prepare a color palette (I call this a recipe) and determine the marker colors that match the items I want to hand render. This recipe allows me to hand render faster, as I already have my colors preselected. After the hand rendering is completed, I scan the image on a high resolution scanner and make a few adjustments in Adobe Lightroom. Then I send it to the client.
"I fell in love with the process and haven't put a marker down since. Years later, as I practiced kitchen and bath design, I would illustrate all of my drawings by hand and my clients loved it." says Shannin Williams.
You help interior designers bring their vision to life through illustration. How do you collaborate with designers and how do they use your renderings, once finished?
An interior designer can visualize their work in their mind, but their client can't. It’s my job to help the designer put their ideas on paper in a way that will sell their design ideas and communicate with their client in a unique way. Working with designers in this way is my favorite part! Designers reach out to me during the design process when they need a visual to show their client, or if they are applying for a showhouse. They later use the hand renderings for marketing on social media, design competitions, and even have them printed for Christmas cards. Depending on the design, some designers frame the original hand rendering and add it to their gallery wall collection or gift it to their client. I’ve even had building contractors contact me to provide them with a 3D hand rendering of an exterior facade, so they can position it on the construction site for people to see.
We love your hand-drawn designs. Why do you prefer this process over computer-drawn?
I love computers, but not for 3D illustrations. I can illustrate by hand faster and better for my client than any computer illustration can. It’s not easy to find the exact chair and fabric you are specifying for a project in a computer aided design program. In most cases, I have to build the exact furniture piece in the program (or find something similar), scan the desired textiles, and apply them to the furniture that was built. The process is time consuming and you need to be a professional on how to model in a software program. In the end, it’s still not exactly what I want and that leaves me explaining to the client how it could look, which leaves them confused. I decided using design programs for 3D images isn’t for me. The outcome of a hand drawn illustration either of a space or furniture is exact. No extra explaining to the client. They can visualize it immediately and we can move on with our design decisions much faster. Not to mention it’s very unique that a designer can hand render, and that it is exciting to the client. They love it!
"It’s my job to help the designer put their ideas on paper in a way that will sell their design ideas and communicate with their client in a unique way. Working with designers in this way is my favorite part!"
- Shannin Williams
We love the level of detail in your illustrations, including how you render printed fabrics and wallpapers. What attributes make a print more successful than others?
The less complex and bigger the print, the better the hand rendering. This allows the illustration to be less busy and allows the viewer to see it clearly. I study the print and the pattern repeats over and over through sketching, so I have it imprinted in my mind before I start drawing it.
What are your top picks from our collection, and why?
I absolutely love the HUTAN | Black | Natural Fabric. It caught my eye a while back, when I was searching for a tropical print that wasn’t too vibrant in color and a pattern to apply on a chair. I am a beach girl, so this print is beautiful to me and matches my vibe. I also love the BRIDGE Collection, due to the calming geometric shapes. Currently, I am devouring the new collection, specifically REED. I’m drawn to geometric shapes and these patterns are pleasing to the eye. Well done!
It was so interesting to learn about Shannin's architectural illustrations and her creative process. We especially appreciate Shannin taking the time to create unique renderings of our prints. If you're interested in learning more about Shannin or her program, you can visit her website or her Instagram. For more content like this, follow CCT on Instagram.