Fatti Burke Illustrator, Photo by Al Higgins

A Chat with Fatti |Marie Varley’s Design Column

Marie Varley searches the country for the best in Irish Design. Enjoy her interview with Illustrator Fatti Burke.

Fatti Burke is a Waterford born, Dublin based Illustrator. Her unique and humorous style has gained her much exposure as one of the finest illustrators our country has to offer.

I first came across her work a while back on the in flight magazine Cara for which she regularly illustrates travel maps. I caught up with Fatti recently to talk about her work and book Irelandopedia, the creative scene in Dublin and future plans…

When and how did you first become interested in Illustration?

I always knew I wanted to do something creative, since I was in primary school basically! When I got into NCAD I was actually going to study painting, but my friend Shane Kenna was studying VisCom and convinced me to do that too, and through that course I realised that I was more interested in illustrating than pure graphic design. I never really thought about whether or not it would work out for me as a full time career, but I just kind of went with it and never looked back!

Fatti Burke Illustrator HeadStuff.org
Fatti Burke Illustrator

You have a lot of pretty impressive clients. Can you tell us a little about how you got to attracting interest from the likes of McDonald’s and Air BnB?

I think getting clients is all about meeting people and being sound to work with – when people can put a face to a name it really helps to secure trust and get the ball rolling. I can also trace loads of my jobs back to the maps I do for Cara magazine – a lot of my clients see those maps on a flight and decide to give me a call from that, so it has probably been one of the best opportunities I was given overall. Big clients like Air Bnb and McDonalds come to me via the design team that they’re working with who are familiar with my work, and those types of jobs are usually the easiest to deal with since they’re such professionals and give a very clear brief from the start.

Fatti Burke Illustration McDonalds HeadStuff.org
Fatti Burke Illustration McDonalds

What is it that you enjoy about illustrating maps?

It’s funny, maps were never something that I consciously decided to work with. Myself and a lot of other illustrators just began to be asked to do them – they became very popular very quickly – so it became my mainstay about 2 years ago. When I started, it was quite difficult to know where to start or what to include, but I’ve grown to love the process. It sounds a bit daft but it really does take you out of your current location for a couple of hours whilst you explore another city and learn about the street names and restaurants etc. I also love the freedom of creating a map, you get to choose what to include and what to omit, and you can give weight to locations that people have an affinity to – a highlight reel of one place.

Fatti Burke Illustration HeadStuff.org
Fatti Burke Illustration

Can you tell me about how Irelandopedia came about?

It was a really unexpected thing really! I basically just got a call from Nicki Howard from Gill Books and she asked to meet me to chat about an idea she had. A colleague of hers knew my work from, you guessed it, Cara magazine, and she recommended me for the job. From there we chatted about how to develop it, how it should look, and who we could get to write it with me. I suggested my dad and it all went from there! I did a sample spread and we worked from there, building up the aesthetic and atmosphere of the book. It really was a dream job.

Fatti Burke Irelandopedia HeadStuff.org
Fatti Burke Irelandopedia

You are working on a second children’s book. What can you tell us about it and when can we expect to see it?

Yes! I’m illustrating my second book at the moment with Gill, and my dad is also writing this one too. It is a sister book to Irelandopedia, and will explore Ireland in a different way again – this time through historical periods. I think it’s important to keep the momentum going when it comes to learning where we come from, so this book will take the children from prehistory up to today, giving them a lovely overview of the events that led to the Ireland they live in now. It will be out in Autumn/Winter 2016.

Fatti Burke Illustration

Are you glad you stayed working in Dublin as opposed to working outside of Ireland? There seems to be a tight knit community of designers and design businesses in Dublin, have you found this?

I love Dublin a lot, and I am glad I stayed here to work, for sure. It’s true that designers and illustrators here are super close, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. i know that if ever I need advice, or backup, or consolation, there is a plethora of people standing by to support me, and vice versa. That isn’t to say that I won’t ever leave to work abroad – I’ve never lived anywhere other than Ireland as an adult, so a year or two abroad might be on the cards in a couple of years. But 95% of my clients are in Ireland, so it would be hard to make it work at first.

Fatti Burke Illustrator