Portuguese designer Selma Cardoso is inspired by family life and her pets which shows in her joyous childrenswear prints. From sloth astronauts to art deco gazelles, Cardoso creates eclectic and colourful digitally illustrated prints. Here we discuss travel as inspiration, motherhood and licensing designs.
What is your studio name and location?
I work as a graphic designer and an illustrator in a full time job at a company named Time4Start International, located in my hometown, in Portugal. All my surface designs are made in my spare time, at night and at the weekends, under the name Selma Cardoso Designs and Illustrations.
Where did you study (if you did)?
I started my art studies (Painting) at the Fine Art College, Oporto University, but my interest in discovering new places and forms led me to an Art History master’s degree. I also have a Postgraduate degree in Documental Science. Later I studied Communication Design at the Fine Art College, Lisbon University.
Describe your design process
When I find a theme I’m interested in, I research online, on Pinterest for example, to find out what was already created and how. If it is a historical theme, like Art Deco, I like to look at the historical movement, the art and the artists. I’m sure that’s related with my Art Studies.
I save some pictures related to the theme and colour schemes I like and add them to my workspace to use them as inspiration. I always try to create something new. I write some ideas on my notebook or on a handy piece of paper.
Because I’m used to working as a graphic designer most of the time, I work digitally from the outset. I usually create my designs, patterns mostly, using Illustrator and sometimes I add some textures and resize the designs in Photoshop.
What is your favourite part of the design process from inspiration, drawing to the final printed fabric/product?
Drawing the main elements or characters of a pattern is exciting, but when I join them together to construct the pattern, select the colors and add some new elements that were missing, that’s when I have more fun.
I feel that in my case the success of a design depends mostly on the initial research. Sometimes brainstorming takes longer than creating the design. If I have a schedule and I don’t have enough time to do research that’s a bad sign.
Who do you design for? Who is your muse?
My parents own two fashion stores selling womens, mens and childrens clothing, since I was a little girl. I always was fascinated with colors, patterns, fabrics. I remember to follow my parents to see the next season collections always carrying my notebook and markers. The early experience has been a continuous inspiration. My muse today is my newborn baby…
What first sparked your interest in print design?
My nephews sparked my interest in children illustration. Knowing that I could show my work online and sell fabric and products with my designs worldwide increased my interest.
Describe your style in 5 words
Cute animals, vector graphic, eclectic.
What is your favourite medium to work in and why? (Watercolour, gouache, fine liner pens, digital, collage)
People who knows me are aware that I only need my computer, my “mouse”, and a table to design. I basically have a mobile studio in my home, my parents home, my husband parents home, my parents shop... Until last year my husband used to say the computer was my best friend because it was always with me. Things changed a bit since I was a mother. Now I have to carry so much baby stuff and the computer is often left behind.
I’m always thinking I should work with other mediums but I’ve been delaying it. At university my favourites were oil paint and oil pastels but lately I’ve been fascinated with watercolour.
What / who are your major influences?
Everything around me is an inspiration. Sometimes I like to design cute characters because I read a book about it to my nephews or my baby girl, other times I just look and play with my family dogs and cat and have an idea. My house is by the river and there’s a natural forest park nearby so nature is also a big influence.
What has been your career highlight so far?
I love to see final products featuring my fabric designs. Most recently I licensed one of my designs to a big company selling socks and I’m looking forward to seeing the final product.
My company launched some apps with children’s books that I’ve illustrated. I introduced them last year and the year before that at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, in Italy.
Your biggest challenge you have faced as a designer
To design the identity, marketing products and packaging for a big Portuguese mobile company was a big challenge.
Recently my maternity leave ended and I returned to my full time job, in a shorter schedule. Getting my daughter from the daycare is the best part of the day but after that I don’t have much time to design as I used to. I only have time when she is asleep but then I’m already too tired to do it. I’m improving it but managing the time now has been my biggest challenge, for sure.
Best exhibition/museum/research trip/inspirational place
My favourite museum is the Musée d'Orsay, in Paris. I love the building and all the impressionist and post-impressionist artists. However, my favourite place in the world is Florence, Italy. I feel attached to all its museums, churches and palaces. Before I started my Art History Studies, I went there with my parents and discovered that more than painting I would love to know all about those artists, architects and their masterpieces.
When I decide where to go on vacations, my husband always says, “please don’t say Italy again”.
Favourite music when designing
Unfortunately I rarely design with music. I feel it influences the way I design and sometimes even makes me nervous so I prefer to work with the silence, which not always is possible if I’m at my parents house for example. Then I annoy everybody always asking to lower the TV sound. Once again things changed a bit last year since I was a mother but hearing my baby’s “music” is the best sound there is.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m responding to a customised request, by adapting some of my geometric animal’s designs to an alphabet animal design.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I love surface design and I would like to devote myself to it a hundred percent. For now, I’m divided between my graphic design job, where I get most of my earnings, and my spare time I have to dedicate to surface design.
Do you have any tips for new designers starting out?
Don’t give up, never stop designing and never stop learning. Face every challenge as an opportunity to make new discoveries. Manage your time the best way possible.
You can purchase Selma Cardoso's super cute designs right here at Fashion Formula!