The Designed Life: Marcy Day

We’ve always been interested in the way other artists, designers and creatives find inspiration for their work. The Designed Life is our series of profiles featuring friends and friends-of-friends from across the design community, who sit down with us to talk about the ins and outs of making things, places they go and—of course—what they bring with them.

When full-time freelance illustrator Marcy Day illustrated one of the most iconic photos of our Klettersack ever taken, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We fell for the bright, saturated colors in her illustrations (sound familiar?) and the way they inspire us to get outdoors.

She was kind enough to answer a few questions about her life and work for us. If you’ve ever dreamed of quitting your job to travel the world, keep reading.

Illustration: Marcy Day

Photo: Peter Amend

Best book you’ve read recently:

I recently re-read Cutting for Stone and it made me want to travel through Ethiopia. I just started Margaret Atwood’s sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale - The Testaments, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m prepared for it to be as dark and dystopian as the first book.

Favorite weekend trip?

I’ve been traveling full-time the last 4 years, so every day is kind of like a weekend trip, but one that stands out as being particularly memorable is driving up to Big Sur and staying at Kirk Creek campground. It’s a teeny campground set high up on the cliffs overlooking the ocean with the most beautiful views of the California coastline. It’s also one of the first places my boyfriend and I went camping together and we sat on a big blanket and talked all day watching the waves. It’s a pretty special spot and perfect for a weekend getaway.

Author/artist/etc that has influenced you the most:

I’ve been hugely influenced by Frida Kahlo since I was a kid. My dad lived in Mexico during my youth and I visited him every summer, and I’m writing this from a café in Mérida, Mexico right now. I love that her work is autobiographical, feminist, colorful, and so reflective of her heritage all at the same time. I had the pleasure of visiting her house a few times last year and I love that she was uniquely and unapologetically herself in her life, and it shows in her work. Lately, I’ve been referencing a lot of Gauguin’s work - particularly his Tahiti series. His work is so saturated and bright and I relate to a lot of his color choices in my own work. I also think Gauguin’s love of adventure and travel shows in his paintings, and I hope that my illustrations convey that same feeling.

Favorite music to work to:

If I’m feeling productive and things are flowing I listen to a lot of A Tribe Called Quest. If I’m having trouble getting started or working slowly on a piece I like to listen to Bon Iver. It brings me back to late nights in my college art studio finishing up paintings I had procrastinated finishing and were due the next day.

Piece of gear that’s changed your life?

My bicycle: a Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s been ridden from Vietnam to Turkey and has 10,000 miles on it. It’s my prized possession and I hope to hang it in my house one day and tell my kids about how I rode that thing through a snowstorm in Tajikistan at 14,000 feet elevation with altitude sickness.

How did you get from advertising to full-time freelance illustration?

I quit my job in 2016 and decided to travel the world by bicycle. I had been living in Los Angeles and working in advertising for 6 years, and after a few too many late nights and long weekends in the office, I was ready for a change. So I sold all of my things, bought a used bike on Craigslist (see the answer to the previous question), and I flew to Vietnam where I met up with my boyfriend. He had quit his job a few months before me and had this crazy idea to travel the world by bicycle.

We rode through Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Georgia, and Turkey. After 2 years and 10,000 miles of biking, we decided to take a break from the bikes and work while we traveled with only carry-on suitcases and our laptops. We’ve been living that way ever since and have now lived in just over 35 countries. While we were biking, we decided to create an iMessage sticker app with my illustrations from my travel sketchbook, which were subsequently featured by Apple in a worldwide TV campaign. This allowed us to keep traveling for about another year. In that time, I decided to pursue my dream career as an illustrator and the rest is history.

Check out Marcy’s work at @marcyday_.