Scatterbrain Studios’ Julia Broughton on bringing her design-led lifestyle brand into cards, cushions and coasters

Julia Broughton discusses her recent partnerships with Moonpig and Kitsch Republic – and where she wants to take Scatterbrain next.

Hi Julia, it’s great to connect. Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your work and your path to setting up Scatterbrain Studios?
My career path has been centred around greetings cards. I went to university to do a degree in product design, but I could tell pretty early on that it wasn’t the right path for me. While studying, I started running a market stall on the side with a friend where I sold handmade greetings cards. I loved making them, so I applied for work experience with Hallmark and luckily was successful!

I went back a few more times throughout my degree which led to me eventually working there after graduating in 2007. I then went on to work for Moonpig as a designer for almost eight years until I eventually went freelance at the start of 2017 with my lettering studio – Letters by Julia – where I work as a lettering artist.

As part of my freelance work, I create lettering-focused cards to license out, but in 2019/20 I decided to experiment with some illustration in my cards. I used to do a lot of it during my work at Moonpig. This led to me creating a black cat character – now Mr Kitty – who I was instantly in love with. I called this range Scatterbrain and soon I was spending all my time creating more and more artwork for it, building it out into an entire world!

It was so different to my lettering work but I desperately wanted to pursue it, so I decided to be brave and start a second company – that’s how Scatterbrain Studios was born!

Julia Broughton, Scatterbrain Studios

You exhibited at Brand License Europe this year. How was that?
BLE was great! It was my second year exhibiting Scatterbrain and this year was so much better than 2021. As lockdowns were only just about over last year, it was quite quiet so I didn’t end up with many meetings – but this allowed me to get a feel for things and work out what worked on a stand in a relatively low pressure environment… So I’m actually glad it was quiet!

This year I was way more prepared and knew where I needed to improve to get my messaging across better. I had lots of great meetings and everyone who got to learn about Scatterbrain was so enthusiastic about the brand. It was a great feeling to have my passion reflected back at me.

From a design point of view, what’s your creative process? How do you get going?
My ideas strike at such random and mundane times during day-to-day life. I’ll order a pizza and suddenly think “Hang on…I need to see a Scatterbrain pizza icon” or someone will talk about wanting a pet frog and I realise I need to add a frog character! It’s always running in the background of my brain. My desk is covered in post it notes of the ideas I suddenly have that I can’t act on right away.

Julia Broughton, Scatterbrain Studios

Recently – as my character Ed the Bat was so popular at BLE and Halloween was approaching – I decided to dedicate a bit more attention to him… It seemed the perfect time! I planned out a solid week of creating Ed content including patterns, accessory illustrations and lettering, forming a dedicated Halloween style guide. I enjoyed the process so much that I plan to do the same for Christmas and my Santa character.

Julia Broughton, Scatterbrain Studios

From a retail and sales point of view, where do you sell your art and products?
I currently have Scatterbrain greetings cards available on Moonpig and, on a smaller scale, in Barnes & Noble in the US. This year I also launched a collaboration with Kitsch Republic. They’ve licensed a lot of the characters and use them to create cushions and coasters in their Stockport workshop. That was a really exciting one for me – I’ve worked with cards for years, but homewares were a completely new venture! It was also amazing to collaborate with another small, female run business.

Julia Broughton, Scatterbrain Studios

It looks great, as do the Moonpig cards. What was it like working on that range?
Working with Moonpig has been really successful for Scatterbrain. Given my background, I’m extremely familiar with the customer base so I can design products especially for them and their needs, which I think is the key. It’s been really fun to create new characters and illustrations for the specific markets too, like a koala character for Australia.

The great thing about e-commerce is that it really widens your customer base and helps spread awareness of your brand, which is so important for a brand as young as Scatterbrain. It’s the same for my collaboration with Kitsch Republic. They have an online shop so people across the country – and beyond! – can cuddle up to a Mr Kitty cushion on the sofa, which makes me so happy.

How would you sell art and design to other retailers? Why should they be working with artists like yourself?
Licensing art from artists like myself opens so many new avenues to retailers. It’s wonderful to have an in-house design team, but creativity is so individual – everyone has their own style or a set of skills they work best in. You might have an incredible vector illustrator in-house, but what if you want to create a range featuring watercolours? That’s not a skill that someone can just take a stab at.

“Licensing art from artists like myself opens so many new avenues to retailers.”

By licensing artwork from an artist, you can find someone with a talent you don’t currently have and then widen your product offering. Licensing really compliments in-house design.

The world of art and illustration is a competitive one. How do you make sure you stand out?
I think first and foremost, passion is needed. If you want to create great artwork you can’t look at what’s already out there, decide to recreate it and think you’ll be just as successful. It’s already been done! Why be a second-rate version of somebody else? You need to find a discipline or style that really speaks to you and comes somewhat naturally.

Most importantly you need to love it because this journey can be a long one and you have to stick with it even when people are ignoring your emails or your Instagram posts only have five likes! Throughout my career, I’ve found people start to take notice when you’re clearly passionate about what you’re creating. Your enthusiasm can be contagious and if you keep doing it people will – slowly – start to pay attention. If you include yourself in that journey, followers will become invested and will genuinely want to see you succeed.

I’ve made so many friends via social media throughout my career. I even have a lady in the US who regularly DMs me to find out when she’s going to see new cards of mine in Barnes & Noble. She’s cheering me on from thousands of miles away!

Lovely! Now, over the next year, what are some of your key targets for the business?
Increased brand awareness is probably first and foremost, but I would love to see some Scatterbrain products on the high street. I have a few cards on the shelves out in the US but I’d love to have that over here in the UK, so I think my first proper goal is to get cards and wrap licensed out and on the shelves.

Julia Broughton, Scatterbrain Studios

I can’t wait to walk into a store and see an end cap display of Scatterbrain products! I have an endless wish list for Scatterbrain though. Plush is something I need to see happen, but that probably sits in ‘five year plan’ territory!

As Scatterbrain is still so early in its life, I try to stay fairly open with regards to targets. I don’t want to get so bogged down chasing something specific that other opportunities pass me by.

Absolutely. And finally, if you were hosting a dinner party for three guests from the art, illustration and design world, who would you invite and why?
That is a tough question! I think my first guest would be Anna Rifle Bond. Rifle Paper Co has become such a behemoth and I’d love to pick her brains about how it all happened and how she does it. Although the artwork style is completely different, it’s the sort of company I’d love Scatterbrain to be one day.

“Throughout my career, I’ve found people start to take notice when you’re clearly passionate about what you’re creating.”

My second guest would be Claire Belton, who created Pusheen. Firstly, I adore the character – Pusheen is unbelievably cute – but I’d love to find out how Pusheen became so big and what the journey of building out the world was. I think I could learn some very important lessons for Scatterbrain!

Lastly, I think I’d invite Jessica Hische. I’m still a lettering artist and she’s pretty much the queen of lettering. I’d love to nerd out about typography and ridiculous things like our favourite style of serif!

Great picks! Thanks again Julia, let’s tie in again soon.

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