Federico Mariani started reading comic books in Kindergarten. In school, his teachers all told him he couldn’t draw but that didn’t stop him from imagining characters and telling stories. Today, he is a full time illustrator, toy designer and visionary behind Rainbowland—a world he created where two of his characters, Kororo & Joujou live. See how Federico dreams up his next ideas, share his artwork, and finds inspiration with Pinterest!
Federico, can you give us a quick peek into your background in design and illustration?
My passion for illustration and toy design came early, since I was a kid. In Kindergarten, I devoured comics like the Italian “Corriere dei Piccoli” or Disney books and Marvel comics. I loved the illustrations and I knew somehow this is the job I’d want to do. My teachers all told me that I couldn’t draw. But ever since my schooldays, I’ve always been drawing characters, comics and illustrations.
How did you fall into toy design?
I’ve always been a big fan of toys. The golden years of my childhood coincided with the years of the great robot arriving from Japan, which is when I began a collection of Micronauts and Transformers. I’ve always been a big fan of collectible toys and action figures such as MOTU (Masters of the Universe), GI.Joe or M.u.s.c.l.e.
Then, 8 and 16-bit video games were introduced which influenced me a lot too. At that time, I began to draw robots and creatures.
In 2006, I started to consider the toy-design world as a possible job. I immediately started to create robots and other characters by drawing everything I had seen in my childhood. This opened the door for more real opportunities like to design the MICROBOIDZ plushes and the two sets of CALAMITI-CARS. I like drawing toys more than illustrating magazines or books, and that’s what I’d like to do more in the near future.
Pinterest has been very helpful in the search for ideas and useful for promotion. When I make two or three boards of my own work, it helps me get my images around the world, which is not easy with just a static website. As an artist, visibility is important. And with Pinterest, I can reach the eyes of many people.
Rainbowland is currently a “work in progress” project. It is a kind of world, or theme park of my dreams, where all the characters that I have created live. Although much of my research is on a hard disk, through Pinterest, I have a collection of several images of inspiration. It’s faster than a search on Google!
Others on Pinterest have so many interesting things on their boards, that once you enter it’s hard to get out of it. I use it mainly to search for illustrations such as researching graphic types. Sometimes it’s simply for ideas on how to dress or decorate the house. It is very useful!
Whats the most rewarding part about inventing new characters or stories?
I love the character design. The search for images, sketches and the combination of elements to create an interesting character is my favorite part of my job. It reminds me a lot when I selected the best pieces of Lego to make a better construction or how to mix the ingredients for a great recipe.
Lots of people have ideas about what makes good illustration. What’s your personal take on art, design and style?
There is no rule—it’s all relative—but probably the idea, original style and engagement. I am attracted by very colorful or accurate illustrations or by signs that remind me of something familiar. But there are also those who consider scribbles true works of art.
One thing that makes the difference is the “heart”. Some have it. You recognize it while others have just drawings. An Art Director of a magazine once said to me, “we see many things similar to yours, but yours have something more. You can see that there is a passion behind it.” I will never forget that.
Any words of encouragement for young designers looking to jump into toy design or illustration?
Passion, originality, hard work and patience. And to create your own recognizable style without copying others. Also do not be in a hurry to create a style. Sometimes it takes many years—as it happened to me—I tried for a while, and then at the end I found it from where I began. It is the happy ending of the story! Or the new beginning.