Tell us about your education and career path. The path that took me where I am is not really linear. In Italy, where I grew up, there is a lack of creative degrees offered by universities, especially compared to the States. My father is an architect, like all of the older generations of Italian designers, so I always thought the only creative path was through architecture.
I graduated in Industrial Design and then continued with a masters in Visual and Multimedia Communications at IUAV University of Venice. Between my studies I worked for a design firm there called Studio Camuffo. The experience was very formative, and opened my eyes to the idea that illustration and making comics can be a career.
As I moved to the States, I immediately began working as a graphic designer, doing illustration on the side. That's what I still do now: I'm a designer in the Anthropologie Catalog team, and I run an illustration studio where I collaborate with Andy Rementer.
What does your day-to-day work on the Anthropologie catalog entail?
It's a very fast-paced environment, having 15 printed catalogs per year to send out... it kinda never stops. I'm involved in the type and layout explorations, but mainly I focus on the execution and edits of each issue. I love when sometimes I can squeeze in some illustrations for the blog.
Margherita in her studio.
Outside of your work at Anthropologie, what is exciting you about your art?
First of all, Iʼm very lucky to be working in a creative environment like Anthropologie, with so many other talented people. On top of that, the whole Urban Outfitters campus is a place that really respects other creative endeavors — you can tell because everybody has other passions on the side. Itʼs very exciting to talk to your coworkers and know youʼre not alone pulling all-nighters on your personal projects.
Going to work everyday gives me the discipline that I need creatively, while the motivation I put into my nights at the studio feeds the focus in my job. Itʼs a good balance.
An illustration for the Anthropologie Blog.
What kinds of media do you use to create your art?
I always start sketching by hand, and ultimately execute my art with a brush, ink, or pencil. Of course the computer is a tool in my process, especially for coloring. It's nice sometimes to go totally analog, like the the time I painted a mural. Also, working large- scale was different for me, but a lot of fun.
Margherita Urbani's mural outside of Elixr Coffee. Photo by Ryan Greenberg.
Aside from that project, what else have you been working on recently?
The year started with some editorial illustrations for some blogs and magazines in Italy, France and UK. I end up working with Europe quite a bit. Being able to speak multiple languages makes it easy to communicate and create networks with other countries, so I kind of go back and forth.
Comic for Teiera, 'Ten Steps in the City'. Available here.
How would you describe your personal take on design, your aesthetic?
I donʼt know if I am good at describing what I do (laughs). Overall, my illustration work is very colorful. Typography is very important, and I often end up doing something bold, but somehow feminine, even though I'm not girly.
In my comics I try to inject a sense of humor and criticism. Sometimes I draw myself as a cartoon to vent some frustrations. I'm not sure if this is typical of female illustrators, but it just comes natural to go down that path. I like that with personal work you are free to be more edgy, or harsh, or more critical. While with commissioned jobs you have to...well, I donʼt want to say that you have to be more careful, but definitely there is a bit of a filter.
Margherita browses through Apartamento Magazine, an Italian-Spanish publication where she and her husband, Andy Rementer, have contributed a series of comics.
Being an artist in Philadelphia, do you feel any pulls to larger art scenes in LA or NY? Are you really invested in the art scene here?
There are definitely great design and illustration universities here. Unfortunately being so close to New York, you can feel there is a migration for young creatives in that direction. Especially in the creative world you can't compete with cities like New York.
So I end up going there quite often myself, for its museums, or shows, or events. I think Philadelphia has a lot of potential, and it's still very affordable. Hopefully one day the migration is going to be the other way.
Who are your role models or inspirations? Who do you look up to in the art world? And within your own community?
There are some illustrators, cartoonists, and artists that I go back to over and over.
Chris Ware to start: nobody can do visual storytelling like him. Robert Crumb is obviously another big influence; I think everything has been said about him already.
Daniel Clowes, Maira Kalman, and Esther Pearl Watson are all big points of reference for me.
Have you faced any challenges in your industry as a woman?
The difference between USA and Italy is very wide if we talk about women in the workforce and in the culture. The "glass ceiling" is made of cement there. There are definitely more opportunities and chances here, and I feel the benefit first hand, but the best part is that women here are much more emancipated and respected.
About this, I love the magazine A Womenʼs Thing: it's made by women about womenʼs issues and topics. How awesome is that? I recently collaborated with them, drawing a comic for their 'anxiety' issue.
Iʼve noticed a resurgence of cool, independent print magazines in the past five or so years. Does that open up opportunities for an illustrator or designer like yourself?
Yeah, there are a ton of new independent magazines about design, photography, or typography... Theyʼre distributed also in non-traditional stores, like clothing stores or bookstore-slash-coffee-shops. This crossover has been happening for a while in the States and Europe, it's really interesting. They say print is dying, and sure thatʼs true in a way, but a lot of these publications come from people who do that on the side, maybe supported somehow through other jobs. If you're an illustrator you also have this scenario to work with, and that's amazing, because you can be part of something really special.
What kind of advice would you give to young designers?
Persevere. Be patient. Things will come with hard work. It can take a while...like in every profession you are going to start at the bottom. If you are passionate, keep doing it, and itʼs going to pay off eventually.
What should we look out for? Any upcoming or recent projects?
I'm very proud of a collaboration with Valley Cruise Press that just launched. It's a series of pins on the theme of summer, with some LA vibes. It was really great to work with them, and there's more to come. Also, I recently contributed to a project about emojis... If you follow my instagram you know I am obsessed with that, so it was very fun to work on.
A photo posted by @margheurbani on May 11, 2015 at 10:39am PDT
Do you have a motto or something that you tell yourself that keeps you going?
Ha! I donʼt, but I guess what I do everyday is just staying focused, being motivated, and just keep working. If you feel that something is right for you, just pursue it.
Margherita's collaboration with her husband Andy Rementer in Apartmento Magazine