Interview with Illustrator and Designer David Szalay, by Lisa L. Cyr

This is the second interview in a 5-part artist interview series by artist and teacher Lisa Cyr. These interviews feature a Q&A and the promotional projects of her students at the University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School MFA program. Today’s graphic designer interview is with David Szalay. Enjoy!

Interview with illustrator and designer David Szalay

David Szalay

Q: Can you talk about your brand and how you were able to incorporate that vision into your promotional materials?

A: I provide narrative illustration inspired by whimsical advertising and storybook art from the 1950s and ’60s. My style could be categorized into the decorative tradition of illustration, which was popular during the mid-20th century. My promotional materials are anchored by my identity, which is a logotype built by splitting and stacking my last name into two syllables. I use a bold, playful, serif typeface centered within a square motif surrounded by a lyrical, decorative border.

I placed several spot illustrations onto a variety of two-sided postcards and business cards, as well as 4″ x 6″ folded greeting cards. I used several retro-looking typefaces to spell out Dave Szalay Design & Illustration as well as my website Typography will continue to be an important element of my presentation since I come to illustration after decades of working as a graphic designer. The idea was to create an ongoing series that mimics nostalgic collectables such as bubblegum cards. The second part of my promotional effort was to create and post a video teaser that showcases a sampling of my work and demonstrates an animated short of one of my images. I am interested in motion graphics as well as still images. The video follows the vintage, whimsical theme that frames the work in an engaging and entertaining format, driving the character of my brand even further.

Q: What advice can you give other illustrators/artists when it comes to self-promotion?

A: I am a firm believer first in authenticity and second in persistence. As an individual artist, your brand needs to sincerely state who you are and what you do. Your brand is your packaging and the consumer of your product wants to know what’s inside. The goal is to engage someone’s attention, while presenting the type of work that you want to do. If your presentation is clear and concise, prospective clients may give you a shot. It is most important that you get your work out there, frequently refreshing your images with new ones so that people have a reason to follow you.

David Szalay

Q: How has the Hartford Art School low-residency MFA Program in Illustration helped you in further realizing your career goals as an artist?

A: I was able to essentially reinvent myself during my time in the program. I was convinced to steer toward graphic design and away from illustration during my undergraduate studies in the 1980s for job security. Working as a designer over the years allowed me to occasionally incorporate some illustrative elements into my layouts but it was never the focus. I recently downsized my design practice to focus on a full-time teaching position. This was an opportunity to make a mid-career adjustment towards becoming a knowledgeable and practicing illustrator. It was not a huge stretch for me but I needed a springboard and some inspiration. Emerging myself into this unique program helped me gear up on the history of illustration through Murray Tinkelman and to explore and discover my illustrative voice through the studio classes. I feel my teachers  and classmates inspired me to push myself much further than I expected. I am thoroughly energized and excited about both my teaching as well as my professional practice and most importantly, I’m having a blast!


The Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford has designed an elite low-residency MFA program for seasoned illustrators who seek to move their careers to the next level, while earning a master’s degree for college-level teaching.  Dr. Murray Tinkelman, Hall-of-Fame illustrator, historian and the 1999 Society of Illustrators’ Distinguished Educator in the Arts award recipient, is the director of this cutting-edge program. Tinkelman’s years of experience in the field are an asset, attracting internationally-recognized artists eager to teach under his directorship. “It is taught by professional illustrators who are also dedicated and talented educators,” comments Tinkelman. “The students who enter this program are equally committed to the field of illustration. They come from all over the world, courageously checking their egos at the door and ready to plunge right into the learning process.”


Within the Layers: Inspirational Mixed Media Art Techniques

This online workshop will investigate exploratory methodologies, techniques and approaches in mixed-media art. Throughout the workshop, exciting in-depth demonstrations will be shown, providing an extensive array of visually-stimulating possibilities for artists to explore. Both two-dimensional and three-dimensional techniques will be covered. For artists that are looking to push their work to a new level, this workshop will be a valuable resource and an ongoing source for creative inspiration. Course registration comes with a digital download of Experimental Painting by artist and author Lisa L. Cyr.

Experimental Painting by Lisa L. Cyr




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