How A Young Designer Set Up Her Own Studio And Turned Her Hobby Into A Job

We often feature artists and designers who have built an empire out of a hobby and 26-year-old, Suzanne Nieuman, is one such artist. She set up, Phanatique, five years ago as a way to further develop herself as a designer but after just 12 short months she found it had become her full time job. “It went so well that I found myself never having to apply for jobs,” she enthused, “and I still don’t”.


Phanatique is all about design, though Suzanne does work with a team of freelancers to collaborate on projects outside of her preferred area. Her colourful illustrations are upbeat and positive, quirky and full of character.

Suzanne’s skill shines through in the simplicity of the designs – the estate agent for example – his facial features are limited to a moustache and a beaming white smile yet we get the measure of the man immediately.

She even manages to personify inanimate objects with her eye for colour palettes and defining details – like the ice-cream – designed using only 4 lines but


Though she is now a successful business woman, living a life many of us aspire to – having made her hobby her livelihood – Suzanne didn’t always know what she wanted to do. “As a kid I used to draw a lot, write my own stories and liked to try new things, like painting”, she explained, “but I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up even after I left high school”.

It is clear that design was what she was born to do though and her creativity and passion for what she does is contagious.


We spoke to the 26-year-old entrepreneur about running a business and her love of colour – amongst other things.

The Plus: How did you find the freelancers that you collaborate with?
Suzanne Nieuman:
The freelancers I work with I have met via-via, at high school but also at networking events. But they also approached me for collaborations.
When I’m positive about the company or person, I usually grab a coffee with them and just talk about their passion, their view and portfolio.


TP: Your colourful illustrations are bright and upbeat – does this reflect you as a person or did you was it a conscious decision to make them so?
I think you can express things better with colors, shading etcetera. I love to create nice color palettes that match well and make you happy. But I can appreciate pastel colors or black-and-white design too.
It just depends on the job or idea.
During one of my projects, for ‘Saul’, it appeared to be stronger to create a black-and-white version next to a colored version logo. With colors you can awake feelings and thoughts by people.


TP: Which of the projects you’ve worked on so far, have been your favourite?
I don’t really have favorites, because I like most of my projects in different ways.
If I had to choose one project, I think it would be Kirup. It was a very dimensional process, with a inspiring story behind the company and the product.
I was happy with the freedom and trust the client gave me. And still happy with the results.


TP: What is the biggest challenge in running a design studio?
The biggest challenge is to keep pushing yourself to the maximal, unique results for your client.
Besides that, it’s always unsure whether you will have ongoing projects. But that’s what makes it fun too, for me.
I’m not a planner, I live day by day. It keeps me motivated to connect with new people and places.

TP: Sum up your style in 3 words.
Flat, minimalistic, storytelling


TP: What inspires your daily illustrations?
Just everything in my daily life. Things I see/feel/hear when I’m biking through the city, when I’m walking in new places, when I’m traveling or listening to music, when I’m on the phone with somebody, you name it.
But I’m also inspired by other designers on Dribbble or Instagram. It is really informative aswell. Seeing other’s work and style makes me want to experiment with different things too. Luckily design is an ongoing thing, that’s developing itself. So that process never ends.


TP: What’s next for you?
I would love to create more designs for products, like clothing, mugs and so on. Available for anyone. So not just B2B work, but B2C aswell. And in the future I want to combine travel and work more. I did an experiment this year in Scandinavia and it worked well for me, so I want to try that more often.