Berlin-based illustrator Kati Szilagyi’s editorial portfolio features a wealth of strong female characters in images filled with narrative and comedy. She’s also managed to carve a solid editorial illustration career without tying herself down to one media. In her work for Der Spiegel, Bloomberg Businessweek, Buzzfeed and The New York Times, she’s used a range of approaches, including both pencil drawing and cut-out collage, with digital finishing.
“Sometimes the techniques mix together, other times I like to preserve the individual styles,” she explains, “so my work can vary from a focus on lines and details to geometric forms and colours. I try to find an image that captures the mood or gives the content a little twist, often telling a story.”
In early 2017 she was asked by Buzzfeed to apply her cut-out style to an image for an article about the podcast My Favourite Murder. “When cutting out I have to mainly think in shapes not lines, which was challenging at first but allowed me to come up with new and exciting solutions. The show has many female listeners who say the it made them feel stronger and more capable of making themselves heard when feeling unsafe, and I liked the empowerment the podcast gave women. In my illustration I aimed for a more or less sinister scene where the women stays a strong and focused character. The harsh shapes the cut-out gives were perfect for this.”
In a series for Austrian women’s magazine Wienerin, Kati used her pencil-drawn style to illustrate “silly” beauty questions like “Why does make-up vanish when we sleep?” and “Do facial creams work better when we believe in them?”. “They wanted to depict the silly answers with fresh colours and loud, funny illustrations,” explains Kati. “As women’s magazines sometimes show charming but one-dimensional characters, I took my time to make my women diverse, strong, a bit dramatic, sometimes with sass.”
Kati says she found this career path after her uni professor took the class to New York in 2009 to visit people like Nicholas Blechman, then art director at The New York Times Book Review, and has a keen interest in current affairs, which clearly gives her editorial work depth and awareness. “Keeping my eyes open to my surroundings, to politics, current topics and trends and channelling them myself or discussing them with friends forms me, as well as my work. I’m not overly and directly political in my free projects (yet). Nevertheless every output has a thought, a feeling, an idea behind it.”