Chelsea Waites helps Pinterest capture Gen Z's Back to School season

As students begin their annual stationary spending spree, the illustrator creates heart-warming scenes to signal the return to education for the moodboard and ideas platform.

26 August 2021

Hello, September! Although it’s not always a cause for celebration, the end of Summer in this case heralds a wholesome collaboration between Pinterest and illustrator Chelsea Waites. With chunky figures and a soft colour palette, Waites hopes to invoke a joy in returning back to school and university through her eight illustrations commissioned for Pinterest.

Pinterest spoke to 13-25 year old users who are starting a new chapter in their lives – from starting a new school year, going to university for the first time or, for recent graduates, moving to a new city, starting an internship or getting their first job. Pinterest thereby hopes to be exciting, energetic, colourful, upbeat and the most inspiring platform for this demographic.

Waites, the Manchester-based illustrator, explains that Pinterest was quite keen for her to keep her style, “which was really flattering!” she claims. Waites usually opts for a muted colour palette and she knew that she wanted to “change that up” for this project – “Pastels and bold colours are popular with Gen Z and fortunately, Pinterest's branding already utilises these colours, so it was pretty perfect. I was able to marry my comically large ears with Pinterest's brand identity.”


Chelsea Waites: Hello, September! (Copyright © Pinterest, 2021)

Playful creativity was the main element Waites wished to highlight. She explains that she views her generation – Gen Z, as they’re commonly referred to – as a very creative generation. She wanted to make sure her illustrations reflected that: “I used fun outfits and adventurous make-up as my inspiration and wanted to mirror that in my work. Another element I felt was important was positivity; starting a new life event like university can be really daunting. I wanted to illustrate that it's more fun than it is scary.”

Waites enjoys the research process greatly when given a new brief, especially as she finds it “a lot less daunting” when she’s carried out as much research as possible. “I like to find motifs I can work into the project,” she maintains, “for example, Pinterest uses rounded corners on the Pins, so whenever I drew a square or rectangle, they had rounded corners. I also find it helpful to create mood boards with references and inspiration and, fortunately, I could find all that I needed on Pinterest!”

The beginning of the illustration process for Waites is a lot of writing. With ideas “whirling around [her] head” she feels the need to note it all down before she loses track of them. “To be honest, when it comes to sketching, all I use is an HB pencil and I'm very messy with it,” she admits, “my sketchbooks are not pretty.” Once she feels as if she has enough drawings, she will convert them to digital using an iPad Pro and Procreate, which she claims has been “life-changing”. She adds: “It makes creating digital art a lot more accessible; I love it.” Colouring is also her “absolutely favourite part of the process” as seeing the illustration she’s sketched come to life is very satisfying for the artist.

GalleryChelsea Waites: Hello, September! (Copyright © Pinterest, 2021)

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Chelsea Waites: Hello, September! (Copyright © Pinterest, 2021)

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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