Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Cai Sepulis and I’ve been a designer/illustrator for the past 15 years. I focus a lot in food and beverage, specifically in packaging for beer brands and restaurants.
How did you get started as a graphic designer?
I actually didn’t go to school for it. I have a degree in Philosophy and in Architecture. When I finished my philosophy degree I started doing my own art shows. I began doing graphic design for my own posters and postcards to promote my shows. It turned out that other artists in town needed graphics done as well so I started doing their posters and realized I could start making money doing this thing! I combined this with the fine art that I was doing, and then Penguin Books contacted me to do a cover for them. From there it kind of just spiralled out of control.
One thing I always loved doing was drawing buildings. So I figured I’d go to school and get an actual degree in something and then I was hoping combining branding and design would lead to doing more interior and architectural work. I went to school, and loved it! But then I did some internships in the architectural field and realized that I loved what I was doing before.
What environment do you prefer to create your work in?
I have a home studio now that I work in. I’ve had other studios elsewhere before, but we just bought a new home and it has this great office with a gorgeous deck and big tables. It’s been great to be working from home. Our goal is to be in Dwell Magazine.
If your house was up in flames, what three art-related items would you grab?
Well I’d probably grab the giant iMac, my drawing tablet, and my iPad. But if I was going to go with the more romantic artist side, I’d go with my drawing pencils, my sketchbook.
What’s your creative process like?
It starts on pen and paper, and that’s usually out of office – in a coffee shop, or having a beer – and I start sketching to come up with ideas. Sometimes it’s from flipping through a magazine like Print or Applied Arts. I go from there and pick my top three ideas, see what sticks, and try to figure out the colour palette. So it’s a whole bunch of influences that come together. I think other people’s work influences me the most. We’ll be driving and have to stop the car to take a photo of a sign. Or I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll have to stop to take a photo of a colour scheme. So I’m constantly taking stuff in that influences my work.
How did you create our artwork?
Right away I started thinking about how a lot of Toronto landmarks could be turned into desserts, so that became the theme of the cover. I love how you guys use quirky jokes and cheeky things so I tried to incorporate that. So it was coming up with the concept, and then interjecting quirky things wherever I could. It turned out to be pretty action packed!
What’s your favourite space in Guelph?
Guelph is actually really great because it’s a university town, but there’s tons of little cafes, shops, and restaurants. It’s a very artsy place. It’s almost like you can pick one of your favourite spots in Toronto but in Guelph you can actually get a patio seat, a great craft beer list, and amazing coffee! In Guelph we love going to Planet Bean, Miijidaa, Bakers Street Stations – there’s tons of places! In Toronto we like Reunion Island and Dark Horse, and so many more.
You have such a unique and memorable name. What’s the background behind Cai Sepulis?
I’m Scandinavian – my mom is Estonian and my dad is Lithuanian so those kind of came together to influence my name. Once people figure out how to pronounce my name, they’ll remember it. I tell people it’s like Cairo.
What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on recently?
I’ve been working with Nordstrom which has been exciting as the Toronto store opened recently. A few years ago I developed all the gift cards for Nordstrom’s Canadian locations. As they opened in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa, I did an illustration for each city that can be seen on their gift cards. Finally the Toronto store is open so I can showcase that design.
Another exciting project coming up is for Hot Docs, a documentary film festival in Toronto. I’ve been doing their poster art for the past three years. Just this year they’re launching a podcast festival. They recently which I just finished the artwork for so I’m looking forward to that!
If you could give a word of advice to recent creative graduates, what would it be?
Based on young people I’ve worked with, I would say that you have to remember to stay humble and be accepting of criticism. That’s something that I have struggled with at times. Design is a collaborative process with a lot of give and take. Sometimes the decisions that are made aren’t what you agree with but it’s not worth pounding the ground for. My line is usually: I wouldn’t do it for this reason, but if that’s really what you want then that’s what we’ll go with. I think that’s a good approach to take. But I think that this fight comes from how students are taught in university to fight for their designs and their decisions. But once you’re in the real world you have to be able to communicate. Just remember that nobody is out to get you, and don’t take things too personally.
In another life, what career would you be pursuing?
I would have loved to be a firefighter, park ranger, or professional skateboarder.