Interviewing Idols: Wes L Cockx
Belgian 3D Illustrator and Type Designer, Wes, produces unique and experimental designs that combine digital graphics with realistic textures, materials and lighting to create incredibly versatile designs which has gained him a substantial position in the 3D design world. Wes was one of the first people I spoke to about 3D design, and he really is a design idol to me.
Wes, better known by his online pseudonym CREAM, is one of a kind. When you think of type design or hand lettering, Seb Lester or Jessica Hische are the typical names that pop up, but with 3D being more and more popular and accessible, a whole new breed of ‘illustrators’ appeared. Wes is one of the forerunners in this department. He has worked for plenty of big-name companies, like as Nike, Pepsi, Absolut Vodka and Land Rover, which shows he certainly is good at what he does!
Why does he inspire me?
When I started doing Product design in AS/A level, I realised I wasn’t a drawer, that’s still true to this day. So I used my computer skills to try out 3D modelling, slowly developing my skills on Fusion 360, trying Blender and eventually, I stumbled upon Cinema 4D. I’d used it before, but not for more than 10 minutes. I decided to go on Instagram and see what others were doing with it, Wes was one of the first people I religiously looked at. I’m not sure if it was the flashy gold colours on the 3D modelled letters, or the intricate still life’s that hooked me on Wes’ work, but boy I certainly wanted to find out how to do that!
Wes’ work showed me that you don’t have to be the best at drawing to be a “designer”, you need to be creative, inventive, innovative, experimental and all the other adjectives that describe his work. Not only is Wes’ work aesthetically pleasing, but his attention to detail is second to none. Whether it’s lighting or texturing, Wes makes sure his designs are as realistic as possible. Though Wes doesn't post on Instagram daily, his consistency, like many other designs, is what has allowed him to grow his following. Wes told me in one of our first emails to just enjoy yourself. Design what you want to design, not what others tell you to. This is why I believe the ‘daily post’ genre is detrimental to the future of designers, as it encourages people to create work they aren’t happy with, just to keep posting consistently on Instagram.
I adore Wes’ style, it’s something you don’t see every day as it constantly changes. Taking influence from pop culture, music and modern design, Wes’ work never gets boring and it’s a great place to delve into if you ever need some design inspiration!
The Interview Part
I was lucky enough to be able to ask Wes some questions about himself and his career. I hope this’ll give you a little bit of an insight into Wes’ life, personal and commercial as well as his design process. It’s not every day you get to interview an idol!
1. Would you be able to say just a little bit about yourself and how you started your journey into the world of design?
In short, I sort of started out “designing” terrible posters and flyers for local concerts and parties years ago using Photoshop and Illustrator. After studying graphic design for a few years and some short term jobs at studios, I landed an agency job for about 6 years in advertising. That was the same period I started doing freelance gigs on the side and discovering the world of CGI. I installed some trials and cracks of software, and remember I after a few weeks that I got stuck into Cinema 4D.
2. I know you’ve worked with some of my favourite and best agencies in the industry, which include Vault 49 and ILOVEDUST, how did make these agencies turn their heads towards your work?
In the last two years of working at that agency, I spent my evenings and weekends working on improving my Cinema 4D skills, and went onto doing some freelance and personal work until I finally had the guts to make the jump to working full-time freelance. This allowed me to focus more on commercial work for great companies like these!
3. Could you give some insight into your creative process? (As much detail or as little as you’d like e.g. Do you sketch ideas or go straight to digital media?)
I don’t really have a progress set in stone to start new projects, every project is always so different! Sometimes you get a brief that is very detailed and the client knows what they need very specifically — other times you get an open brief and there is a lot of room to experiment. For typography projects, I will often “sketch” out a rough base in Illustrator, while with more illustrative jobs I often combine simple clay renders that I sketch over on my iPad. My way of working is more what suits the project and timeline best.
4. What other activities do you enjoy besides Digital Design?
I’ve always been a big music nerd, I used to play in bands myself for years till I lost the time and ambition for it, but I still go to concerts and shows as often as possible! I love to travel, with my most recent roadtrip going through North America, which is why I am very late with answering these questions!
5. If you could, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Making mistakes is part of learning and growing so I’d let it all happen again but I might’ve warned myself about that one client that I’d rather never worked with ;)
6. What piece of advice would you give to anyone wanting to improve their work and grow in the digital design world?
Play, experiment and have fun — there are no rules for what we do! If you know what you want to do you should be doing it already! Client work doesn’t always come by easily, but well-executed personal work does get noticed out there. If you have an idea that would work for a company or brand just MAKE IT! Get it out there on social media and your online portfolio. Sometimes it only takes that one client project to get the ball rolling for more work to come in. There must be tons of amazing work and experiments that are living a quiet life on people’s hard-drives.
7. Do you have any big designs in the works or anything that excites you about the future of your career?
Unfortunately, I can’t share that much at the moment due to non-disclosure agreements but I can say that I recently did some really fun work for Google and GoDaddy which will be used in the fall.
(SO excited for this Wes!)
8. Where do you get your inspiration for projects? Who inspires you!
Something a lot of artists do when they start out is to only focus on other people who do what they would love to do. It takes time and persistence, but it is important to find your own style and way to try and stand out. Now for me, the inspiration can be anywhere... Architecture, street surroundings, music and so on.
9. I initially followed your work due to the incredible Cinema 4D work you produce, and it’s only gotten better! Are there any other programs you’d like to try out for your design work?
What is both exciting and sometimes scary to me in the CGI world is that there is not one big company like Adobe who is basically the only company that develops the software. There is always new software and tools out there that are innovating and giving you a whole new bag of tools to use on top of what you’ve always used, you need to keep your focus on what you do and what you want to do but it’s also important to keep up with those new things and not fall behind. I’ve recently started to take my first baby steps in Houdini and it is the new possibilities are incredible!
10. Who has been your favourite client to work with? (I know you have a long list of them haha!!)
I don’t really have a favourite client, however, my favourite clients are the ones that contact me for the skills I have, and not send a brief that often contains half the portfolio of someone else. Those are the clients that make me wonder if that person was too busy, or they want to find somebody who can just copy the style for a lower budget. I understand that the client has a specific purpose for what they will hire somebody but in my opinion, the work is always better when that person is doing it’s own style. I do have personal highlights though! Like the Nike Air Max China campaign and also the work I’ve done for Penguin Random House, but once I finish a project and publish it in my portfolio, I look more forward to what is ahead then what is behind me.
11. Thank you for taking part in this for me Wes. As I said I’ve been following you for a good while now and have watched your progression throughout and it’s been amazing to watch! For the people who will read this interview, what are your social media links for people to follow your future work? (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Websites etc…!
You can check out my work over on my Instagram page @Wes_Cream or take a look at my other pages!
Just wanted to say thank you to Wes for doing this. If you haven’t seen his work before, I urge you to go check it out! He was one of the people who inspired me to pursue 3D design, has he inspired you to check it out?
Cheers for reading! Here’s my social links if you wanna check out my work