Ed. Note—over the next few weeks and months, we're publishing a series on the people and processes who craft the look and feel of the Wattie Ink. brand. This week we focus on artist Brittany Arcila. Brittany is responsible for many of the iconic Wattie Ink. designs, like the redesigned Blackfish kit, the new Juniper swimsuit, Rachel McBride's Super Kitty, and several of Heather Jackson's race kits.
SoCal raised Brittany Arcila always had a creative side. As a kid, fascinated by sea life, she thought she wanted to be a marine biologist, designing environments for ocean creatures. Biology classes in school kept getting in the way, however (how would cutting frogs open save the ocean?), so she shifted to her next passion, art design. She never looked back.
As one of Wattie Ink.’s chief art designers, Arcila is one of the women behind Heather Jackson’s race kits, and probably the stock kit you’re wearing for your race this weekend! We sat with her to talk about her journey, inspirations, passions, and what rad designs may be coming down the pipeline.
Q: Were you active as you were growing up?
A: Oh, yeah. I played basketball at Monte Vista High School in Spring Valley, Calif. I was also involved in theatre, so my life then was the gym, and then to rehearsal.
Q: When did art become a central part of your coming up?
A: I’d have to say I’ve been into art my whole life. My dad does art, and my mom does well with acrylic and charcoal, though makeup is her passion. So for sure, I’ve been around the art world for my upbringing.
It’s funny, but I initially didn’t want to get into art; I wanted to be a marine biologist, because I love the ocean and wanted to be on a submarine, helping sea life. But by the time I took biology, it wasn’t going well; I was like "well…maybe I won’t be a marine biologist!"
At the same time I’d always been into video games. I thought, “I can’t be a scientist, so why not get into art?" When I applied to The Art Institute of San Diego my junior year of high school, I went into interior design. I didn’t enjoy coding for video games, so I switched my major to graphic design. I figured I could do the illustrations in gaming. And gaming is something I’m still passionate about. I actually do work with a small indie video game company on the side…It’s an eSport platform fighting game with various indie game characters from other games.
Q: With that whole gaming and art world, you probably go to ComiCon every year?
A: I’ve gone the last 18 years, ever since I was a kid. I love it!
Q: Are you fans of some of the comic artists?
A: Stan Lee (ed: the Marvel Comics artist famous for drawing Spiderman). I’ve seen him a few times there. I gather so much inspiration from these comic artists. Stanley Lau, guys like that. I go almost for anyone whose artwork looks cool.
Q: How did you come to Wattie Ink.?
A: I was working in apparel in retail, paying my bills, picking up whatever job I could get. I had an initial freelance job out of college, and did packaging design for a product. It was awesome.
But working retail—it sounds like a fairly tale, but doing that I’d hit rock bottom. Then Enrique (ed: one of the project managers at Wattie Ink. HQ) hit me up on LinkedIn and told me about an opportunity in production. I said “screw it; I’m ready to take this chance.” I told Enrique “Yes please, send more info." I came in for an interview, and rest is history.
Q: What were some of your first assignments?
A: The first things were inline apparel, reworking designs that were already made. Then I’d do a quick t-shirt, or some women’s running tights and swimsuits. Initially, it was little things here and there. Eventually there were more, then they said “Here’s your first real one.”
Q: What was that?
A: It was a re-release of Blackfish. They wanted a new take, because people liked it. I just designed what I made, Heather and Wattie saw it, and it turned out she said she wanted to race it in Kona! I was like "holy crap!"
Q: How is having someone like Wattie—a guy who has a good fashion sense of his own—to bounce ideas off, and have that approval for big assignments like Heather’s race kits?
A: It feels really good. I’m not looking for a gold star with every piece, but he gives me critiques, we talk things out, how to make things better how can we make it cooler. It really is good working with him. For me as a designer, I’m learning a lot.
Q: So much of the rest of the Wattie Ink. line has your fingerprint on it. From where do you draw your inspiration for designs, and then how do you take that inspiration to finished product?
A: Obviously, there’s lots of brainstorming. When I did a Rachel McBride’s Purple Tiger kit, she had electrical tape print. I looked at that and said "let’s do this, this sounds awesome." It’s cool to find that connection with the person I’m making things for, and it’s a fun process digging deeper on what they want to make it happen.
Q: What’s your design process? Or, put another way, how do you differentiate your designs from everything else out there?
A: My main goal is to look at what others have done from—wild patterns to simple and clean—and ask “What can I do that’s different, that’s outside the box?” I go with my gut instinct on a lot of it, asking myself “Does this look cool?” If I’m not feeling it, Wattie and the rest of the team aren’t gonna feel it.
Q: How rewarding is it for you to see not just the pros, but age groupers that really engage and identify with your designs as a reflection of their personality while racing?
A: I think it’s awesome! I try to stay humble and don’t want to seem terribly cocky, but I’m really proud of it. If someone thinks something I’ve done is awesome, that’s great. If not, I always want to ask, what can I do to improve? But yeah…it’s friggin awesome when I hear someone say something I’ve done is rad! But I always remember there’s always room for growth.
Q: What new challenges do you see for yourself designs for the next year?
A: Oh, I have ideas in my head of what I want to do. I have to figure out how to make it look cool and see if the bosses like it. But I do I try to take a step at a time; I don’t want to think too far down the road.
If you want to follow Brittany’s escapades, you can find her on Instagram @ravnbee