May 22nd, 2014 | By | 441 Comments

Meet Your Maker | Billabong’s Ryan Milner Billabong Graphic Illustrator Gives Insight to Action Sports Art Inspo


 What path did you follow to arrive at your Billabong art career?

From the beginning, I was blessed with great parents who fostered a creative environment and pushed me to do what I love. When I realized I wanted to pursue art for a living, I was intimidated, but worked as hard as possible. I eventually was accepted to Cal State Long Beach, where I majored in Illustration.

After graduating, I beat the bushes in a struggling job market, until landing my first gig creating tee graphics for a small company in Huntington Beach, CA. Down the line I moved into freelance joining forces with a rep service that helped field me work in the action sports industry. I was stoked, getting to design tee shirts for companies like Element, Quiksilver and Ezekiel until being presented with the opportunity to work full time at Billabong.

Over 4 years later, it’s still challenging, but I’m having a blast doing what I love everyday!

Walk us through your creative process.

Milner: The creative process for me is ever changing. While there are always formulas to fall back on, in order to evolve with style and trend, you have to be versatile. This helps keep things fresh.

I usually start with a tiny sketch, or “thumbnail” to establish an overall concept or idea. From there, it’s building out with whatever medium and technique feels right. By approaching each piece differently, you increase your conceptual and technical expertise as a designer. The more experience you have problem solving creatively, the faster and more elaborate solutions you can find.


Ryan Mocks up the Paradise Island Tee

Best thing about working in the Billabong M&D Room?

Milner: The crew…and donut Fridays. Being part of great team amplifies my creativity considerably and sustains me through the tougher times. Working in an office environment gets old fast, if you don’t enjoy or connect with the people around you. I’ve been very fortunate in my time at Billabong, to experience the benefits working alongside amazing people on the daily and the camaraderie that exists as a result.

Career advice for aspiring designers?

Milner: You never stop learning and if you suffer from the creative itch, you need an outlet. Find one you’re passionate about, something that can give back to you and your craft. People around you will enjoy the benefits of your hard work and talent, and they should.

It’s your responsibility as an artist or designer to reach people by sharing your gifts. Having fun is a great perk, but an even better one is getting paid to sharpen your abilities. While money should never be a driving factor in how you choose to be creative, do it because you love it and be the best at it.


 Ryan’s Toucan Sketch Inspired a whole line of Billabong’s Tropical Apparel


What inspires you outside of the studio?

Milner: I love traveling to LA, diving into the local art scene, or any place that is rich with culture and lifestyle. Japan and Berlin have been some incredibly inspiring places to visit. There are so many things to absorb from traveling abroad, fashion, music, architecture, art. I recommend traveling to anyone that has an opportunity to do so. If you’re looking to get inspired, do it, its unreal!

It’s a must to leave the studio or desk and experience the outside world. As a designer you need to be liquid, constantly evolving, considering, processing possibilities and ideas. There’s so much to see beyond a computer screen, its a must to detach for a bit and recharge. My best idea’s are born from accidents and experimentation of which, oddly enough, can occur only when I allow myself time away from daily routine.

What are you stoked about that’s hitting our shelves this fall?

Milner: Stoked on it all! There’s a ton of great product available from Billabong this Fall season–Everyone in M&D has been working their butts off to bring you some EPIC goods–Be sure to check em out!


Thank you for visiting the Swell blog. Visit us on for more exclusive fan offers, giveaways and more.
Posted by | See more posts from | About the author