For those bent on developing a signature design style, experimentation is key. Try everything and see what sticks, right? But as French illustrator and art director Marylou Faure discovered, setting restrictions to the creative process is sometimes the best way to evolve your work. In a recent talk at Adobe UK’s Creative Meetup series, Faure explained that when she first started freelancing, her portfolio’s aesthetic was so diverse it was hard to identify what was quintessentially “Marylou.”

Her training at L’Esag Pennighen in Paris, where she received her Master’s degree in art direction and graphic design, encouraged students to experiment with as many different creative skills as possible, from video production and web design, to photography and illustration. This came in handy during a series of internships at studios in London, and later when she landed a job at Nice and Serious, a creative agency that focuses on sustainability and environmental issues.

With clients like the Rainforest Alliance, the World Wildlife Fund, and Ben & Jerry’s, Faure was responsible for creating storyboards and styleframes for an array of quirky characters that motion designers would later animate for their clients’ campaigns and educational videos.

However, working under the style guides of other brands didn’t allow her to work towards a visual identity that was truly her own. “I always wanted to go freelance,” she says, “but many illustrators don’t want to make that big jump for fear of not having enough work.” To ease herself into the freelance life, Faure scaled her full-time job down to part-time and took clients on the side. “When I felt ready, I went full-time freelance—that was definitely a massive step in my professional life!”

Concerned that her portfolio was not yet cohesive, Faure decided to set some creative ground rules by limiting herself to only work in a color palette that would reflect her self-described bright and bubbly sensibilities.

Marylou Faure’s limited color palette

Pretty soon her personal projects had hooked big fish clients like Google, Nokia, M&C Saatchi, and Vice. And it’s no wonder that she’s in such high demand; regardless of the subject matter or client brief, there’s an inherent joyfulness to Faure’s illustrations (we’re hardly immune ourselves).

That joy is evident in her hand lettering and line work, both of which evoke the buoyancy of balloon animals with a sly—but never pandering—undercurrent of sass. In projects like her “negative phrases” sticker set for Google’s messenger app Allo, she creates playful contradictions between text and image with sweet, but not saccharine, anthropomorphic characters who offer cheeky, zero-tolerance responses to your friends’ latest text message drama.

The confident, voluptuous ladies and brawny men who populate her compositions depict both the banality and absurdity of relationships in the modern world through a blend of humor, fantasy, and a little bit of skin. Faure says situations these figures find themselves in are taken “from things I’ve seen or conversations I’ve overheard. A lot of the characters I draw, I’ve actually met the equivalent in real life.” If that’s the case, we can’t wait to see who she’s eavesdropping on next.