EastBay Today

Posted March 8, 2017

Inside Torys World

Meet the alumna whose illustrations are  filtering your life on Snapchat

The Las Vegas Strip. San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Times Square. They’re famed tourist destinations, but now they have one more thing in common — they’ve all been recreated for your smartphone by Cal State East Bay alumna and illustrator Tory DeOrian (B.A.  ’13, Graphic Design).

DeOrian has been commissioned by Snapchat to complete a series of “Geofilters” — place-specific artwork — for cities and attractions across the world, making her an indelible, albeit discreet presence in the lives of 150-million-plus daily users (about 10 million more than Twitter).

Tory DeOrian's Snapchat "Geofilters" feature some of the most popular tourist destination in the United States. At right, New Orlean's famed Bourbon Street.
Courtesy Tory DeOrian

But the figurative world DeOrian creates for your best-ever selfie — face-swapping and rainbow vomit optional — is just one iteration of a style she’s been exploring since she was a teenager. “I’ve always used my art to make people laugh or smile — to make people happy,” she says.

And the 25-year-old is finding there’s a robust commercial market for that.

In addition to her social media work, in the past year the East Bay native has also done several projects for Taco Bell headquarters and pop-up events; illustrations for the drone company MOTA Electronics and the children’s learning tools company Enuma; and she’s in the midst of designing for a toddler clothing line called Smarty Pants Leggings. Finally, DeOrian also contracts with a custom design agency called Geofilter Studio, which, if you can’t get enough of her playful cityscapes, allows users to commission their own unique Snapchat filters for weddings, birthday parties, special events and more. 

Manhattan's 5th Avenue, widely considered one of the world's best shopping districts.
Courtesy Tory DeOrian

The smattering of projects might seem disparate, but DeOrian credits Cal State East Bay with helping her find the common thread. “My freshman year, my [professor] had us do a 10-week project, and I dedicated myself to making my first website,” she says. “It didn’t look great but I had business cards and my own website — and I got really obsessed with creating a brand for myself. Since then, it’s just turned into this.”

Step by step, DeOrian has been evolving a signature style (she calls it colorful, unconventional, whimsical and yes, “girly”), and is working toward realizing her “biggest dream”: publishing her own children’s books. She moved to Southern California in 2016 to attend UC San Diego Extension’s children’s literature program and in February, she was offered representation at at a top literary agency in Southern California. She’ll soon be illustrating for other writer’s stories and has already begun developing her own.

DeOrian paid homage to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's newly renovated building by featuring its famous skylight.
COurtesy Tory DeOrian

But don’t let the rainbows and unicorns fool you. DeOrian illustrates 12-14 hours per day, and her advice to starting artists is to cultivate discipline. “I remind myself all the time that I’m living the dream — getting paid to do art is a dream come true,” she says. “But to be successful, I have to make art every day. Even an afternoon away from my desk sometimes feels like too much.”

Cal State East Bay Professor Suzy Wear taught digital illustration to DeOrian and supervised her senior project (an expansive line of stationery). “Her art may be whimsical,” Wear agrees, “but her work ethic is not. She’s quite serious about how she approaches things and the way she dives in.”