Despite having graduated in 2016, graphic and type designer Jack Kimberley is already busy stamping his mark. Like his major influence graphic designer David Rudnick, whose work we have long championed on It’s Nice That, Jack found his feet designing posters and flyers for murky techno club nights. The subcultures lurking on a sweaty dancefloor offered the kind of dystopia he had been searching for. “I’d loved to have designed posters for hardcore events Dreamscape or Fantazia in the 90s,” Jack admits.
We caught up with the recent grad to find out what three years at Manchester School of Art taught him.
You graduated in graphic designer from Manchester School of Art last year. Tell us what you’ve been up to since.
After graduating, I was invited to work in a studio in a disused office building by one of my class mates at university. One advantage of living in the north is the large amount of unused industrial space. We work on a wide range of freelance and personal projects. I’ve mainly been working on posters and music ephemera, and I’ve found this to be a very pure graphic form and a great exercise to hone my skills further. There are only the elements and a single page – there is nowhere to run so to speak. Currently I’m designing for a few different electronic music nights at a couple of venues in Manchester and London, as well as a large fashion project that I’m incredibly excited about. I’m aware I’m very much still in my infancy and I’m still trying to find myself.
What’s the single biggest thing you learned at university?
I found university and design education incredibly reductive and baffling as well as hard to engage with, despite putting the hours in. My course seemed to push to a certain “role” or “place” in design and as a result simultaneously ignored the larger context and framework of design, teaching classic design as a problem solver for the client/design commodity model. Instead I used the experience as a practical resource, taking on board what I considered more solid information, such as the portfolio guidance from Ian Anderson [from The Designers Republic]. Instead of trying to absorb or learn the ethos of the school, I instead took absolute and quantitative information. After I completely flopped a portfolio critique with Ian, he explained exactly what I had to do, page by page and what each piece should offer. Aside from this type of information I learned mainly to not be discouraged because somebody that is supposed to be somebody big doesn’t like your work.
Kicking against the institution of formal education, your work references the dystopian discontent we’ve seen bubbling underneath the creative industry at the moment, particularly in fashion and music…
Visually, one of my big focuses is electronic music ephemera and the associated aesthetics. Early in university I was really into DIY and punk-looking stuff, but I employ this ethos a lot more subtly now. In terms of theory I use All Possible Futures as a kind of framework. I feel this combined with classic visual manuals like John Berger’s Ways of Seeing provide a grounded balance of thinking without dampening the vision of what design can be. Midway through my studies, I became familiar with the work of David Rudnick. This provided a theoretically and visually sound alternative to the homogeneous white middle class discourse I was being taught. The revelation in my own practise occurred when I discovered the work and writing of David Rudnick and Mark Fisher. Of what design could potentially be.
Generally, I draw inspiration from most things technological, the mechanical penumbra, or uncanny valley is a symbol in the machine war. It simultaneously widens its breadth in our everyday lives and tightens like a noose around our ability to perceive it. We live in a technologically industrialised post-resent, accelerating at faster speeds than ever before. I find this thought and the writings around it a great source of material. Films like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell both anticipate and reflect the future. I am fascinated with a looming techno dystopia and try to translate this into a graphic language.
Any big plans in the pipeline?
In the next six months I plan to put more time into learning type design. I am greatly interested but just getting to grips with the basics of the maths and Fontlab. I’m fast becoming more interested in type design than anything else. Eventually I’d like to study it at a European institution, perhaps The Hague or ECAL, though it’s very difficult or even impossible to fund a masters — so maybe in a few years! In the near future I want to properly establish a small studio in Manchester.