We catch up with Jo Minor to find out why he’s letting his creative work get a bit more “messy and organic”
The graphic designer explains how T-shirt design, science diagrams and even Lord of the Rings have influenced his dynamic style.
- Olivia Hingley
- 7 December 2021
Since we last spoke to the Denver based graphic designer Jo Minor in 2019, there have been a lot of exciting changes in his creative practice. “I used to make almost everything with Risograph printing in mind – now I only do that if the piece is actually going to be printed that way (which isn't often).” Moving away from his focus on Risograph has also expanded Jo’s use of colour. Previously focusing on working only in “pink, yellow, and blue,” Jo states that “now, pretty much anything goes. I really just got bored of working that way and wanted to experiment with colour more.” Certainly, Jo’s more recent body of work is distinguished by a broader palette; deep purples, bright greens and warm oranges now predominate his retro pieces.
With graphic design now being Jo’s full-time job, he sees his varying style to be in part down to developing a broader clientele: “I think my work has become stylistically inconsistent with different people wanting very different things. I think at first this kind of bothered me but now I actually enjoy this lack of limitation [...] there is infinite room for experimentation and metamorphosis – which keeps things exciting.” From film posters and gig posters to portraits of musician friends and graphics for Bandcamp, Jo’s expanding repertoire appears endless.
Never short of inspiration, Jo’s work looks to numerous heavy hitters of 1960s and 70s illustration, painting and design; the America-based Paul Davis and Milton Glaser of Push Pin Studios and Japanese comics painter Tiger Tateshi, to name a few. But, deviating from the purely creative industries, Jo even finds inspiration in “science books and diagram illustrations.” Recently buying a book of graphic designer’s Kohei Sugiura’s diagrams, Jo finds it striking how “the images are super abstract and full of crazy colour and movement” and thinks “the fact that it’s all illustrating data just makes it that much cooler.” It is easy to see, in their other-worldliness and bold use of colour, how Sugiura’s diagrams have served as a natural point of reference for Jo.
One thing that certainly hasn't changed in Jo’s work is the importance of absurdity and humour. Earlier this year, after bonding over “crazy vintage shirt designs,” Jo and his comedian friend Danny Catlow began designing T-shirts together. The stand out pieces – two wacky designs for their favourite Chicago-based coffee shop Four Letter Word – Jo cites as being his favourite recent project. With Danny doing most of the word-play, Jo used the project to push himself out of his creative comfort zone: “[the characters] were all drawn by hand and there was no digital airbrushing involved so it was pretty different from the norm for me.” Straying away from his usual style, the designs are refreshingly original, and as a self-professed “Lord of the Rings nerd,” Jo enjoyed letting himself transgress into “full fantasy mode.” A coy looking alien, a figure made of coffee beans and a latte stirring wizard adorn the T-shirts, giving them an assuredly weird individuality.
Even where Jo’s work takes a more sinister turn – with ominous figures, screaming men and gravestones in abundance – he still intends to keep things cheerful: “I think at the end of the day, I intend most of what I make to be pretty light-hearted and not to be taken too seriously even if it’s a bit horror-inspired sometimes.” In just two years Jo’s work has come in leaps and bounds – we can’t wait to see what he’s got up his sleeve next.
Jo Minor: Another page from Wonderful World (Copyright © Jo Minor and Can Can Press, 2020)
About the Author
Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in illustration, photography, ceramic design and platforming creativity from the north of England.