“I got into design kind of by accident,” explains London-based graphic designer Jonathan Isaacson. Despite studying illustration at Brighton, Jonathan admits he became far more inspired by the work his friends were producing across the discipline bridge in graphic design, an area which appeared like “it was as much about the idea as it was about the final outcome,” he tells It’s Nice That.
Thankfully the course structure at Brighton intermixes graphic design and illustration students under one umbrella, allowing the designer to “move away from what would typically be seen as illustration,” he explains. “Brighton was great for this because it allowed for a more fluid interpretation of what it was to be an illustrator or graphic designer.” After graduating Jonathan took a leap and decided to apply for a bunch of jobs, “I thought fuck it and just applied for design jobs until someone was willing take a chance on the weird graphic design/illustration hybrid practice I had going on at the time.”
Understandably someone did and Jonathan took a job at Vice’s internal design studio, “who just saw me as another designer”. An opportunity like this allowed the designer to continue his graphic education, something he appears to love. “I feel like I’m continually learning on the job, I don’t really want to get to the point where I stop that feeling because it seems like once you feel you know everything, you’ve jumped the shark and you start to become past-it.” His hybrid nature is also reflected in his influences from animated television shows like Toonami and Cowboy Bebop, to more recent iterations like Over the Garden Wall and Adventure Time. Design’s relationship with music is also a key driver in his development, especially when considering the merge of traditional design and illustration on record sleeves, and “was really important for me when telling myself that I wasn’t a total fraud when I started designing things”.
This enthusiasm for learning about the many, many realms of graphic design, and the printed or digital shape it can take, is evident in Jonathan’s portfolio. Across his personal and professional work the designer has experimented with publication, record sleeve and website design, also more recently getting his teeth stuck into typographic work too. The idea at the forefront of the work seems to always lead Jonathan’s practice, particularly in a look book designed for fashion graduate Eleanor Carless. “As the collection was predominately inspired by the techniques of workwear and affordable manufacturing I wanted the book to feel like a lived-with-notebook, replicating the way in which she worked on the project.” A visually collaged publication is the result, with Eleanor’s work photographed by Ieva Blazeviciute and typography by designer Tommy Spitters.
While at Vice Jonathan continued his thoughtful approach particularly in a website design for its campaign Real London. As the objective of the site “was to house photographic and written essays about five of London’s most iconic and exciting boroughs,” the designer applied a physical frame of mind to a digital object for maximum effect. In turn, he designed “the site to feel like leafing through the pages of a guide book, with tabs that pulled down and across the pages, hopefully keeping the user exploring the site as much as possible,” he explains. Another project, an identity for Debate Club a series of articles on Vice’s EDM channel Thump, also uses physical experimentation as the designer drew inspiration “from classic club ephemera from the last 25 years,” he explains. Post creating a simple layout, Jonathan “constructed banners using a computer, then laid them out on my phone and scanned them back into my computer, only to edit them again in Photoshop,” in order to get a balance of nostalgic and “unique imperfections”.
After leaving Vice last year Jonathan has been jumping around as a freelance designer at various studios, the most recent being at Wonderland magazine gaining experience “on a load of the publications they handle,” he explains. On top of this the designer has also been teaching himself how to design type, drawing particular inspiration from science fiction and anime films, coming together in a recent font titled Kaneda. As Jonathan will be back in the freelance world in the next few months he hopes to continue “pushing myself out of my comfort zone,” excitingly wanting to “try out doing things in the cultural sectors,” too.
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