As a child, Jordan Awan spent hours diligently studying his parents’ anthology of New Yorker cartoons. They say the apple rarely falls far from the tree and, in Jordan’s case, this is undeniably true: many of his ancestors were themselves renowned artists, including Rea Irvin, Otto Soglow, Saul Steinberg and Charles Barsotti. It was, however, during a family outing that Jordan decided on a creative career. “My parents took me to a Keith Haring show in DC in the early 90s, maybe 1992; seeing his work is what made me want to be an artist,” Jordan recalls. 20 year later, Jordan fulfilled his childhood dream and became art director at The New Yorker.
Jordan majored in illustration at Pratt Institute, before embracing freelance life while working as a part-time designer. “I liked the conceptual aspect of illustration – the way it can tell a story, solve a problem, or communicate an idea. At that time I was really rediscovering my love of drawing, learning how to have fun doing it, and figuring out how to translate this very personal work I was doing in my sketchbook to actual projects.” However, when a job at The New Yorker, one of Jordan’s clients, opened up, he sent off a successful application. As it turned out, art direction came naturally to him because it was, in Jordan’s words, “a blend of the illustration and design processes that felt natural”. He has since creative directed MIT Technology Review and now works as an adjunct professor in the illustration department at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
When he’s not art directing, creative directing or teaching, Jordan spends most of his time illustrating. His drawings are playful, precise and thought-provoking. His simple figures animatedly interact with the illustrated world around them; whether it’s a comprehensive guide to historical art movements – from Fauvism to Pop Art -– or a group of protestors hoping to remove Trump, Jordan’s lighthearted creations contain clear messages. “I’m interested in creating an approach where serious, important, complex or difficult concepts can be explored in playful and surprising or even silly ways,” Jordan tells us. “Or where the opposite is true when seemingly simple or funny topics can take on a conceptual weight that evokes deeper and more complex ideas and emotions. I like the intersection of a formal and systematic conceptual practice with cartooning; or modernist design principles with visual gags.”