Jamie Eke is a Brighton based illustrator and typographer. His work is vibrant, colourful and creative, and showcases a range of technical skill. Find out more about his influences, and how he gets his ideas. As told to Harry Harris.
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]I’ve always been into typography – ever since I was a kid and used to play with my granddad’s calligraphy sets[/inlinetweet]. I loved experimenting with his array of brush pens, so I became interested in hand lettering from a very young age. I was always fascinated by drawing letters and words and covered my school exercise books with hand-drawn type, always trying to make my name look cooler or mimicking a logo I’d seen. I think this is how a lot of people must start.
When I started taking design more seriously and began studying, typography was something I naturally pursued. It was when I was at university, studying graphic design, that I had the “lightbulb moment” that inspired my illustrated alphabet collection. I felt I’d been neglecting the drawing side of the work, which had always been my main passion, so when asked to produce a series of posters based on Burma’s struggle for democracy, I decided that taking the initials of the various political parties and depicting their successes and failures within the letters was a perfect way to highlight the situation. This gave me an opportunity to combine typography and illustration in a way that has proved to be a defining feature of my portfolio.
When designing a new set, I first think what font will best suit the subject matter, whether it’s custom lettering or an existing typeface. I then do a load of in-depth (mainly visual) research and play around with fitting related imagery into the shapes of the letters like puzzle pieces. In a way, the drawing itself is the straightforward part. I also like to look at the work of other artists for inspiration. Mario Hugo is probably my favourite designer, and I’m a big fan of lots of the artists represented by his agency, Hugo & Marie – most notably Micah Lidberg. His energetic use of colour and pattern really inspires me.
One of the things I really benefitted from at uni was frequent group work and regular critiques where everyone would pick apart your work and suggest ways to change or improve your ideas. As my classmates spanned the design spectrum – some specialised in photography, others web design etc. – we constantly learned from each other, sharing our diverse knowledge to improve the outcome of the project in question and expanding our skill sets all the while. This is just as true whenever I collaborate on professional projects today.
I was sitting with my girlfriend watching YouTube videos when a kid’s drawing on the mantelpiece caught my eye. I told her I knew what I was going to do for an upcoming project in a moment of sudden inspiration – I was going to dig out my old art folder, rejuvenate drawings I’d done as a 5-year-old, and make some models and toys based on the drawings. It turned out to be one of my most effective and popular pieces of work, whilst also being one of my simplest concepts!
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Another constant in my work is my home, Brighton. As a creative, it’s the perfect city to live and work in[/inlinetweet]. I’ve always been inspired by its culture and liberal attitude, from a kid growing up making giant papier-mache models to parade at the festival, to studying for my degree here. Most people can’t wait to get away from their hometown, but I’ve left and come back a couple of times as it suits my work and lifestyle so well. I like the fact there’s a lot of buzz down here but it’s not suffocating.
Brighton’s also a beautiful place to cycle, which is when I get most of my best ideas. As well as being a great way to clear my head, it simultaneously fills it with weird and wonderful ideas that don’t have space to come forward during working hours. I’m constantly stopping to make notes in my phone when I’m on the move, as the most trivial observation often triggers a great idea.
When I start a new piece, I go to my essential tools: pencils and fineline pens. Everything I do begins and, usually, ends with these. I still use Adobe software, particularly Photoshop, to clean up drawings and create new, interesting elements, but I don’t think I’ll ever go fully digital. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]My memories of drawing are so tied up with the act of pen on paper[/inlinetweet], going all the way back to my Grandad, and I don’t know…it’s served me well so far.