Gradwatch 2019: Jake Newbury, Norwich University of the Arts

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Gradwatch 2019: Jake Newbury, Norwich University of the Arts

Jake Newbury’s interests are broad, though it’s clear he’s naturally inclined towards underground scenes. Having recently graduated from the Design for Publishing course at Norwich University of the Arts – where he specialised in editorial design and illustration – the designer has created eye-catching spreads based on streetwear brands like Carhartt WIP and Stone Island, as well as experimental producer Aphex Twin.

Newbury’s penchant for distressed visuals comes through in these projects, but his wider portfolio demonstrates an eye for sleeker styles. His series of poster designs for a fictional Gucci cruise experience (inspired by Gucci’s Cruise collection) shows he’s just as comfortable conceiving designs for high fashion brands as he is counterculture icons.

We chat to the recent graduate about how music has influenced his design work, what catches his eye, and entering the world of work.

Creative Review: Where does your inspiration come from?
Jake Newbury: It ultimately comes down to what I’m interested in at the current time and what subjects I’m researching. If you asked me that question six months ago, I would have said Visionary Art. Right now, I’m really into fashion, so everything I do is revolving around that. My whole life, my main interests have always been punk music, skateboarding and tattooing, so when I first started out doing design, the aesthetic of those cultures had a huge impact on my work.

I learnt to draw when I was young by copying the tattoos that the musicians in my favourite bands had. When I first started out designing, punk culture was everything to me, so a lot of my work was handmade. I like to think you can still see those inspirations throughout what I do in terms of typography, illustrations and hand-made textures. I find inspiration in everything though, [and] whether it’s drawing or designing on a computer, the first thing I always do before I start is put on a record.

Magazine layout about Aphex Twin’s Collapse EP, created for a degree project

CR: What kinds of themes are you drawn to?
JN: It used to all be about punk, or anything with some grit to it. I really enjoyed creating pieces of work that would make someone think. These days I’m all about working with the themes of music, fashion, strong photography or getting weird with illustrations.

CR: Are you working on anything at the moment?
JN: A few things. I’ve been playing around with photos from the recent Chanel Spring/Summer collection and turning them into posters/magazine articles. It’s mostly so I can stay motivated and not forget how to use InDesign. I’ve recently moved to London and I’m currently interning. When I’m more settled with an actual job, I’m going to take my personal work more seriously again. I really miss painting and making music so I’m definitely going to dedicate more of my time to doing those things.

CR: What made you want to study Design for Publishing?
JN: I’ve always loved tour posters and album art, that was the first exposure to design I think I gravitated towards, and I wanted to be able to produce my own. Studying the course allowed me to do those things but also opened my eyes to a whole world of design. The tutors Glen and Andrew really pushed you to experiment and explore your own interests. That gave you the freedom to do whatever you wanted within the boundaries of the brief.

Carhartt WIP designs, created for a degree project 

CR: How did you feel about the course, and do you think it’s prepared you for the world of work?
JN: I couldn’t have asked for a better experience! It gave me the freedom to really grow as a creative. The tutors never shoot down any of your ideas, they were very motivating and pushed you to experiment and to create the best possible work you can. I feel the course definitely prepared me for the world of work as much as it could have – the large majority of the final year was all about our portfolios. A lot of it also comes down to being self-initiated though, and actually taking on what the tutors tell you.

CR: Do you think there’s pressure for creatives to determine their own style by the time they graduate, and is this something you’ve felt personally?
JN: I think there’s this misconception that by the time you finish uni, you have to have everything figured out…. I guess being a creative, having your own style comes under that, because you want to be recognised when going into the industry. In the past people have said to me ‘you’re lucky because you have your own style’, but I think everyone has a style – you just need to really research what you’re interested in and experiment with how you can incorporate that into your work to be able to develop it further. I think I’m lucky I figured that out early on.

As creatives we’re always putting pressure on ourselves to produce something that we’re genuinely proud of and stand out from the rest. I believe creating your own style is just a development process. It never ends… and it definitely doesn’t need to be sorted by the time you finish uni.

A book celebrating Stone Island’s history and new collection, created for a degree project 

CR: What advice do you have for someone who’s starting out in design and still in search of their own niche?
JN: Work out what you’re really interested in, research everything about those subjects, and then then experiment as much as possible! Not everything has to be perfect, and don’t get heartbroken if someone doesn’t like a piece of your work. Be patient and as long as you’re happy with what you’re producing, that’s all that matters.

CR: What kind of work would you like to take on moving forward? Are there any particular publications you’d like to work with or dream stories you’d love to work on?
JN: I’m taking everything as it comes. Currently I’m interning and trying to get as much experience under my belt as possible. Ideally, I’d love to work for an agency that purely focuses on fashion or maybe work for a clothing label. I don’t know if I have a dream brief, but I would love to work on the advertising for Gucci campaigns or anything high-fashion related. There’s lots of things I’d love to work on and people to work with though. I’m looking forward to where design takes me.

Poster for The Gucci Cruise, a fictional cruise experience inspired by the 2019 Gucci Cruise Collection, created for a degree project

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