Meet Jake Williams who won the prestigious Business Design Centre New Designer of the Year Award in Part 2 at the show this year. We caught up with him to get an insight into his creative process.

Tell us the story behind you and your design background

I first became really interested in art and design when I was doing my Art GCSE. I’d always loved art but wasn’t sure if my drawing was quite good enough to do anything with (as much as I wanted to), however during this time I was introduced to some very basic ways of creating art digitally. This for me was a real turning point as it made me realise that I can use my drawing to plan/thumbnail but then create the finished imagery to a standard I was happier with digitally.

This lead me on to choose Graphic Communications at A-Level and from there my passion for art and design really took off. I was still working digitally but constantly trying to learn new ways of working and experimenting with different techniques and processes both digital and tactile. Before going to Uni I decided to do an art foundation course, which looking back now I am so glad I did and would highly recommend it to anyone who is considering going straight from A-Levels to uni. It was such a change going from only doing a few hours a week of design to everyday and I think everyone’s work on the course improved greatly because of it. It also helped me decide to pursue illustration at Uni. As I had always been digitally focused, at the time I assumed I would do graphic design at uni, but after having a year on the course and trying both I felt illustration better suited to the direction I wanted to take my work.


Where did you study and what was the most useful thing you learnt from / best things about your course?

I studied BA Illustration at Plymouth College of Art. The course was amazing and there’s so much positive stuff I could talk about but i’ll just include what I feel was the most important. Firstly we were encouraged to experiment and push ourselves not in any specific direction or “house style” but in a way that was unique to each student. This was really important for me as it helped me to develop a working method that I really enjoy within an area I feel is my best (digitally). On top of this the tutors and tutor contact time was amazing. You never had to wait more than a few hours at most (usually there and then) to speak to a tutor and get some constructive criticism of your work. Again I think this was a really important aspect as I think fair and constructive critique is a crucial aspect to improving your work.

Give us an insight into your thought process to design your work – where does your inspiration come from? Who are your design mentors and why?

My thought process is slightly different depending on what area of illustration I’m working on. For example when I’m working on a non-fiction children’s book (as I am at the moment) my inspiration comes from doing a lot of research into that subject. This can include watching documentaries on the subject, reading books and articles or any other media surrounding my chosen topic. I’m currently working on my book Resilient Reptiles and for this I went to a zoo and reptile shop to get some first hand imagery and research. I also find this really inspiring and makes me want to start working on artwork as soon as I get home. If I am working on something like editorial I try to create more conceptual images that include some hopefully clever layers of communication. My inspiration for these images normally comes from the article itself, I will go through and highlight important areas of the article and have some scrap paper next to me where I sketch out every idea that comes to mind as I’m going through the article and then narrow and refine these down until I find a concept that I feel works the best.
In terms of my design mentors I would say the most influential on my practice are people like Tom Haugomat, Dieter Braun, Quentin Monge, William Grill, Owen Davey, Andrea De Santis and Emmanuelle Walker. They all inspire me in their own unique way, often it might be their refined use of colour or the way they communicate a message or concept within their work.

What one technique, material or tool could you not live without?

The one thing I couldn’t make my work without is the Adobe Illustrator Pen Tool. I use this for creating all my base artwork (before adding texture and shading in photoshop) and is a crucial part of my working process.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? / What piece of advice would you give to future graduates or those thinking of studying design?

I would say if you’re interested in Art and Design experiment and explore everything you can and find a way that works for you. Try not to get hung up on the areas you struggle with, instead focus on the bits you are good at and keep pushing yourself to improve those skills.

You can see more of Jake’s work on his website –



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