Interview: Tom Lane-Ginger Monkey- Jordan 2012 Y.O.T.D
One thing we like to do here at Conceptkicks is to spark thought about everything that goes into creating a product. From those dirty napkin sketches of the shoe, through the gritty marketing meetings, and down to the final packaging. Tom Lane aka Ginger Monkey did such an amazing job with the Air Jordan 2012 Year of the Dragon (Y.O.T.D) packaging. Telling a complete story of the product and really nailing it. He has such a wide and developed design skill set and it really shows through with the Y.O.T.D pack. We had the opportunity to talk to Tom about his his story, process, and whats next.
CK: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm a designer, illustrator, and letterer based in Bristol the UK. I studied here and haven't left. I met my wife and have some life long friends and family around me and I haven't really felt the urge to leave just yet. I've been independent for 8 years now, I set-up Ginger Monkey after graduating from University. I get to do pretty fun projects due to being strict about how and what I was creating in the early days and that has meant I've developed a portfolio that leads to more of the work I really love to do.
CK: Shortly after graduating you dove into the freelance world. What advice would you give students for approaching their own freelance career and building a portfolio?
It's really important to set out with the right intentions and know a bit about what you want to get out of your career. If you've got an eye on doing particular work but you end up spending the majority of your time working in a different area to pay the bills you may find yourself edging further and further away from what you truly want to do. To me it made sense to carry on being poor after graduating and aiming to work in the way I wanted. Over time I would hopefully build up to the briefs and clients I aspired to.. To that I had to make sacrifices of my time and cold hard cash in order to stay on track and keeping putting the right sort of work out there.
The other thing is to develop a set of skills that have commercial value. Style I believe comes from taste but you don't know what your tastes are until you've tried a fair amount of different things. If you can get paid to experiment and play because you have the skills to deliver you'll be well set.
CK: Having such a strong portfolio in illustration, typography, and design where do you draw inspiration?
There isn't a specific answer, but I have a tendency to look pretty far back to the Victorian era, ancient cultures, and Gaslight for example. I tend to keep my eyes open and pick up little bits and piece on my day to day. Some stuff gets stuck in my memory and when I'm playing comes out and I run with it in my own way. Often I'm asked to represent certain time periods or themes so I have to research the visual material of that time to build the right look and feel to the artwork I produce.
CK: When working with type, what brings you to a place creatively to tell a story beyond the actual text and say it through the typography itself? How do you manipulate letters in different situations to get across the message you are trying to convey?
It mostly being playful and using common sense to make marks that are going to succeed in conveying the right message. Relevance is key. Often I have to work with type in a particular context, ancient chinese art, turn of the century fairytale for example. Personally I just find most of the decision making is pretty straight forward if you think about the relevance of certain stylistic aspects that can be applied to the structure of the type. Research certainly helps too.
CK: When working with clients or exploring your own personal projects what is your general process when you approach a new concept?
First and foremost it's understanding the job, or the client, and the expectations. Get that nailed down as best as possible and you'll be able to get the rest done with hopefully less trouble. Throughout the process it's also about building trust. You can't do your best work if your client doesn't trust you. But you have to cultivate it though through your communication and actions in the initial part of the process so when you get to making things the client trusts your decision making over theirs.
Projects always turn out better if I have time to play. That usually means lying on the sofa in the studio or at home with my sketchbook not trying to nail the brief but just pissing about with ideas and elements. Once I feel I've weeded out bad ideas, different alignments, compositions etc. I move onto my tidier, bigger sketchbook. Here I work more polished on maybe one or two routes born from my playing phase. I work and rework this rough. Once I'm happy with it I'll make a final clean and crisp version to send over to the client with my thoughts and reasoning.
CK: How did this Jordan 2012 Year of the Dragon (Y.O.T.D) project come about?
I simply got an email one night last summer and there it was. I was told they had the brief and my name came up when they were thinking of people who could tackle. Good to know my work and name has stretched that far. You should have seen the smile on my face when it came in.
CK: One thing I loved about the Y.O.T.D packaging is the incorporation of basketball elements throughout. When working on decorative designs, such as this project, how do you choose what the main elements will be (for example- corners, midpoints, center, etc.)? Do you work around these 'icon elements' or start by building the general design theme?
I brainstorm or the client can often send me a list of elements they want included in the design. I usually work out the structure first so I can see what space I have to play with and make sure I set-up artwork correctly for the job. Then I tend to jump in. It's pretty damn intuitive from that point, I'll probably start by drawing different aspects in no particular structure on rough pieces of paper, opening my mind up and visualising as I go along. Then ideas just pop up as I see the space and the relationships I can form with the other elements. Everything just seems to build and grow and fall into place.
CK: With the Y.O.T.D project being so well received, some of the elements spilled over to the actual product. How does the application of the graphic affect the design? I know it looks like there were some nice clear coat varnish prints applied aswell. Is the printing method a constraint going into the project or something to figure out after the design is complete?
I had to watch out for too finer a detail because of the foil printing on the box. It just wouldn't hold up to it. After the first round of visuals things started to grow pretty quickly as everyone seemed to really like the work I had done and wanted to use it for different aspects of the complete package. I had to spend some time making adjustments here and there to work with the different process, adding more breathing space and room, and the packaging design had to be flexible to work with different size boxes. But that was something I considered in the beginning and I developed the frame struture to increase and decreases in size easily enough.
CK: The Y.O.T.D pack was such a special release for Jordan Brand. What were some of the challenges with this project?
Mainly what I detailed above but apart from that it was just the nervousness of whether I could nail it for them. I really wanted to and I knew this was a great opportunity. As you can imagine I put a lot of pressure on myself to do my best.
CK: What are you most proud of about the way this project turned out?
The relationship I formed with the team and the overall creativity that came out of it.
CK: What can we expect from Ginger Monkey next?
I've some new projects to release this summer and I just launched my brand 1hundred. It's a store based around producing quality goods and going that little bit extra to make something really worth having. Also, only 100 of the products are ever made so folks are treated to limited editions. You can check it out at www.1hundredshop.com
CK: Any last thoughts you would like to add?
Thanks for asking me to do this interview and showing an interest in my work. Really appreciated!!
CK: Thank YOU Tom. Looking forward to seeing whats next!