Ten Questions for: Jon Burgerman

Illustrator Jon Burgerman on doodling, being braver and brushing your teeth.

Jon Burgerman
Jon Burgerman

When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

I didn’t, I don’t! I just wanted to make ‘work’ and avoid having what is commonly known as a real job. The work, I figured, would be drawing-based but could spiral out into being anything really, as long as it was something I was interested in and wanted to do. Wanted to do with passion. I realised this whilst studying Fine Art at university in Nottingham. I thought that my three years there were be a pretty good model for how I wanted to spend the rest of my life (but with less hangovers and central heating).

What was your first job?

Shortly after graduating I was invited to submit some ideas for a record sleeve. One of those ideas was chosen and swiftly afterwards I painted the sleeve for Charles Webster’s excellent Born on the 24th of July. I genuinely thought at the time that I’d not have to worry about getting commissions ever again. How wrong I was! But it was a great start and got my work out into the world.

How would you describe what you currently do?

I’m an artist who improvises ideas and concepts through drawing, painting, character design, performance and animation. So, in a word I doodle. 

Jon Burgerman's work
Jon Burgerman’s work

What has been the biggest change in design since you started?

I thought getting a pager when I was a student was quite a big leap but I guess that was nothing compared to the modern internet age of everyone being connected together all the time, for ever and ever (unless you’re underground). This has fundamentally changed life, and therefore in turn changed design.

What is your favourite project, that you’ve worked on?

So many to choose from yet on this sunny, hazy, dreamy Friday afternoon in Brooklyn, where the sunlight is bouncing off the crisp, white snow and making rainbows and diamonds appear on every reflective surface my mind can’t seem to focus. One job that made it difficult to sleep the night before starting work on it, was for Sony, when I was commissioned to create a level for the seminal racing game WipEout. One day I’d like to design a whole computer game.

What is your favourite project, that you haven’t worked on?

I re-watched the Wallace and Gromit feature film last night and it reaffirmed my love for all things Aardman. I know Pixar is heralded as the animated movie king (in the West, at least) but the warmth in design, humour, eye for detail and un-cynical good nature of the work of Aardman is something to be celebrated. One day I’d like to work with Aardman Animations.

Jon Burgerman's Imagine Children's Festival characters
Jon Burgerman’s Imagine Children’s Festival characters

What was your biggest mistake?

Playing it safe for so long. I’m fearful and anxious by nature, if anything I wish I’d been braver, not at the start of my career, but after I got comfortable and older.

What is your greatest ambition?

My ambition is two-fold. Part one involves being old and wrinkly and grey and still doing exciting projects and my own self-directed work. Part two involves my work entering into public consciousness and being part of popular culture.

Who is the most inspirational person you have worked with?

That’s difficult to say. I think I learnt a lot from Tim Molloy at the Science Museum when I did a couple of big projects with them. I was a bit scared of him too. I’ve been inspired by a lot of my peers and people I’ve met at conferences and lectures. Since I’ve started venturing out into the world more I’ve been lucky enough to meet a whole host of good eggs.

What piece of advice would you give to people starting out in design?

If you can’t be good you can at least be different. Be yourself and don’t try to be anyone else. Other people’s path to success have already been taken, you have to find your own path. The most interesting thing you can add to your practice is you. That and always ask questions, pay attention and brush your teeth.

For more information on Jon Burgerman visit http://jonburgerman.com/

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