A lot of Jon Dowling’s work is typographically led, which stems from his early days. At Buckinghamshire University he wanted to stand out from the crowd on his graphic design degree. ‘I guess it was a rebellion’, says Dowling. ‘I always wanted to go against the grain, and at university everyone was into illustration and a hand-drawn aesthetic. I thought I’d have to do something that marks me out from everyone else, so I started leaning towards Modernism.’
That brought Dowling to Sea Design, where his penchant has been given a great outlet. The group’s approach is very much ‘a matter of reduction’, explains Dowling. ‘It is simplicity – from an aesthetic point of view, but also conceptually. We often break things down to a product’s unique selling point, and Modernism – as an aesthetic in reduction – helps with that process.’
Dowling describes himself as ‘a great hoarder of things’, which, he says, helps with the process. He admires the American school of graphic design, citing names such as Saul Bass, Milton Glaser and Massimo Vignelli, and has ‘books upon books’ at home. ‘You need to spread your net as wide as possible,’ he says.
Dowling’s portfolio spans a great range of projects, including work for the design industry and magazine covers. He also recently created the identity and marque for screen printer K2, with the aim of creating a fluid identity that would evolve through position and colour, so that no two marques look the same, much like a screen print. ‘As a purely graphic design piece, it’s a beautiful marque. It shows how a great marque can be executed over a wide range of materials,’ he explains.
But it’s applying those design values to other products, such as Jamie Oliver’s packaging, that he enjoys most. ‘I like the idea of high-quality design being available to as many people as possible, not just a select few within the industry who will fawn over it,’ he explains. ‘I like the thought that I can put the same amount of effort into a magazine or an art catalogue than I can into the ingredients list at the back of a pasta sauce [pack].’
The fact that Jamie Oliver is a household name is a bonus in other ways too. ‘I enjoy the projects that I can take home and show my mum and gran, and make them understand what graphic design is,’ he says.
When it comes to what design means to him, Dowling puts his cerebral hat back on. ‘It’s simplifying a brand’s ideals into the simplest form, which is a logo, which is a stamp, which is something people have been doing for hundreds of years,’ he concludes.
Dowling’s ultimate goal is to start his own consultancy, but he adds, ‘It’s not an easy job. I’ve still got a lot to learn, I’m only 26. It’s not the time for me yet’.