Interview with Jonathan Kenyon, Co-founder and managing creative director of Vault49.
Hello Jonathan, first of all, tell us something about your upcoming work. What are you into at the moment?
Lately we’ve been trying to focusing on a medium we like to call “applied illustration”, which is basically a fancy way of us saying that we’ve been trying to get our work off the computer as much as possible. A perfect example of this is a series of hand painted saws we liked to call “Sub-Prime Cuts”. It was a fun project because we each designed a saw and then took some time out to hand paint them. It also allowed for us to work together as a studio which is easily one of our favourite things to do.
Would you give a brief walk through your workflow?
Our studio has a bit of a college atmosphere to it and we have a strong emphasis on collaboration. When we have a project come in, we try to get as many people as possible included in the brainstorm session and the best idea wins, whether it comes from a designer, producer or intern. Once the project is underway, we like to collaborate on it by passing the file around or working on it simultaneously, constantly refining it until it’s ready to go out the door!
How has your work evolved over the years from when you were beginning?
Back when we started Vault, it was just John and I wheat-pasting posters in the early hours of the morning. We used to illustrate in quite a minimal but bold style so that they would be screen print friendly; people began to take notice and it gained us a lot of attention at the time. We began to work more prolifically and as a result became more familiar with digital tools which enhanced our style as we began to make things more ornate and detailed. We’ve seen our style evolve most dramatically through collaboration — whether it’s with photographers, developers or set designers. Now, we’re a studio of 10 coming from a variety of backgrounds but they compliment each other. Everyone who works here retains strong origins in craft-based design. We’re fortunate enough that we find it difficult to define our work nowadays because of this diverse background — in honesty it’s probably easier to define ourselves by what we don’t do!
Tell us something about your clients, do you feel there’s something different out there, I mean, a different way to approach the creative process?
It might sound really cliché but at the end of the day clients value your honesty and your friendship. We try to work with people we like and people who like us back – our ideal clients are the ones we’d like go out with for a drink. At the end of the day it’s important that you’re working with and not for your client as we see it as very much of a collaborative process.
How have you handled the business side through these “horrible years”?
We’ve found that projects which we create out of love, otherwise known as personal projects, are the ones which most often lead to client work. It’s important for us as a studio to take time out at regular intervals during the year to create personal work which is progressive and represents the future of Vault. It’s something we’ve done since we first started Vault and yet to fail us. These mini sabbaticals are a way we try to keep our minds fresh and also allow for us to create work that we wish our clients were commissioning us for.
How do you choose the next project to be involved in?
Quite simply, the brief, client and budget. The brief should be something that isn’t just a repetition of older work. Something that challenges us, that we’d enjoy working on and for a client we’d enjoy working with which we mentioned earlier. We’ve worked on some really fun projects past for very little money but getting paid properly for the time and effort you put into a project is important – it’s a sign of respect and shows that people appreciate the love you put into your craft.
Who’s the first designer that comes to your mind in a second?
Something you’ve always wanted to do, but have yet to.
Conceive and design the interior space of a lounge/bar/restaurant from ‘soup to nuts’.
Something you want the world to know about you.
Personally? I love what I do, and I hope it shows.
Something that annoys or frustrates you about people.
Your idea about social networks.
Social networking is part of the changing landscape of marketing today. It’s this great medium where you can keep people up to date about the happenings of the studio whether it’s our latest project or a dumpling competition between team members. We’ve found it’s a great way to interact the people who we like and who like us back. It’s broken down a lot of barriers for the sake of collaboration or admiration.
What’s overrated/underrated today?
Having an opinion and standing behind it is under-rated. There’s a tendency for people to hedge their bets, to sit on the fence and not commit to an opinion. I prefer to have an opinion, invite commentary, and adapt my view if it doesn’t stand up to critique.
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