Interview with Creative Designer and Art Director James Oconnell

Interview with Creative Designer and Art Director James Oconnell
Studio 4

Are you selective of your clients? What is your selection process? What kind of projects won't you take?

Over the years I have been able to be really picky in terms of the clients that I work for and believe me, it’s still a tough decision to say that definitive word ‘no’. I’ve not always been like this, during the formative years of a creative career you have to say yes most of the time to either make some more pennies or get a bit more varied work into your portfolio. Most recently I had to say no to a job from the BBC purely because I was preparing for a big project in my day job and also the fact that it’d require a huge amount of thought and craft - it was a tough decision but one I stand by, and I did also sign post them to a few of my illustration friends who could’ve also executed their brief. I take pride in saying that I do a great deal of charity work, giving my services instead of money to help causes locally and globally. I find it more satisfying to see the effects of my personal donation rather than giving money which could end up anywhere. With this in mind, I’d outright say ‘no’ to any briefs or clients which go against my morals and ethics, if you don’t have that line then you could see your work cropping up on any type of media.
Grand Budapest Hotel

Being a well experienced graphic artist, what have you been most proud of throughout your career?

I think the best and most enjoyable moment in my career so far was being able to create a front cover illustration for the TimeOut New York magazine. It was a tough deadline, especially as I was working full time in an agency and this was a bit of freelance on the side. I had no idea it was a weekly magazine so I had to work swiftly, turning around concepts and colour options in super quick time. Luckily I nailed the brief in one fail swoop. Not only did the cover become the fastest shifting edition of the magazine, I also become really good friends with the Art Director, if anything - this was better than making the cover - I made a relationship that’s going to last forever!

Can you name 5 websites you visit to get inspiration?


Besides the websites, what do you do to get inspiration? Do you have any hobbies?

I’ve been trying to unplug recently as my work has been taking over my life, long days in the studio and then even longer nights only my personal projects - to combat this I’ve taken to running and have been managing a good 6K every 3 - 4 days. Not only is it getting my fitness back to where it should be, it’s a great way to listen to some new music and grab some fresh air. I use the Nike+ app to track my progress and set attainable goals, plus I love the motivational ‘cheering’ - it’s a bit cheesy but it helps!
Studio 3

Can you share with us your workspace?

My day-to-day agency workspace is completely bizarre, but it works. We’ve multiple areas for collaboration including a thinking shed and a ‘mens lounge’ complete with some stylish chesterfield sofas. The studio is emblazoned with our signature illustrations courtesy of Manchester based Hammo. To top this off we keep a cow on the ceiling to remind us never to take ourselves too seriously. At home my space is relatively sedate, I’ve a simple raw wooden desk sitting on a pair of trestles accompanied by a print by Anthony Burrill and one of those standard ‘designery’ style clocks (I’ve had to take the batteries out of it as the noise of every element moving drove me crazy!)

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