We all, unfortunately, know the trials and tribulations of going through a pandemic: the constant search for toilet paper, the wiping of groceries before we brought them inside, the masks, etc. You know it all because you’ve lived through it all. But imagine the worst parts from the pandemic, and then imagine graduating from college on top of it all. Think about the inability to celebrate a monumental achievement with friends and family, not being able to finish in-person classes after years of it being the norm, and, most notably, graduating into a world with a non-existent job market.
That’s pretty much what happened with Jack Forrest, an Australian-based multi-disciplinary designer who had the unfortunate timing of graduating from university right as the pandemic hit. But instead of moping around and feeling sorry for himself, he turned his free time into a personal creative challenge, designing a new poster almost every day throughout the past year. Throughout the designs he experimented with different styles, layouts, and subject matters to create a poster collection that’s gained an audience of over 30,000 followers on Instagram in the past year alone.
Throughout his designs, you’ll find posters that feature prominent and bold typography, delightful illustrations that often include inanimate objects with smiley faces, and a color palette that consistently sticks to pinks, blues, yellows, and greens. Most notably, he was commissioned to create a cover design for Forbes Magazine and won countless awards while in school, including the DINZ Best Awards Student Digital and GDA Student Packaging Distinction. While each of his pieces has its own personality, it’s vividly clear that Jack is the artist behind each design.
How'd you become interested in graphic design? Is it something you've always known you've loved?
Yeah, to be honest, it kind of is! When I was younger, I loved doing more creative work and experimenting with color and shape. But, I was horrific at illustration! So, when I got the opportunity to start experimenting in Photoshop and Illustrator, I loved that I could experiment with anything—despite my traditional creative skills beginning and ending with stick figures.
I later realized that the bits that I loved when I was younger, like color and layout, were really the core components of design and would be something that I'd love to pursue. I started watching more and more Youtube tutorials trying to learn techniques that have gotten me to where I am today.
Most of your pieces feature a very similar color palette. Did you curate these colors intentionally, or was it more of a happy accident?
It's definitely more of a happy accident. I've noticed that I'm generally drawn to more pastel colors for their peaceful, happy connotations. With this palette, I also loved the flexibility as they each work well together in isolation. For example, pink can be paired beautifully with blue, yellow, orange, and green. Knowing the palette has this flexibility allows me to create work that can feel 'new' while remaining within the same stylistic space.
I also found that Instagram, being a digital space, tends to be oversaturated with bright digital colors. I felt that there was the opportunity to be one of the few utilizing a more pastel color palette.
You recently graduated from University, is there anything you didn't learn in school that you've learned through "real-world experiences" that you wish someone taught you?
It's almost become a bit of a cliche, but I wish that we were taught how to better price design services.
Design is a universal service that is needed by every business, big and small. As a result, it's often the case that a young designer will get connected with an aunty's, brother's, uncle's, mate's boss who needs some flyers made, or something similar. Without the proper education, the natural inclination is to underprice yourself regardless of how good your work might be.
From there, this unfortunate cycle continues as you use this "experience" as a reference for future pricing and pigeonhole yourself with undervalued services. While I understand that these numbers fluctuate, I would've loved to see a breakdown of the average hourly rates charged by freelance designers, designer directors, motion designers, illustrators, and photographers depending on their experience and reputation.
In your newly opened online shop, you're selling these almost inspiration prints that feel like a modernized version of the motivational cat posters you'd find in a guidance counselor's office (and we mean that in the BEST way possible)? What kickstarted a lot of this work?
I've always thought it's funny that as soon as you add eyes and a smiley face to any inanimate object, it develops a personality that you connect with. With this in mind, in my usual experiments, I made a little scene and added a big smiley face sun (my "Shine" poster).
At the time, this ended up being my most 'successful' post, with people responding enthusiastically to the poster's positive energy. That was eye-opening because, of course, people wanted positive content! I was posting these during the height of the coronavirus, as people were drowning in the endless stream of horrific news and needed some kind of relief.
As the months have gone by, I've started focusing more and more on creating these positive illustrated posters and have been really enjoying it.
Humor is important to your work, especially with all of the posters you create on a near-daily basis. You mentioned that you're mostly just experimenting with different graphic styles or testing type and color combinations, but they also have a very distinct voice and POV. Aside from just playing around, what are you trying to convey with the posters?
The world at the moment is struggling with the constant flow of negative news. With that in mind, I like the idea that my posters can be a little slice of positivity for people to randomly come across during the day.
That also has the same effect on me. At the end of the day, this is a personal project of mine, and so to keep myself entertained and involved, I need to create work that I enjoy doing. I found that with some of my earlier posters, It felt more like work, as if I was trying to meet the deadline each day. As I've shifted to more illustrated work, I'm having more fun and enjoying the end product. It's hard to not have fun making a poster of the "quack of dawn."
Why does your work feature so many houses and buildings?
To be honest, a big reason is because of my extremely average illustration skills. I'm more confident when creating vector graphics like houses and bu
ildings because they're generally just simple geometric shapes that snap together.
I've also found that focusing on houses and buildings allows me more control over the composition I'm creating. As I'm always trying to integrate text into the posters, I need to consider where the text will sit and how it'll interact with the visual weight in the scene. I also prefer scenes that have depth; this is something that I can easily control with buildings by layering them with other elements.
That is also just something that I'm familiar with. In the future, I'd love to start experimenting with other scenes while still using my same palette!
Which designers are you most inspired by and why?
I'm inspired by designers who build a distinct style that can still flex and stretch across different executions.
Karan Singh (@madebykaran) is an amazing example of someone who could do anything, but you'd always be able to recognize the style in an instant. I think finding an individual style is extremely important, especially in the context of Instagram, as it enables you to build a reputation and find a niche.
I'm always amazed at the number of designers on Instagram who see a style they like and just attempt to mimic the same thing. If you try and mimic work you see online by other designers when trying to find your own style, chances are others are doing the same and diluting that style. Ultimately you'd find that you can't own any of that work (or any of the reputation), as it's seen as a replica of the original artist.
Now that you're out of school, what's next? What are you looking to do?
I really enjoyed University as an opportunity to create work for myself and develop new graphic styles and techniques. That said, I'm really looking forward to moving into the industry and doing more 'real' brand-focused work.
I've recently started working at the Sydney design studio Universal Favourite (@universalfavourite). They're a really amazing studio working with exciting brands and making some really incredible work.
At Universal, I'm looking forward to strengthening the more practical design skills, those that aren't used when putting a smiley face on the sun :-)