Jason Tam’s work is nothing if not dramatic. Bold, imaginative forms and inventive typography course through his work, along with carefully framed, striking photos, and flourishes of his latest obsession: metallic gold. It seems logical, then, that the designer, born in Hong Kong, grew up during the city’s dramatic transfer from British to Chinese rule. But Tam only remembers watching cartoons. On Hong Kong television in that era, most of the animated shows were Japanese, and, as Tam puts it, “A lot are shot in a creepy way. It’s always nighttime—the characters are always running away from things at night.”
To be clear, Tam loves the dark vision set forth by anime. It’s part of what made him want to be a film director at an early age. Tam, who studied at the Ontario College of Art & Design before transferring to Parsons The New School for Design, has flirted off and on with photography. His work demonstrates a strong ability to respond to clients’ needs and yet embody his own sensibility. A freelance project for clothing designer Steven Alan, for instance, conveys Alan’s pared-down, bobo-chic aesthetic, even as it expresses Tam’s panache with high-contrast graphics and debonair lettering.
In a project for the New York studio For Office Use Only, he created one of his favorite pieces: a series of animated shots of models for the online magazine Hint. To achieve the syncopated silhouettes and layering of images for the project, Tam animated the entire piece—a struggle, considering his limited knowledge of Flash. But the project gave him the chance to revel in his favorite things: photography, cinematic art direction, industrial pop, and a neo-noir ambience. “Thinking about pictures, images, and themes really gets me going, as opposed to thinking about what font to use,” he explains. Spoken like a born art director.