Jess Yanzio

A playful approach to print, process and format sets recent LCC graduate Jess Yanzio in good stead for the next steps in her design career…

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Disruption, poster for a fictional event, 2014.

What first made you realise you wanted to be a graphic designer?
My studies and interests seemed like an odd mix of unrelated subjects for a long time. It took a while for me to realise that what I loved about studying art, mathematics, music and Mandarin Chinese boiled down to a love of communication in its many forms, and an appreciation of the beauty in the detail. I’ve always been intrigued by what it is about a piece of art or design that captures attention, evokes a feeling and gets you thinking. When I was writing my BA dissertation on Chinese and Jewish diaspora culture, my research was really rich in cultural, lingual and geographical references, and I remember thinking it was a shame that visually the work looked dull and lifeless. I knew that design could add a new dimension to the work and it could be so much more engaging to read. After graduating from the BA, design was something I felt I had to explore and I began studying at LCC and taking on as many projects as I could.

How would you describe your working process?
Firstly I make sure that I am clear on the aims of the project: the message to be communicated and who the audience will be. If it’s a brief from a client, I value a really good conversation so that I can listen carefully and establish the priorities of the project. If it’s a self-initiated project, I need to establish my own clear objectives. It is then a quest for inspiration, idea generation and concept development, which can really come from anywhere and I keep an open mind with methods of research. I like to get all the wild experimentation out first which I can then refine. A lot of iteration then eventually leads to a place that feels right and achieves the aims.

Tell us about a favourite project you’ve worked on recently…
Recently, I’ve been working for a rock band on their artwork and promotional material. Being a massive fan of the design greats of album artwork, it has been really exciting to explore ways of visualising music through design for myself. There has been a lot of creative freedom with the briefs, and inspiration has come from interpreting themes within the music, to researching meditation theories and rummaging through old printed ephemera in charity shops!

You experiment a lot with materials, processes and techniques in your work—how does the process of making inform you as a designer?
My MA project at LCC allowed me to discover the importance of experimentation, and the great results that can come from playing with a variety of materials and processes. The project was inspired by the visual language of female protest and alternative media: the punk DIY aesthetic, fanzines, grrrl zines—design that broke the rules of the time. I’m an advocate of design that reflects the content and reaffirms the message, so for this project I found that I could visualise the energy of protest and rebellion through a hands-on process, manipulating found material using specific techniques.

Risograph printing gave a striking colour aesthetic, and I could achieve immediate printed results through manipulating images and text by scanning and arranging in certain ways for different narrative elements. I have found that when there is reason for experimenting with different techniques, it gives rise to outcomes that can intrigue and capture attention as well as reinforce the message.

What sort of briefs do you enjoy working on?
I think it’s important for me to work on a variety of projects with diverse subject matter and audiences, to keep me challenged and ensure I don’t get trapped into using limited visual aesthetics. I like experimenting with different design styles, and I like a brief that allows for a bit of playfulness in the design. Working on subject matter that I am passionate about is always a bonus, but when a client is passionate about their work, I find that through discussion and contextual research I can be really inspired by learning more about a subject I had not explored in great detail before.

What’s next for you?
I am in the early stages of designing and developing content for two zine-type publications; one related to music and the other combining a variety of content from emerging artists, playwrights, musicians and spoken word performers. I am really excited to be gaining more experience in designing exhibition and event identities, working with an art gallery, and am also making an extra effort to work on new projects where I can put my Chinese language and culture studies to use and experiment some more with Chinese characters.