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Q&A with Jonathan Kenyon

Creative Director and multi-disciplinary designer

I am a co-founder, Creative Director, and multi-disciplinary designer at Vault49, a New York design studio. We focus on branding, advertising, packaging, illustration, live art, events and interior design.  I founded the studio in 2002 with John Glasgow while at college in London, and we’ve managed to recreate that same atmosphere of art school experimentation and creative abandon as our studio has grown, and while working for a broad range of clients.  Our work is characterized by playfulness and personal expression, both for our benefit and for those who will view our work.   It’s important to me that our studio always has an informed opinion and I enjoy establishing parameters that we then go on to break out of.

© Jonathan Kenyon

Software / hardware

My answer to this question is now very different than it would have been some years ago when my focus was more on artwork creation.  In 2002 I would have raved about Adobe Illustrator and our screen printing studio.  Now, as the creative lead of a studio of 20 people, I have no preference for software/hardware and I try to remain open-minded when considering how best to solve a brief. When working with a broader team, we can solve a puzzle in so many creative ways that the best tool I bring to the studio is my mind, and that means it’s important to keep it as full of reference as possible.  I rely on a memory-bank of ideas that is buried deep somewhere that I don’t think about on a daily basis, but that is fed by books, conversations with people I admire, and a healthy dose of internet surfing.  That said, we still keep a screen printing studio active, and it’s the first place I turn to if I’m feeling burned out and just want to have some fun.

Ideal work environment

I love our Manhattan studio: big windows looking out over a park at the Empire State building, reminding me that I’m here in an amazing city.  Most importantly, I love the people I work with, they’re amazingly talented and I respect their opinion immensely.  I’ve no time for oversized egos and I only want to work alongside people for whom creating the best work is their top priority.  We definitely have that in our studio and it’s the achievement I’m most proud of.

Work inspiration

Conversations.  I love to discuss ideas with the designers in our studio as they lead in so many directions and it’s through these wanderings that I think we develop ideas that are more unique.  That’s when it’s important to be well-informed, well-read, and full to the brim of visual inspiration from anywhere.  It helps to be able to move sideways and cross-reference.

Creatives you admire most

James Sommerville, who is now the Global Creative Director at Coca- Cola.  He founded an agency called Attik in my home town of Huddersfield, and built it into an iconic design shop with an international impact.  Following his career gave me confidence in my background and potential.

Reed Collins, who is now the Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy & Mather.  While working for him on the Samsung account for Leo Burnett, I learned that just because the size of the clients and budgets are bigger, I shouldn’t second-guess or dial-down my ideas.

Vault49 Hit Parade