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An interview with Ben Johnston, the self educated designer who redefines typography

H

e studied one thing, did another; inspired by the first, developed a style on the second; drawing knowledge from both experiences he is finally here to stay. Constantly self-motivated and hard working, welcoming any un-comfort zone as it enables him to widen his way of thinking, at the age of 26 Ben Johnston has already made a name for himself home and abroad especially for his unique typographic artworks. The young and talented Toronto-based artist divides his time between creating shocking letterings, pretty customized typography and murals, while he is busy responding to demanding corporate identities. We had a little chat with him to get to know him better.

How did you start your career, how has your education in industrial design helped you and what are the things that have made you a good designer today?
I've always done art and painting throughout my school career when I was younger. After school I went travelling for a few years before deciding to study Product Design in Cape Town, South Africa. All the while studying I started playing around with Graphic Design and illustration. I dropped out of my course after a year and a half and decided to pursue graphic design. From there I got a job in a small agency and taught myself what I needed to know. After a few years of freelancing and working in ad agencies, I started working with lettering and type.

Where do you live? Does the place affect your work and how?
I currently live in Toronto, Canada. I moved here about 7 months ago from South Africa. I have always enjoyed travelling, and find that it pushes me out of my comfort zone, and forces me to try new things. I think that travelling can only ever help your work. It's important to try new things and experience different cultures and styles.

You have developed an identifiable style of work. Is this enough to bring clients straight to you or do you have to be on the lookout constantly?
A bit of both. I'm always trying new styles, and experimenting with different mediums, so I feel I still have a lot that I want to get done and a long way still to go.

Your strength obviously is on great typography, but you have proved to have strong eye for graphic design as well. How do you deal with the murals and the illustrations and how with the graphic design identities?
I enjoy working on different types of briefs, as I find that if I work on any 'one' thing or style for too long I tend to get bored and frustrated. I like to always be busy with a variation of designs, which helps to keep me on my toes.

Can you name a few things that inspire you in life?
I am inspired by pretty much anything around me. I constantly keep busy and am always trying new styles and mediums to keep my work fresh.

What does your typical workday include?
I usually stay up till about 2 am, so I generally sleep in till 8 or 9. Then I do the usual breakfast and coffee to wake up and from there, I start making my way to the studio. I'll normally stay there till about 7 pm or so, depending on my deadlines. From the studio, I'll try get some exercise in to distress from the day.

What can we find in your collection of things?
I have a pretty big collection of silk screens and original work from other illustrators and designers (roughly 40 pieces I think), some well-known and others that are just work I really like.

Where can we find you when you're not working?
Usually I'll be outside either riding my bike or at the beach with friends. I was getting into my surfing just before I left South Africa, but I've had to trade that off for snowboarding now that I'm in Canada.

What are you currently working on and what are your plans for the near future?
I'm always busy with about 3 or 4 projects at any given time. I'm currently working on a variation of murals, branding, 3d printing and also some collab work with a few people.

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Ben thanks a lot for your time! You can view more of Ben's work in his website.