Jonny Durgan Lecture & Workshop

Today was the final day of workshop week at university in which previous graphic design student, Jonny Durgan, kindly led a lecture and review workshop.

After studying graphic design, although interested in the subject, Jonny didn’t think he was good enough to be a “designer” and instead started pursuing advertising by joining a postgraduate course. Commonly his job title is Advertising major, and he has worked at a successful company for over 5 years, working with clients such as Aldi, Lynx, KFC, BBC and Oxfam. What is interesting about Jonny’s role is that he gets to work with a variety of professionals in the business; e.g. photographers, animators, illustrators, designers and film-makers.

In the industry, Jonny has picked up a few tips on being a creative.

  1. Immerse yourself with inspiration.
  2. Make the boring stuff interesting.
  3. Break the rules
  4. Let your personality shine out

Jonny stressed the importance of trying new things and putting yourself out there to find something different and gain inspiration. He then showed us some interesting work and the inspirations used. Firstly he showed us traditional Japanese art styles and how that influenced publications for the Wolverine film, based in Japan.

Japanese Art

The Wolverine Poster

Another example used was Coldplay’s album X&Y. This is because the album cover is inspired by Baudot code. If unfamiliar with the code, there is no way you could have no that it is in fact used on the cover, and can be decoded as the name X&Y. This is a really interesting way of designing type. Like Braille, the use of dots code a letter.



To make the boring stuff interesting, Jonny used the example of taking something that is not exciting such as a train station, and doing an entire rebrand for an express line. Make the boring and mundane into something that is exciting and different. When creating your own projects, using big brands such as Nike, isn’t always best. Employers are fed up with seeing the same thing, and instead would appreciate something innovative. Jonny then showed us a video of an animation which had been inspired by Romeo & Juliet.

Jonny advised us to always pick a project that has scale- something that does not limit you and that can easily be expanded and branched out. He gave us the example of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 in which introduced using semiotics within the advertising designs. A good example of making something that is boring into something interesting is information graphics. Generally the information can be quite boring, however creatively designing it draws people in to read it.

By breaking the rules, Jonny said to try and be different and not be scared to do something a little unheard of. Just because somebody hasn’t done something, doesn’t mean you can’t. For this he used the example of the HHCL Blackcurrant Tango advert. The video starts off very ordinary but then escalates quickly, into a risky and bold campaign method.

Another example used was the Cadbury’s advert which featured a Gorilla playing the drums to the song “In the air tonight”. Interestingly, Cadbury’s were having troubles during the time that this was released, however their problems resulted in little media due to the popularity of this campaign video. No chocolate is shown, but yet it advertises Cadbury’s brilliantly and became a huge phenomenon.

Lastly, Jonny advised us to create a body of work let lets our personality shine out. When applying for employers, it is best to show them something which reflects well on you as a designer. Something which shows a little character and traits of your personality. Whether it is comedy value or certain hobbies interested in.

Overall, the lecture was quite enjoyable. Jonny referenced a lot of cool things for us to check out, and his tips on working in the industry were very helpful. After the lecture, we had the opportunity to attend a workshop in which we could show Jonny our CV and Portfolio to get some feedback. I was pleased that Jonny thought highly of my work, and suggested a few pointers to help me stand out and get a work placement or internship.