Mention Jake Hawkins
Interview by Ayla Angelos

The Telegraph’s designer Jake Hawkins on creating visual stories and tracking your achievements

After graduating from Falmouth University in 2019, Jake Hawkins knew that he wanted to work in the world of editorial. So when he saw a role at The Telegraph being advertised on Linkedin, he jumped at the chance. Not long after, he left his hometown of Somerset for London – “a big change for me” – and now spends his days designing, animating and illustrating at the paper, while freelancing on the side. Jake’s highlights so far include an illustration for a very “saucy article” for The Telegraph, plus a Covid-19 cover for Gay Times’ Solidarity Issue. Here, we chat to Jake to about his journey so far, what it’s like to complete a brief in just a few hours and why you should always keep track of your achievements.

Jake Hawkins

Jake Hawkins


Job Title

Designer, The Telegraph (2019–present)
Freelance Illustrator (2020–present)

Based

London

Place of Study

BA Illustration, Falmouth University (2016-2019)

Website

jakehawkins.co.uk

Social Media

Twitter
Instagram

What I do

How would you describe what you do at the The Telegraph?
In my role as designer at The Telegraph I create visual stories in a highly creative manner. I work closely with other designers and art directors to bring stories to life, and I collaborate with editors, journalists and graphic artists. Producing daily designs, illustrations and animations, it’s a fast-paced working environment and each day is different.

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
I’m influenced by queer design, its fight for equality, the history of its coded language and the blending of stereotypically masculine and feminine imagery. In a broader sense, creativity in general – whether it’s traditional or performative – can inspire me, especially when it transcends language while making its point clear. For me, clever conceptual illustrations are always the aim.

Cover illustration for Gay Times Magazine, The Solidarity Issue: How COVID-19 Has Changed Our Community Forever

What recent project at the The Telegraph are you most proud of?
At The Telegraph, I recently had fun illustrating a saucy article titled Is work stress killing your sex life? It was amusing creating the sexiest illustration I’ve seen in the paper. The “notifications” are considerably larger in the final than I originally put forward, so I’ll let you ponder that for a moment.

One of the proudest pieces I’ve worked on is the Covid-19 cover for Gay Times’ Solidarity Issue, amidst the pandemic. It was surreal seeing the outpouring of love and support it got during an especially difficult period of time for so many! This project then led to me illustrating an important report cover for IraQueer, Iraq’s first LGBTQ+ organisation; another proud moment.

“I’m influenced by queer design, its fight for equality and the blending of stereotypically masculine and feminine imagery.”

What kind of skills are needed to do your role? And would you say you need any specific training to do what you do?
You need to be able to think conceptually and visually problem solve, in addition to being able to illustrate and animate, with a keen eye for design. In regards to specific training, a design-related degree is usually necessary. However I learned the vast majority of my animation skills on the job, so if whoever is hiring you sees potential, additional training will often be provided.

If you could pick one emoji to describe your role or what it’s like to work at The Telegraph, what would it be and why?
🙌

It would probably have to be the Raising Hands emoji (above) this is my go-to reaction emoji for when my work is published or approved. I use it on the daily, as do my fellow team members, so it feels fitting.

Editorial illustration for The Telegraph: Is work stress killing your sex life?
Editorial illustration for The Telegraph: Tech Under Attack at the Web Summit
Editorial illustration for The Telegraph: Race to Replace Mark Carney Is Another Brexit Battleground

How I got here

How did you land the job?
I found the job advertisement on LinkedIn; I’d really recommend LinkedIn to any creative looking to find jobs and make connections in the industry! I had a telephone interview and then a second in-person interview, which went really well. My portfolio mainly consisted of speculative editorial illustrations, mock book jackets and animated GIFs. The central themes were social justice issues and the ongoing fight for equality.

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I was fortunate to land the job almost immediately after graduating. I knew I wanted to work in the publishing and editorial sector, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it. This involved making the move to London – a big change for me, having been brought up in Somerset and going to university in Cornwall. But I haven’t looked back.

Cover illustration for IraQueer: BIASED: Iraqi Media and the Spread of Anti- LGBT+ Rhetoric

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
The AOI (Association of Illustrators) has been super beneficial to my freelancing career, helping out with contracts and negotiating budgets. It’s nice to know I’ve got their support, if and when I need it.

Creative Boom is a great design platform for finding new and inspiring work, and last year they were kind enough to include me on a list of creatives to follow and support in 2021. I’d recommend emerging talent to reach out.

LinkedIn as a social network would also have to be included in this list for me. Not only was it where I found my job, it’s how I network with industry professionals. It’s where I showcase my favourite projects and get propositioned directly for work.

“Keep track of your achievements when it comes to reviews; you should be able to refer back to examples of where you have excelled.”

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Adapting to fast-paced deadlines, and being able to bring a brief from ideation to final within a period of a few hours.

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
When it comes to freelance work, it’s necessary to always negotiate the budget. Exposure isn’t a form of payment and I have had to turn down projects where this has been the case. If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in a position where you can turn down work, then that’s a good way to take the pressure off yourself and focus on your true interests.

Another way to support yourself is to keep track of your achievements, it’s always good to remind yourself of what you have accomplished. This is especially true while working on a design job; when it comes to reviews or possible promotions, you should be able to easily refer back to examples of where you have excelled.

Personal Work: The Story of a Better Tomorrow

My advice

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
My advice would be to include a diverse range of subjects in your portfolio, and with a focus on areas that are of interest to you. Experiment with different illustrative styles and create work that you’re passionate about. Take a proactive approach and reach out to art directors at companies you’d love to work with – finding this information is easy on LinkedIn, you just need to be savvy.

Mention Jake Hawkins
Interview by Ayla Angelos