Meet Randy Amoakohene, JKR production manager by day and illustrator by night
By day, Randy Amoakohene is a production manager at creative agency, Jones Knowles Ritchie, helping to manage client relationships and solve problems. It’s in the evenings and at weekends, however, that the self-proclaimed “night owl” lets loose his creative side as an illustrator. Having studied both illustration and graphics at Coventry University, today Randy draws inspiration from his Ghanian heritage to create works that spark conversation and connection. Here, we talk to Randy about colour theory, taking breaks and drawing the creators of his favourite childhood TV shows.
Production Manager, Jones Knowles Ritchie (2019–present)
Peabody, Huffington Post, Ben’s Original
Place of Study
BA Illustration and Graphics, Coventry University (2011–2014)
What I do
How would you describe what you do at Jones Knowles Ritchie (JKR)?
My roles and responsibilities are many. To name a few; managing supplier relationships, scrutinising design work from a feasibility and technical perspective and bringing design intent to life.
I’m part of a group of individuals that bridge the gap between design conception and reality. We consult on various stages of the creative process to provide our knowledge on printing techniques and offer solutions that are feasible in real life. It’s in this tension between design and reality we exist and flourish.
“The aim is always to invoke conversation, and for the viewer to have personal connection to [my work].”
How do you balance this with your work as an illustrator?
I get most of my work done after work and at weekends. I’m a bit of a night owl.
Sometimes I’m sacrificing sleep – I don’t encourage this – and I try to ensure I don’t make a habit of it. When I find myself doing that too many times consecutively, I know something needs to give. I have to prioritise my rest and wellbeing to avoid burning out.
I find that artefacts from my culture are a common source of influence and inspiration. I particularly use the Adinkra symbols [Ghanian concept symbols] to help convey a mood or feeling when I am telling a story through my artwork. The aim is always to invoke conversation, and for the viewer to have personal connection to the piece.
Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
Being a production manager, colour theory is extremely important. By that, I mean being able to work out how designs can be produced, and how they can be optimised to achieve or get as close as possible to the design intent. Each project has constraints, whether it is the budget, the print process or the available colours and as a production manager, problem solving is paramount.
As an illustrator, it’s about being curious and taking in the world around you. Your ideas and style are the only things that separate you from everyone else. I encourage everyone to brush up on their anatomy; it will help you when you want to depict more abstract characters, but which are still believable.
What’s been your favourite project to work on from the past year, and why?
A commission for HuffPost to illustrate the creators behind shows such as Sister, Sister and Girlfriends. It was a time when I could comfortably say I’m an editorial illustrator.
As I grew up watching a lot of these shows, I felt that I was able to connect to the project brief on a personal level. I had the chance to illustrate the creators the way I see them and, by doing this, convey the joy and influence they had on my creative endeavours. I had an amazing art director on this project who allowed me to fully express my creative ideas.
If you could pick one meme to describe what you do, what would it be and why?
(Below) Whether it’s a project or illustration, we often find ourselves back at the drawing board because of a change of scope. I’ve learnt to accept change as an inevitable part of the process.
How I got here
What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
It was all over the place – a project here and there – and I would also have long breaks in-between commissions. I started and stopped many times before I made peace with the guilt of not consistently working. Although it was challenging, it helped me learn a few important lessons along the way, such as having a positive outlook and not being afraid to proactively seek opportunities.
“Taking a break is fine, no matter how long – as long as you come back eventually.”
How did you go about landing your first commissions?
My first commission was off the back of a solo exhibition I put together. The person who ended up coming to my exhibition was the same person who commissioned me months later. This experience reminded me of how important it is to make yourself visible.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Making peace with fact that I’m not always creating work; sometimes you need a break to see and hear new things as this will inform your work. Taking a break is fine, no matter how long – as long as you come back eventually.
If you could pick two things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
The Element, by the late Sir Ken Robinson, as well as his TED Talk on why schools kill creativity. And the podcast The Futur with Chris Do, especially the episode Contagious Selling with Errol Gerson.
How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
Very important, because it’s a powerful form of discovery. It’s ironic that I’m giving this advice, as it is something I need to do more of myself. Share as much as possible, as long as you’re comfortable with it. You never know who is watching your content and tracking your progress.
What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Budget! Spreadsheets are your friends.
What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Sleep on it – you have no idea how important looking at something with fresh eyes is.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
When it comes to illustration, I’d say: take art classes to give yourself a strong foundation; it’s not always smooth sailing, but don’t give up; be prepared for changes and don’t take feedback personally; and believe in yourself.
The production process is a real rollercoaster, so when it comes to producing, I’d say: remember that you’re a specialist, and ask lots of questions. Also, by being close to the end product, you learn so much. Printers have a lot of information to share that you won’t find in books.
Mention Randy Amoakohene
Interview by Lyla Johnston