December 10, 2018

Five Questions with Jez Burrows: Designer/Illustrator/Writer

British designer, illustrator, and writer Jez Burrows now calls San Francisco home. You may have seen his work on 10×17 album covers, McSweeney’s (style tips and gift advice), and the Cards Against Humanity Design Pack. Jez is also the author of two books, Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings and And Introducing!, a collection of over 2,500 unsung, unlikely, or unfortunate casting credits from almost a century of cinema history. (Among the listings, “Angry Man with Moustache”, “Save the Rhino Man”, and “Sad Woman with Horns”.)

We look forward to chatting with Jez when he’ll be part of our speakers panel at the upcoming 2019 In/Visible Talks conference. Meanwhile, get a sense of how he thinks and creates as he answers five of our questions about life as a creative.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

“Temperamental. Some days it feels as natural as breathing, on others like herding horses in the dark. It’s responsible for my biggest emotional highs and lows. I used to romanticise it, but I’ve found treating it like what it really is (work!) is much healthier.”

How or where to you find inspiration?

“All the usual suspects—art, literature, movies, music—but increasingly I’m more interested in things we often ignore: dictionaries, credit sequences, historical plaques, any large body of found text that has no interest in entertaining us.”

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

“My first book, Dictionary Stories. Not only was it my first collection of fiction (terrifying enough), it was entirely written using a fiendish and laborious writing constraint (every story was composed of dictionary example sentences). Keeping my head above water and delivering a book on time that I still liked when I was finished with it was not something I believed I was capable of.”

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

“After doing a wildly mediocre job at pretty much every school subject that wasn’t art, design, or literature related. The day I learnt the definition of graphic design as a profession, it was as if dozens of dissonant sounds all aligned into harmony.”

What drives you to create?

“Questions I don’t know the answer to. Insecurity. Paying rent.”

BONUS ROUND: What’s on your current playlist?

“The new Low record Double Negative is something else. It sounds precisely what 2018 feels like, which is to say broken and relentless.”