Getting Blacklisted

Blacklist Studio's Nathan Johnson gives us the low-down on the duo's effortlessly cool creations

“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life.” So says a cheerful greeting card made by husband-and-wife creative combo Nathan and Jaynie Johnson, whose launch of Sydney-based graphic design studio Blacklist was one of their largest leaps.

Having since worked with global players Coca-Cola, Nespresso and Universal Music (and wowed our walls with their own print and homeware lines), this month they’ve let loose on our pages, with their creations scattered throughout the issue. We steal Nathan away from his artful scrawls for a quick grilling…

What inspired the work you’ve created for us?

These pages are a conversation. About creating, dreaming, believing and day-to-day energy. There’s so much happening around us on a daily basis, I think sometimes we need to remember to be true to ourselves and not let too many outside circumstances mould what we believe or are striving for. There’s beauty all around us if we just open our eyes.

Describe your creative process…

The works come together as a sketch on the computer; tiling together various images and thoughts, scanned notes, ink, brush and photos. The compositions are always random and intuitive. I try to inject as much of my own personality in my work as I can. Awkwardly-written sentences and messy words I think have the most beauty.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to stay up 24 hours a day and never sleep… that would be pretty cool.

You’re on the front page of tomorrow’s paper – what does the headline say?

It would say something like, “Artist designer from Blacklist discovered to be a fraud”.

If you could live in any historical period, when would it be?

I’ve been reading a couple of books about the ’80s recently. One about Jean-Michel Basquiat and another on River Phoenix, and it was such a creative time. Apart from that, right here, right now is pretty cool.

You can only pick one social media channel for the rest of your life – what do you choose?

I’d choose real life.

If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?

I read this great kids’ book to my daughter Willow called The Day the Crayons Quit by Oliver Jeffers. It’s our favourite. It goes through all the emotions of the crayons and why they’re fed up with being crayons. It’s awesome. So, I’d have to say Black ’cause he’s got a super-cool attitude in the book.

Favourite quote?

“Nothing truly beautiful ever asks for attention.”

What’s in the pipeline for blacklist?

There’s always many, many things happening at once… At the moment we are purely focusing on our range of products and gifting category within the brand, and not taking much client work on which is quite freeing. This will see lots of new stationery items, notebooks, cards, daily diaries and of course our art prints. We also plan to expand some more to overseas markets in the next 12 months [and] are partnering with a large Australian retailer on an exciting project. So, never a dull moment!

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