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July 27, 2023

Stay weird: what inspires cult Instagram designer Jake Foreman

Adelaide-based graphic designer and artist Jake Foreman persisted with his odd and anachronistic illustrations just long enough to find a niche in the global music industry.

Jake Foreman graphic designer
  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Pictures: Frame Creative

Jake Foreman wants to set the record straight: “I’m actually not a huge muso,” he says. Graphic design is his real kink.

“I really like the ’60s and ’70s psychedelic pop-culture artists,” he says.


This article was first published in print Issue 39 of CityMag, on streets now.

“So, Milton Glaser and John Alcorn and Seymour Chwast. They were doing a lot of typographic stuff in their work, and it was a unique thing for that time – like, illustrators were just kind of only illustrators – but they were bridging the gap between design and illustration, which is what I’m kind of doing.”

Jake, whose cult Instagram account has 120,000 followers, feels the need to make this disclosure because his scribbles have featured on some major music industry collateral.

His otherworldly illustrations were recently used on billboards for Coachella – a “pinnacle job”, he says, not because it’s a globally recognised festival, but because it’s a billboard.

A collection of Jake’s fantastical characters and settings have also been used as gig flyers by Australian psych royalty King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Jake was stoked to be invited into the Gizzverse – again, not because of the music, but because of his appreciation of the band’s official-yet-unofficial eighth member: Jason Galea, who makes all of the band’s artwork and posters.

“I really like his work,” Jake says, “and that’s what excited me more than the music.”

Jake may not be a music head, but he’s aware of his allure with alternative bands and festivals. Like kindred spirits, these musical entities seem to appreciate the way his pencil explores similarly strange and wobbly worlds.

“Independent artists do a bit more progressive-looking work that goes better with band [material],” Jake says.

But it’s not only musicians and promoters paying his bills. Since leaving Frame Creative to go freelance, Jake has been commissioned by The New York Times, Apple and Waxwork Records. He’s represented by the Jacky Winter Group, which has a presence in Melbourne, London and New York.

Jake is also building a business around his work, releasing iPhone wallpapers, t-shirts and drink bottles emblazoned with messages about being kind to yourself. One design, available as a poster or iPhone wallpaper, is an advertisement for optimism: a “refreshing break from presuming the worst”.

Today, Jake is working on coffee packaging design for an overseas client. He’s happy to be kept so busy.

“There’s always something that I can be doing,” he says. “[This] has definitely been a bit of a contrast to when I first jumped out on my own, when you’re struggling to earn money every month to pay all the bills. I now feel a bit safer in that regard.”

Jake’s advice to freelancers getting their start is familiar: “grind,” he says.

But he also says artists should dig into their own idiosyncrasies. And at the exact moment you want to change gears and do something different because it seems like no one wants to buy your bizarre, anachronistic art, that’s when the right opportunity will come along.

“You almost kind of have to give up and just be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m going to do this, no matter what happens, forever,’ and then it starts working,” Jake laughs.

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