Inspired by Joanne Hawker’s Meet The Maker instagram challenge this month, we thought it was a brilliant opportunity for you to learn a little more about the man behind Rocket Jack. Simon West is a graphic designer turned artist, with over 20 years experience.
Wanting to spend more time with his family and less working in London gave Simon the push to go for it with Rocket Jack in 2016, named after his firstborn son, Caspar Rocket Jack West.
1. How and why did you become a graphic designer?
Well, originally I wanted to be an architect or lawyer but if I’m honest, as a teenager, art seemed the easier option. When I realised how much I enjoyed it, I decided to set my sights on art school. From there, I got a job in publishing but left that about a month later for my first ski season. When I came back from travelling, I got a job as a graphic designer for a shop in Kingston. I learnt a lot, fast, whilst on the job and ended up freelancing in London for hundreds of different agencies.
2. What did you do before Rocket Jack?
I’ve gone from selling my time creating art to selling my own art direct. I always had the passion to sell art but never the platform. Rocket Jack was the switch. For the first few years, it was a balancing game between freelance work, what was then my side hustle, (because obviously you’ve still got to be able to pay the bills whilst chasing your dreams) but in the past year, Rocket Jack has become my sole focus.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
6.30am - get woken up by little people, who I try to ignore until 7.05am
Make breakfast and spend about an hour getting the kids dressed
9am - head down to my garden studio
Do admin whilst getting orders started
Print all morning, this takes a lot of my time as I currently only have one printer and some of our larger prints can take up to twenty minutes each to output
Then I’ll get as much packaging done as possible for a early afternoon Post Office drop-off and on the way to a long stroll along the beach (my fave thing about living in Brighton)
2pm Friday’s - celebratory doughnuts from The Flour Pot
Back at it, getting a head start on tomorrow’s orders, working on new designs or keeping on top of social media
5.30pm - call it a day just in time to join Rocket and Otis for tea
4. What are some must-haves you keep on your desk?
In order of preference: Audio Pro speaker, iMAC, iPad pro with Apple pencil for drawing, three printers (one for labels, one for admin and one for artwork printing), a cutting board and knives, guillotine, cup of tea and box of cola bottles.
5. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Aside from hanging with my lovely wife and kids of course?! Eating, drinking, snowboarding and travelling the world doing those three things. And a new one as of last year, paddleboarding.
6. How would you describe your aesthetic and how did you develop your style?
Breaking things down into their most simplest form and making them bold and bright. Having worked on thousands of different briefs over the last few decades my skills and styles have naturally evolved.
7. What’s your favourite colour?
Yellow. A golden tone, somewhere between lemon and mustard - especially when contrasted with a sky blue!
8. What is your favourite room in your home and why?
The kitchen, because it's big, bright, airy and has a beer fridge!
9. Where do you get design inspiration from?
Everywhere, I never stop looking - sometimes I’ll get lost in designspiration for hours!
10. What’s your fave part of the design process?
Initial ideas and sketching. Half the time these ideas may not work out but when you’re sketching everything goes.
11. What kind of projects do you love to work on?
As a graphic designer, anything where the brief is loose and I can be creative, whether that’s typography, illustration or even typesetting. As an artist, I only work on projects I love.
12. What qualities and skills should a great graphic designer have?
You have to be able to look at a project from multiple angles and not get stuck on the first idea that looks good. What makes a good designer great, is the ability to answer the brief and then show why and how it could be better.
13. Do you have a favourite Rocket Jack piece?
One of the first Rocket Jack illustrations I created was this swan print. It captures everything about my style; modern, simple and bold. I love the Scandi style and think it makes a wonderful statement piece for any wall
14. What sets Rocket Jack apart from others alike?
Originality, interesting angles and lots of personalisation options. We’re also big on fantastic customer service, it’s what encourages people to leave those 5 star reviews, which make such a difference to small businesses, like ours.
15. What is something people should be mindful of when selecting wall art?
There’s no set rules. The main thing is any art work you have on your walls should spark joy every time you look at it. That’s the only thing that matters. If you’re unsure, I would say, start with a theme and try not to worry about consistency too much; it’s good to match one but not all elements. That would be one element of colour, sizes or amount of texture.
16. How do you balance having kids and running a business from home?
Coffee, a supportive wife (who also juggles her own business so she understands the pressures), sharing responsibilities, a work space outside of our house - mine is in the garden - a dynamic duo who help with marketing and social media... and beer.
17. What are your ambitions for Rocket Jack?
Ultimately, I want to be able to focus solely on what I love doing - designing. There’s SO much else that goes into running Rocket Jack. Growing my team will be central to this, which would enable a better work/life balance and even the possibility to travel more and work remotely wherever we are.
18. What is your favourite thing about running your own business?
Creative freedom, not being tied to any briefs or schedules.
19. Who’s your IG inspiration?
Designers Republic was a huge inspiration to me when I was starting out, back in the 90s. There are so many amazing artists on IG that it's impossible to narrow it down to a few but I love all of the work that comes out of Print Club London, and when buying t-shirts I’m always drawn to Yeaaah! Studio.
20. What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
Start NOW and work it out along the way - you wont get it right to start with but you’ll never learn until you get going!