Insider Tips from Jonathan Zawada


Adobe and The Presets are on the lookout for some young clever-clogs to collaborate on a user-generated lyric video for ‘Tools Down’, one of the bangers from their latest album, Hi Viz.

The competition is called Adobe x The Presets: Lyrical Masters, and it’s a terrific opportunity for young designers and artists to see their work on the big screen. The Presets artistic collaborator, Jonathan Zawada (he’s a genius and has designed every album cover since the beginning and, really, you should already know that) will be judging the competition, so we gave him a call to find out what YOU can do to ensure your design is among those selected for the vid. Read this and you’ll almost definitely win a feature in ‘Tools Down’, along with a 12-month Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Jonathan Zawada album artwork from Hi Viz – The Presets (2018)Let’s chat about The Presets and Adobe. I think a good place to start would be your relationship with The Presets. I read somewhere that as much as you helped them with, for want of a better word, branding, you’ve said they that also helped you.

Oh god yeah. When I started working with them, I was a partner in a little creative agency. I had been working on stuff for Modular acts up until that point, but nothing close to the intimate relationship with The Presets. The work that I did with them—especially for the first EP—was such a big springboard for me into what would later become my relationship with Modular, and I ended up doing lots of stuff with them for various acts. Meeting amazing people and all the amazing exposure that came out of the work I did with The Presets was huge for me, especially by the time we got to the first album. They exhibited a lot of trust in me and allowed me to do pretty oddball album covers and explore a bunch of other stuff that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to. It also generated a lot of work because as they became more successful, I got to work on a lot more stuff, and having a semi-regular client was good too (laughs).

Jonathan Zawada album artwork from Hi Viz – The Presets (2018)

How would it work creatively, would they just say, ‘Jonathan do whatever you want’?

Early on there was a lot less freedom, and we had some funny experiences with a few of the first EPs, which was pretty hilarious. And then, by the time we got to the first album they were definitely a lot more… I mean Jules has said at multiple times at multiple album shoots, things like, ‘I don’t entirely like this idea, but I trust you to do whatever you think is right.’ And so, in that respect, they would have constructive input.

Jonathan Zawada album artwork from Hi Viz – The Presets (2018)

Cool. And you’re the creative director of the new music video and judging the artwork that’s coming in for Adobe Lyrical Masters?

Yeah, yeah. I’m dying to see what people to do with that, and how it ends up growing. It feels like a very privileged position for me, to be able to judge for a change, rather than just be judged (laughs).

Do you have any tips for people who are thinking of entering the competition?

I mean, I think from my perspective, don’t try and be cool or clever. Don’t do what you think is good graphic design, or trendy graphic design; just be expressive as much as possible. I know that can be really dangerous territory when you’re starting, and it’s hard to be expressive when you don’t sort of, have ten or fifteen years of skills behind you, but yeah, that’s been my big thing over the years: being curious and exploratory, rather than trying to think about what is going to be cool or thinking about things in relation to what exists out there. That’s when the wheels sort of start to fall off: when I forget there’s an outside world and start to pursue my own little weirdo tangent.

Jonathan Zawada’s album artwork from The Preset’s 2012 album, ‘Pacifica’

I guess that approach works across pretty much every creative thing anyone could do.

I really think so. I think it’s also a hard thing to maintain.

Do you think we’re going to unearth the next Zawada?

I really hope it proves to be a good opportunity. One of the things that really encouraged me when I was fourteen I started doing design work for local community businesses, and I’d design business cards for them and stuff; I’m still so grateful to those people. The older I get, the more I realise how generous those people were to let this kid design the business card for their rubbish removal company, or their gift shop on the main street, or their hairdressing salon, or whatever it was. But one of the biggest things that made me feel excited and validated was when I somehow got to animate an ident for that music TV show Recovery, and that was the most amazing thing in the world to see my little ident come up between music videos. That was so exciting, and I think that little bit of positive feedback went a long way. If you do something and it ends up somewhere, like, hopefully in this clip, if that triggers a really good feeling in you, hopefully it’s enough to keep you pursuing it. Because it’s a long road, but it’s super satisfying when it works.

Head over to Adobe to find out more, or download the brief here to get moving on your design right now!

Jonathan Zawada’s album artwork from The Preset’s 2012 album, ‘Pacifica’

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