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New Talent

New Talent: Jonathan Bates

LBB’s Liam Smith catches up with Jack Morton’s senior creative associate and architecture aficionado

New Talent: Jonathan Bates

After trying, enjoying, hating and escaping a career by the time he was 23, Jonathan Bates headed to art school and then joined Jack Morton in 2014 as an intern. He was tasked with making a scale model for an automotive conference – and the story goes that he’s been here ever since.

His work was noticed and he was picked out first for a design internship and then a permanent role on the creative team, where he was mentored by a creative director for two years. Jonathan has progressed from intern to senior creative associate in under three and a half years and is now leading the creative charge on a number of different high-profile projects.

LBB’s Liam Smith sat down to chat with Jonathan about his fast-moving progression and why Furniture and architecture inspire him

LBB> Tell us a little bit about your childhood. Where did you grow up, and how did creativity impact your life? 
Jonathan Bates> I was born in Stevenage and raised in Surrey. My parents moved south from Morpeth, just north of Newcastle when they were married, so we’ve always had a strong connection to the North East, probably the most beautiful, unspoilt part of the country (slightly biased!). I grew up in a loving family in which my interests were encouraged and me and my brother were free to make our own choices around our futures – to this end I made a few interesting decisions that meant by 23 I had lived abroad in Canada, dropped out of a marine geography degree and tried, enjoyed, hated and failed in a career already!

I went to art school after an adult ceramics course helped me through a very challenging time. I found enjoyment in making things again which made me revaluate my trajectory and ended in a promise – whatever I did with my life I decided I wanted to enjoy every day, believe in what I was a part of and make things – a mantra that drives me as hard today as it ever has and one that Jack Morton has enabled me to achieve.

LBB> You helped launch Kodak’s brand experience at drupa in 2016. Can you tell us a bit about that project, and your involvement in it? 
JB> Kodak Quarter at drupa is a really special project for me. I joined the team after the pitch had already been won, and worked very closely with our ECD to deliver the project. It was a great opportunity for me in which I had a lot of autonomy but also had a very experienced lead creative who guided me towards execution.

Winning the trust of the client early on allowed us to unpack a fantastic idea with an incredible delivery team. 

When I step back and looked dispassionately at what we achieved I can see the passion and personality of every team member in the work. From graphics to spatial design, to dressing and propping and the production of the event – all of us are evident and I think that’s what helps realise a great creative idea into an extraordinary experience. 

LBB> You also had a hand in bringing Honda’s brand experience to the Goodwood Festival of Speed last summer. Can you explain how that went down?
JB> Honda at Goodwood is a fun project and Honda is a brand, like Kodak, that has a rich heritage to pull on. They embrace creativity, trust the agency, and our success over the past three years continues to raise the bar. Last year was rooted in curiosity and we developed activations that asked the audience to discover through participation, product truths that highlighted innovation in the new Civic model. 

LBB> You’ve progressed pretty quickly at Jack Morton. You joined as an intern in 2014, and now you’re senior creative associate! How has your time at the agency been? What opportunities for progression were you presented with? 
JB> It’s been great, I really enjoy working at Jack. The people are amazing, the culture is strong, and every project is a new challenge. As for opportunities I think I just approach every task with the same mentality, which is just to work hard and do my best. That might sound like a cliché but it’s how I approach the work. I have also been fortunate to have worked closely with some extraordinary people who have invested time in my progression and believed in me. I’m constantly learning and I find the studio at Jack really allows for people to push forward if they show the passion and appetite to develop. This mixed with leadership that encourages and constantly challenges me makes for a stimulating environment – I also think I work best when I am slightly out of my depth, or up against it, I find this motivates me to perform and I enjoy the pressure.

LBB> What other projects that you’ve worked on are you proud of? 
JB> I delivered a project for a leading social media platform towards the end of 2017 which was enormously challenging, but also a fantastic creative opportunity and the team was again incredible. I am really proud of what we achieved; everyone pulled together and had each-others’ back. I think that’s the best thing, when the going gets tough you can rely on your colleagues at Jack to all give 100%, roles and departments go out of the window and the common goal takes over – it’s quite special I think.

LBB> Outside of work, what do you like to get up to? 
JB> I love to travel, experience new cultures, see art shows, go skiing and drive my convertible sports car!

Trips to Japan and a road trip in California have been highlights in the last couple of years – I’m not sure I’ve ever been as happy or content as I was in the deserts of California! I love to ski, I find the freedom almost spiritual – the ability to go anywhere on the mountain, tackle any terrain at any speed and completely rely on technique becomes almost meditative. I’ve always found the mountains to be totally awesome, the scale and rawness is beautiful yet dangerous and there is a respect you have to have which is humbling.

In the summer I bought a two-seater convertible, a slightly questionable decision but a tick in the life box! I find driving similar to skiing in so much that it clears my mind. I find it hard to switch off, and driving is one of those times when I have real clarity of thought, an ability to tackle things I am worried about, or to think logically when I am allowing other influences to sway my decision making.
LBB> Who and what are your creative inspirations? 
JB> My biggest influences tend to be designers who achieve a playfulness, expressiveness or strong sense of identity in their work. 

Furniture and architecture is what first got me interested in design and are still big influences – Achille Castiglioni, Patricia Urquiola, Konstantin Grcic and Ray and Charles Eames are big influences. I visited the Eames house in California last summer, a sort of pilgrimage. Their house is utilitarian and highly functional yet has such a strong sense of identity, reflecting the design duo so perfectly – their influences were as vast as their portfolio of work and I think they demonstrated the core ability of a designer to employ design thinking and the creative process to any project, finding original and often lateral solutions in any problem. 

Architecturally I am frequently influenced by Ricardo Bofill and Luis Barragan. I am captivated by their strength in form and confidence in colour that I think is so hard to achieve.

I also am completely obsessed with all things post-modern, from Ettore Sottsass’s furniture to Michael Graves and Aldo Rossi’s architecture, I find it all completely captivating, it just makes me smile. 

LBB> What are your plans and goals for 2018?  
JB> My plan for 2018 is just to keep cracking on, have as much fun as possible and hopefully deliver some awesome work! We have a very exciting opportunity with Honda at Goodwood this year that I am currently working on – it’s a departure from the previous few years but promises to be a great experience, so watch this space! 

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Genre: Experiential