Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s… oh wait, it is a bird. Now with over half a dozen sub-brands under its belt, we take a look at the identity system that keeps this illustration agency flying.
The Jacky Winter Group, a self described ‘record label for creatives’ is an interesting place, run, of course, by the very charming Jeremy Wortsman. Starting with only a dozen illustrators under its belt, Jacky Winter hasn’t slowed down, firmly wiggling its way into Australia’s collective creative consciousness. Interestingly, Wortsman began the company as a side project while working in another studio, and, when it came to designing the identity of this venture, he explains, “[I] didn’t even think too much about the logo at the time, as the only thing worse than coming up with names for your own projects is having to design for them.”
The first thing you notice when looking at the Jacky Winter identity are the birds. They’re everywhere, homage to the company’s namesake, the Jacky Winter bird. One that, in some forced serendipitous moment, also shares Wortsman’s initials.
Ornithology is key, and you can really tell that Wortsman has spent more than a few hours, cross-legged in the library “looking through species names and terminologies.”
Unsurprisingly, the studio is built up of such bird themed sub-brands as The Hatch, The Bowery, Flutter, The Twitchery and JW’s newest venture, The Menagerie. Each – like the people they represent – is varied and unique. The bird theme was not just a design choice however, Wortsman points out that it “also fit on a conceptual level, as one of our main aims was to help Australian artists ‘take flight’ in a professional sense.” That intent is very sincere, and a lot of amazing Australian illustrators have risen very high on JW’s wings.
When JW was but a hatchling, its identity “originally had the logo set in a script typeface from the Charles Bluemlein Script Collection,” explains Wortsman. As its popularity grew so did the identity, so it became important to make a clear distinction between the established, the emerging, the photographers and the animators – hence the sub-brands. All the logos (apart from Rock of Eye) have been illustrated by JW artist, Lachlan Conn, and the main bird graphic used in the logos came from a 1950s inspired card game Conn was working on. Wortsman points out that as “part of that, he did a series of fake postage stickers and stamps, and one of them was the Jacky Winter bird shape, which I loved so much, I ended up making it our master logo.”
The bird itself became the foundation for the rest of the identity, with Wortsman and crew trying to work it into as much as possible. Black on white is the predominant colour palette for the logos; however, each sub-brand is gifted its own key colour.
If history is anything to go by, further development of the Jacky Winter identity will be quite casual, as Wortsman tends to put his “trust into Lachlan and see what he comes up with.” Although the approach may be casual, it seems to have worked out well.
The identity is extremely well-considered and immediately recognisable. It speaks for so many creative groups without losing the strength of its parent brand. That is quite a task, and one that has been pulled off with flying colours. Surely we will see more of these Jacky Winter divisions (and their bird inspired logos) pop up over time. But for the time being, Wortsman needs to hold himself back from cringing every time someone references TV show Portlandia’s “put a bird on it” catchphrase.