My Design Moment: Ben O'Brien

How 'JAM: Tokyo-London' showed Ben the Illustrator the potential of collaboration and crossovers

With issue 200, we bring you our ‘Best 200 Design Moments Ever’ and as part of our celebrations, we’re asking friends of and contributors to the magazine to share their ‘design moment’ – something that inspired them or influenced them in their creative career. Today: Ben O'Brien, AKA Ben the Illustrator

Back in 2001 there was an exhibition at London's Barbican called 'JAM: Tokyo-London'. Having graduated two years before, I was still very much finding my way in the creative industry, but this exhibition set me on the right path. It featured a mix of British and Japanese artists and designers including Airside, A Bathing Ape, Cornelius, Groovisions, James Jarvis, Yoshitomo Nara and Bump (who produced the Shoreditch Twat).

I visited the exhibition three times and every time I became more and more amazed how much an individual or studio could crossover from one media to another, and not all for the sake of 'art' but also for commercial work. I discovered that an illustrator could successfully work in fashion, a musician could work in film and a design studio team could do whatever the hell they wanted. I found this exciting to the nth degree. I know this was nothing new; creatives have always crossed over from one field to another, but this was right there, right then. People were achieving global success through collaboration and venturing into any field they fancied; people were making exciting things in every media.

Up to this point I was an art-lover who wanted to work in commercial design; I hadn't yet seen the light where the two could blend as one. I was keen to build a career, to find commercial success, and to keep things exciting, and the creatives involved in the JAM exhibition were leading the way for me to follow and find my own career path.

JAM