Those of you that follow the British GT championship will likely have encountered the work of Jake Yorath, the man behind the distinctive and dynamic prints that have adorned the series’ programmes throughout the 2016 season.
Ginetta cars are a fixture on the British GT grid and we’ve admired several of Jake’s interpretations of our cars, so we decided to go one step further and commission a unique print from the man himself.
As part of this work we spoke to Jake to find out a bit more about his work, starting with the story of how he came to be a designer and what specifically drew him to the field of motorsport. Like many of us, this journey began through a combination of coincidence, luck and outside influence.
“It started by accident. My dad was a hobby photographer and he won a Nikon camera in a competition when I was young. He already had an Olympus and so that found its way to me.”
As a man that grew up surrounded by motorsport books, motorsport videos, and who spent weekends at events like BTCC in the 90s, motorsport almost inevitably became a focus for Jake’s photography. Early experimentation with posting photos on the fledgling Flickr network led to a left-field query from a friend: “Have you considered becoming a graphic designer?”
Demonstrating a consistent line in self-deprecation, Jake elaborates. “It’s funny because I can’t even draw with my hands, really - when I try to sketch an idea out it usually looks completely different from how I initially saw it in my head, which I find quite frustrating. I find it quite funny that I can’t hand draw; somebody once said to me that I ‘get paid for colouring in’, which isn’t too far from the truth”.
How does a man that doesn’t like to operate a pencil approach the design process? “I begin with source material and produce a number of line-drawing refinements, starting with variations in lighting to highlight different elements. I like to keep to as few shades as possible and tend to use bold colours – too many shades and the intricacies of a design can be lost in the detail”
Jake highlights what he perceives as a wariness of the ‘new’ that has crept in to motorsport design, particularly where promotional material is concerned. “Traditional motorsport art has adopted a fixed approach, often using a collage of cars exploding from the centre of a page, attempting to look like they’re racing, often without success. You end up with posters looking very similar.”
It was these literal interpretations of the source material - similar designs, similar colour palettes – that encouraged Jake to try his hand in the first place.
“I essentially started by doing designs for races where I thought their posters were underwhelming. It wasn’t so much, ‘I can do better than that’, but rather ‘I can do something a little bit different.’ I looked back on the great motorsport art era of the 60s and 70s and I felt that had gone away a little, and so there was an opportunity to offer something a little bit different, without necessarily being retro.”
“Encouragingly, you can see a massive improvement in the quality of some of the work out there, such as the FIA World Endurance Championship posters over the last 2 or 3 years; when I was first starting out, their promo work was really quite poor.”
Like many of us, Jake went through hundreds of car posters in his youth, including a treasured LG Super Racing Weekend World Touring Cars example that survives to this day.
“For some reason I vividly remember watching the [Steven Moffat, later of Dr Who fame] TV series ‘Coupling’ from about 15 years ago, where one of the characters had a bachelor pad full of old motorsport posters. What I strive to do is to create stuff that would have people saying ‘that’s good enough to put on my wall’, rather than just in the kids bedroom.”
Throughout our conversation he is careful not to characterise his observations about the industry as intended to be critical of the creators. For example, we touch on the work of people like [prolific motorsport artist] Tim Layzell: “You have to recognize the talent; I feel like an imposter next to them.”
“From a career perspective though, it’s an area that has an under-representation of creatives when compared to, say, football or cinema, both of which have hugely crowded art communities.”
Drawing parallels with his experience in photography, Jake observes that, “If you can’t see the photo then you can learn all the technical skills you like, you’re never going to be a great photographer. If you can visualise what you’re trying to do, you can learn the techniques more easily using modern methods than you can with paint and a still using your hands.”
“I have a crazy amount of respect for people who create things like Marvel comics. They draw at a ridiculous rate, pencil drawings then painting in. How they don’t have destroyed wrists is beyond me.”
In closing, we explore whether he has aspirations outside of racing?
“At this point, I don’t know. The lottery win dream is to have a studio to create poster art, books, magazines. Over time I’d probably expand from motorsport into other areas. I’m a big fan of the work of [Austin, TX-based design studio] Mondo, who do short run, licensed prints for TV and movies. If they do a Star wars print for example, they’ll sell out a run of 500 in 5 minutes. Their stuff is amazing, what they do is fantastic. To be able to do something like that in motorsport would be great. Maybe one day.”
Jake Yorath splits his time between design work, PR and social media management. You might call him a freelance creative, though he would describe that as a bit “turtle-neck jumper”. You can reach him at @jakeyorath or via his website, yorath.co.
Editors note: the artwork feature here was commissioned by the British GT Championship organisers.