Five Simple Questions with Mr Jon Hicks!posted 16 December 2011 by Sarah Morris
With The Icon Handbook's launch nearly upon us we thought you might like a bit of background from the author himself. Hope you enjoy Jon's answers to our Five Simple Questions as much as we did!
1. Tell us about yourself.
I’m Jon! I work as one half of the creative partnership Hicksdesign. I’m a general Graphic Designer and Illustrator, but in recent years I’ve been mainly working in icons, logos and interfaces. I'm most well known for the Firefox icon and Mailchimp logo, but I also updated the emoticon set for Skype recently, which was a really fun project. I’ve drawn icons since I was about 12, making my own sprites for early computer games on the family’s Acorn Electron, but it didn’t really feel like something I could earn a living doing until the Firefox icon happened.
I live in the market town of Witney in Oxfordshire with my wife Leigh and 2 children, 2 guinea pigs and 1 golden retriever. These days I like nothing better than taking off on my bike around the Cotswolds – its such a beautiful area, and you can’t beat that feeling of propelling yourself forward! Sometimes its fast ;)
2. Tell us about your work on The Icon Handbook.
I had the idea to write the book about 5 years ago now, when I realised that there wasn’t anything on the market, especially covering desktop and mobile interface icons. Books were either very general (encompassing logos, branding and signage) or just collections of pictograms without any theory or background.
The project finally took off last winter when I came to visit the Five Simple Steps studio and discuss ideas. Before Five Simple Steps existed I wasn’t sure there was a publisher that would treat the book how I hoped, but seeing their output meant I had to ask them. Then getting Chris Mills (Development Editor and Project Manager) with Gedeon Maheux and Andy Clarke as technical editors on board sealed the deal – I could do it knowing that there was the dream team behind it. The book would never have got written, and written properly, without Chris’s direction and management.
I spent the majority of 2011 writing and illustrating for it, as well as interviewing other icon designers. Its been a shock to the system, but I’m so chuffed to have finished it! The cover design has been a labour of love too – as each letter represents something about myself: The I has a music theme, C is work, O is personal interests and N is family.
3. What were the tools and processes that you used?
I used Evernote a lot in the early stages, to collect articles and their URLs, as well as images and dump snippets of book content as they came to me. Then when it came to actual manuscript, it was all written, and changes tracked, in Pages.app. Chris and I also shared the duties of asking for permissions and artwork for the book, which took just as long as the writing, if not more!
For each Chapter, I would do an initial draft, which Chris would then bash into shape, tell me where I was fluffing, or needed more detail. Then after another round it would go to Gedeon for technical editing and then to Owen Gregory for copyedting.
If I ever write another book, I now know what to do first – start asking for all the permissions and artwork before anything else!
4. Where do you find inspiration for your work?
The internet is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it brings a staggering volume of information to you that would’ve taken more than a lifetime to research and collate. I wish I had it when I was at college, particularly for image research. There’s so much inspiration out there, and sometimes its best to not go looking for it, but to store it when you stumble across it. On the other hand, it's easy to just copy what you find on the internet, so you need other sources as well. Fresh air, particularly on a bike ride is excellent, but I also find that last thing at night or first light is when I get most of the ideas.
5. If you were immortalised as an icon, what would it look like?
It would have to be the bowler hat. It symbolises everything I aspire to be – a dapper English gentleman on The Avengers. at least I’ve got the English part sorted…