Jane Trustram: Graphic Designer

by Kate Andrews | April 4, 2011

With over 6 years experience working in Graphic Design, London based designer Jane Trustram is Design Director at Jotta, Co-Founder of London Design Festival’s graphic design graduate showcase Emerge and a visiting tutor at The Arts University College Bournemouth. We spoke to Jane this month to find out more about her career and design work.

Notes on Design: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

Jane: At the heart of everything I do is graphic design. I have been practising for almost 6 years now since graduating from Falmouth College of Arts with my BA in Graphic Design. Alongside my commercial design work, I have developed a passion for design theory and education.

Based in London, I currently work at jotta, a platform for creative collaboration, where I head up the design department. At jotta we work on an incredibly diverse range of design projects, from branding and brand strategy, to digital, to large scale installation graphics for both projects initiated by jotta and for external clients.

MA research summary: Deconstructing Deconstruction

One day a week, my alarm goes off at 5am and I take the train down to Bournemouth to tutor BA Visual Communication students. I help them tease out innovative ideas and develop creative responses to their projects. In my “spare time” I put on an annual graphic design graduate showcase called Emerge.

I have also recently completed an MA in Graphic Design from London College of Communication which I’d been working on, part time, for 2 years. It was probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. There was blood, sweat and maybe a few tears…! But, it has inspired me unmeasurably and I am definitely a more well rounded person and designer for it.

MA research summary: Deconstructing Deconstruction

Notes on Design: Can you tell us a little about how your career began?

Jane: My career started upon graduation in 2005. I did a few work placements at companies such as Design Bridge, Lewis Moberly and The Partners before being offered a permanent job at Minale Tattersfield. It was a real case of being in the right place at the right time; a girl who was working there was leaving and they were looking for a junior to replace her. I went in for a portfolio consultation and a couple of days later got the golden call offering me the job. I still remember the feeling I had after that call, I knew it was the beginning of something very very exciting.

Notes on Design: Why did you choose a career in Graphic Design?

Jane: The answer to this question is, I’m not really sure. I think rather than me choosing a career in graphic design, actually graphic design found me. Having been educated in a girls grammar school in the 90s where art and design were not really prioritised as career options, I left feeling rather disillusioned and not quite sure what to do with myself. Having studied art all through my education my parents encouraged me to do an art foundation course, just to take a year to get my thoughts together. I went to what was then KIAD (Kent Institute of Art and Design) and is now UCA Maidstone. The first few months of the course were mixed media, a bit of fine art, a bit of fashion, a bit of photography etc. and completely unintentionally all of my projects involved type in some way or another. When deciding on our specialisms, my tutors took one look at my Level 1 portfolio and said “Graphic Design”. And that was that. Decision made. That was 11 years ago and I’ve been studying graphic design ever since!

Remastered, A Visibly Smart Production from Intel. Exhibition produced and curated by jotta

Exhibition book for Intel Remastered, produced at jotta


Notes on Design: What is it about design that motivates you?

Jane: One thing I’ve never forgotten is my tutor from Falmouth, Jon Unwin, giving us a talk on the importance of exercising our “noticing muscle”. A noticing muscle is a muscle most people don’t even realise they have, but if you exercise it regularly by not observing life passively, but by looking closely at things, anything and everything – even the most minutiae details in everyday objects, you become attuned to the ability to see the world with a creative vision, to see design in everything. I’ve been exercising my noticing muscle for a good few years now, and although it can be exhausting at times, it makes situations inspiring, it makes problems solvable, it makes challenges exciting and it makes life fun.

European League of Institutes of the Arts, branding and design by jotta

Notes on Design: You recently completed a Masters degree, can you tell us more about your course and the work you did?

Jane: Yes, the Masters was a real challenge. Whilst simultaneously working and running Emerge there were times where it all got rather hectic! The course (MA Graphic Design at London College of Communication) is very much a research led course. Students are encouraged to question graphic design and apply their findings to either areas of interest personal to themselves or to graphic design itself.

The course is 2 years (part time) and the whole second year is dedicated to working on a final major project. I ended up with a theory led project which questioned the very nature of graphic design. I stumbled across the project by doing some research into French literary theories, mainly deconstruction theory. Deconstruction theory is very much about the idea of questioning and reinterpreting accepted relationships – by analysing people’s perceptions of certain subjects and turning them upside down. Inspired by Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of speech and writing, I challenged myself to do a deconstruction of my own, relevant to the field of graphic design, using form and content as my subjects.

Planning for MA Final Piece – Deconstructing John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn

My personal deconstruction of form and content left me thinking about form as content, or more so, content as form. About an individual’s experience of design, about perception, about imagination and the role of the designer in creating that experience. My final piece took the form of a book, which took into account all of my research and hypothesis around deconstruction and graphic design, visually explaining my research, my thinking and my conclusions. I ultimately defined a 3 dimensional narrative where the reader is following in multi-linear directions throughout the book, however is also prompts the reader to think for themselves, taking the narrative out of the book and into a new dimension.

MA Final Piece visual summary – Deconstructing John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn

The best thing about the MA is that I saw graphic design in a whole new light, outside of the commercial sphere. Graphic design is more than just a job for me now, it is part of my lifestyle, my hobby, my passion. I feel like I understand what it is now and can appreciate it for its fullness over and above the client brief.

MA research summary: Deconstructing Deconstruction

Notes on Design: How did your undergraduate and postgraduate study differ, and would you recommend postgraduate design study to others?

Jane: My undergraduate and postgraduate education could not have been more different. But both equally useful in their own rights at the times of my life when I was approaching them. My BA at Falmouth was 3 years in training of how to be a graphic designer in the commercial sense. Understanding how the graphic design works and honing my practical skills. My MA was about understanding why graphic design works. I would recommend postgraduate design to people who had been working for a few years. It’s hard to understand ‘why’ graphic design works when you don’t know ‘how’ it works and the MA won’t prepare you for industry. For me, it was about personal development and to fulfill an insatiable desire to understand.

MA Final presentation of works

Notes on Design: What would you say was your creative break, and what has been the pivotal piece of work you are most proud of?

Jane: I think I’ve been lucky to have a few creative breaks in my time. When in my final year at Falmouth I won the RSA student design brief to design a set of postage stamps which raise awareness of a current social issue. I put missing persons on postage stamps (which 6 years later I still think is a very good idea!). Then, obviously, getting a job is a good break. I feel lucky to have had an overwhelming amount of support in setting up Emerge. It was a lot of hard graft but the hard work paid off when in 2009 I was shortlisted as a finalist for the British Council’s Young Creative Entrepreneur competition and I was sent to India for 3 weeks to study the graphic design industry and education systems in India. My career as a graphic designer really started to get interesting when I got involved with jotta. Taking a big risk, I quit my previous design job in the middle of a recession. We built the agency from the ground up, and now we have an impressive client portfolio, including ASK Restaurants, Fallon, Intel, NUS and European Students Union to name a few.

As far as the work I’ve produced, I’m definitely most proud of my MA project, and result. 93% on an MA is definitely something to crow about! The final book I produced was one of the most considered design pieces I’ve produced (the luxury of it not being client driven obviously had an effect on this), and conceptually it is full of meaning and research. Commercially, can I say jotta? Everything we’ve done? The fact that we have come so far in 2 years is something I am incredibly proud of.

MA Final Piece – Deconstructing John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn


Notes on Design: Can you tell us more about Emerge?

Jane: Emerge is an annual graphic design graduate showcase that I co-founded in 2009 with events organiser Holly McConnell. As its part of the London Design Festival, Emerge provides a platform for graduates of that year to gain valuable exposure at a time in the design calendar where industry professionals are doing the rounds of the festival. This year, Emerge is ready to hit the ground running into our third year. With serious funding restrictions this year we’re not entirely sure what format it will take but rather than stress about that, we’ll see it as a creative challenge. Planning has begun for Emerge 2011 to be the best one yet!

Emerge Exhibition 2009


Notes on Design: Based on your experiences do you have any advice for next year’s graduates?

Jane: Yes it’s a very daunting time for young designers, the transition from education to industry, and a lot of doom and gloom is spread around around graduation time. There is however a lot of support out there in the form of exhibitions, placements, workshops, mentor schemes etc., but you have to go out there and find it. Be proactive, meet people and take every opportunity that you can. If you haven’t got any work on at a given moment, set yourself a brief, do an old competition brief, just keep designing. This will keep your portfolio fresh and give you something to talk about when you meet other designers or potential employers.

Find out more about Jotta and Emerge, and follow Jane on twitter @leblond. If you want to read more about Jane’s MA work, download her final report here: Deconstructing Deconstruction and Graphic Design by Jane Trustram [.pdf].


Designer and writer Kate Andrews was the original editor of Notes on Design blog, founded in 2007.


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