The Graduates: James Callahan & Joe Keirs

In our special graduate issue, we feature the work of a small but perfectly formed selection of this year’s creative graduates. We’ve also canvassed their opinions on their education and their hopes and dreams for the coming years. And if that wasn’t enough, we’ve invited all of them to show their work at Mother’s new gallery space

James Callahan and Joe Keirs met on the Graphic Design and Communi­cation course at the University of Leeds, from where they graduated this summer. “We just used to doodle on each other’s pads during boring lectures,” explains Callahan of their coming together. “I’d do half of a drawing then Joe would do some.” They then worked on a Christmas card together, found they got on well and so decided to form a more long-term working partnership – a decision that posed something of a problem for their tutors, initially at least. “Our course isn’t designed for teams and we were one of the first to start working as one,” explains Callahan. Theirs was the first year after a merger between the graphics and communication courses at Leeds.

“Initially there was hesitation because they were concerned about how our work would be marked,” says Keirs, “but when we spoke to them about what we wanted to do after university and that we wanted to work as a team, they encouraged us.”

Why work as a team? “We just really enjoy throwing ideas at each other,” says Callahan. “[During the holidays] I’d stay at Joe’s house and from nine to five we’d just be sitting in his room working on ideas.” Not surprisingly, their predilection for working as a team on idea after idea has led them toward advertising as a future career, some­thing that was confirmed after a year ‘in industry’ spent trying out placements in a variety of different creative companies. “During our year out we worked at loads of different types of companies to see where we fitted in best,” says Callahan of stints that included window dressing alongside a host of design studios and agencies. “After that we evaluated the experience and found that advertising agencies were where we enjoyed ourselves most.”

It was during this year out that James & Joe, as they style themselves, (first names being de rigueur for advertising teams) first came to our notice at cr. No bad thing for a prospective creative team, they are not backwards in coming forwards, cultivating some lasting relationships during their various placements with people who they can now call on for advice and generally getting themselves known around the industry by emailing and meeting as many people as they could and creating a rich website that would put many professionals to shame. They’ve also managed to pack in a fair bit of real world experience, having guest edited an issue of Illustrated Ape magazine and created Pleasures, a book on ‘alternative desires’.

James & Joe are very keen to work in as many different media as possible, making no distinction between illustration, photography, product design, or any other form of visual expression. “It’s all communication to us,” says Callahan. “What interests us is how you can communicate ideas through things that aren’t just traditional advertising. We read and hear that’s what the industry wants, but then sometimes we’ll go and see people and they’ll tell us to go away and come back with some ideas for ‘ads’….”

Nevertheless their sights are set on a job in an ad agency, despite current economic woes. “I guess it takes a while to earn your cynicism,” says Keirs. “At the moment, things seem to be hard but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We can still take a few more beatings before we get too disheartened.”

“In our year away we turned some job opportunities down because we wanted to finish our course,” adds Callahan. “Maybe in a year’s time, if we’re still unemployed, we’ll be kicking ourselves….”

See more at jamesandjoe.co.uk

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