Jake Gavino - Graphic Designer

Jake Gavino is a graphic designer based in the Bay Area. An interest in art early on led Jake to puruse a BA in Studio art from UC Irvine and MFA in Graphic Design from CSU Long Beach. His 9-5 is graphic design, where Jake has worked with Disney and NPR, while his personal projects are illustrations, many of which are Fil Am based and inspired. The Fil Am illustrations are something Jake has recently started (his culture is a part of what drives him) and they seem to resonate with fellow Fil Ams. The food, familiarity in cultural symbols, nuanced details in Jake’s illustrations are Fil Am representation and understanding.



How did you create your career path? Was art always something you wanted to pursue? 
I’m definitely still in the process of creating my career path but from a young age I knew I always wanted to pursue an artistic one. Like most young creatives, I would always find myself doodling on the margins of my homework and class notes. I naturally gravitated to taking art classes in high school and by the time college came along, it solidified me wanting to major in it. I went to UC Irvine and majored in Studio Art, which was more art theory and fine art based. I loved it and it warped my mind, in the best way possible. To see the world from a more conceptual perspective was one of my biggest takeaways. The social structures and collective consciousness that define the world we live in were heavily examined and deconstructed in my undergrad classes and gave me a good head on my shoulders. That being said though, I found myself veering more into more graphic design and the commercial art world and art’s function in those realms. It was interesting to me how commercial art combines things such as marketing, human psychology, and artistry to create desire for certain things.

I moved back to San Diego after graduating to do a graphic design certificate at San Diego City College to gain a solid design foundation. My plan was just to find a job after but I loved it so much that I applied for a MFA in graphic design at California State University, Long Beach. During my MFA I did internships at NPR and at Disney, the ladder where I ended up staying for about 2 years. I did graphics specifically or Disneyland helping out with signage, concept art, logos, and plenty of other fun projects for their Live Entertainment Department. I recently moved up to the Bay Area to do another internship at a studio that’s more branding focused. 


What inspires you and influences your art?
My own actual personal art is influenced from different aspects of my own life. A lot of it comes from being Filipinx, such as food, traditional clothing, and simply items and events from growing up. Other things include music artists I like or just randomness I see that gives me an urge to produce something. I do keep in mind that I want my work to represent things that bring remembrance of joyful occasions for myself and hopefully trigger commonalities in others so they can relate. These experiences are derived from my own, but if someone seeing them can remember that they have had similar ones, might just make us all remember we have more in common than we think.

How would you describe your style?
I’d describe my personal style as very illustrative and textural. I’m still tinkering with different styles and hop from things that can look like they can be from a children’s book to more aesthetically mature looking figures.

Have you always incorporated Filipino culture in your art?

Not always, it’s more of a recent thing as I’m still finding my voice as an artist. It’s definitely prevalent in my work now as I’m consciously heading into that direction compared to when I was just starting out.

How important is diversity and representation in your art? And how has it been representative of you and your community?
Very important! I had a fear of being pigeon-holed of just mostly doing things that related to my culture but would that really so bad? I think not. If the “mainstream” isn’t going to represent me and other underrepresented groups, then who will? It’s something I’m proud and willingly happy to undertake along with the many others who are doing so. My culture isn’t all of me but it is a big part that drives a lot of the things I do. I believe putting that out there in the word will further create more context and understanding of Fil Ams as nuanced individuals. As an artist, it’s inevitable that something you deem so importantly would affect the work you create and be the driving force to do so.


What pieces have struck a chord with you and with the Fil Am community?
I did a ‘Self-Care’ piece that illustrated little remedies and items my mom would tell me to use whenever I got sick. I mostly drew from my own memory but it turns out a lot of other Fil Ams used them as well. I love it when even the most niche commonalities resonate with people and become a shared experience.

What are some favorite pieces of art you have created and companies you've collaborated with?
The type of work I do for my 9-5 and personal work are a bit different in a good way. I do graphic design as a job and do more illustrations on my personal time. It fulfills my desires of using art as a functional medium in terms of my day job, and then more of the self expressiveness I get to do in my illustrative work. One fun project I had was making some holiday backdrops for Downtown Disney last year. Holiday time was one of my favorite times at Disneyland when I was working there.

Do you have any upcoming pieces or events that you are excited about?

Currently I do not, but one my next big plans is to finally do a batch of prints to sell online and finally table at a convention. I recently went to SF Zine Fest and was so inspired by all the artists out there doing their own thing and sharing their stories.


All images courtesy of Jake Gavino

Jeannine Roson