“Follow your passion and the money will come”… ever hear that one? It’s a common statement used to often describe turning interests into a career path. Very few of us actually bridge that gap long enough to pay the bills, let alone have it turn into a long term job. Jeroen Tump is one of the lucky ones. The rare breed that has been able to follow his graphic dreams and interests.Jeroen, the graphic design powerhouse behind Epic Kites talks about brotherly love, morning surprises, how things get done and how it all began.
Most designers would love to be in this industry - how did your opportunity flourish?
Well, I rolled into this industry. When I started kite surfing I saw a lot of people on a Dutch forum build their own boards. Considering that boards cost a lot of money, I thought about building my first board with a self-builder. A guy I met on the forum helped me with the first board and also showed me how to do a design. I loved this part so I started designing for the fun of it and then posted the pictures on the Dutch forum, kitehigh.nl. People noticed this and some asked me to do stickers for their boards. Then I guess the right people noticed me and I got asked to design for a small company. I entered a competition for Cardboards and Cyclone that went really well. Then this friend introduced me to the team at Eclipse and this is where it really took off. My passion became my job.
You've been designing for Epic and Dimitri for quite some time. How did the relationship start?
I got my start at Eclipse because they were in need of an extra graphic designer. When Dimitri left he asked me if I would help him build up his own company. He couldn’t guarantee me anything at that point, but I just started designing everything imaginable that we’d need. We didn’t know if Epic would start or if I’d even be paid for my time. I took a chance working on Epic and in the first 3 months I spent an enormous amount of time and had a lot of contact with Dimitri to get everything started and begin thinking about the details. This created an amazing brotherly bond between he and I. Dimitri is very loyal to people that are loyal to him, and this was obvious right from the start. He helped me out with things so I could do greater quality work and be more efficient. After six months, he flew me over to his home in the Outer Banks. This was an amazing experience, although I could live without the waking up pranks with a GoPro. Dimitri is known for being a prankster, and one of his favorite things is to quietly walk in my room wearing a mask and film the experience of waking me up. Through these times he became like a brother to me. It definitely is an Epic family.
Outside of kiteboarding, what other design work do you do?
Most of my work is in the kite boarding industry. I work on visual material for a Dutch based brand as well as a kite company that my friend owns.
Outside of kiteboarding I occasionally do some logo work and advertisements for small local companies. I hope to do more designing like that but the kite surf industry is where my heart is.
What are some of the challenges with respect to designing kite graphics?
Because I stumbled into the business I think I bumped into every obstacle along the way. With canopy cutting, not everything is simple or even possible. Sometimes small strips (or hooks) can make a kite weaker and you don’t want that, so you have to talk with the shaper to decide if it’s possible or not. And sometimes it takes several changes to get something done and then you don’t like it anymore thus new ideas are spawned. Also with prints not everything is possible or affordable. Factories have maximum sizes for prints and in the early days this killed a lot of ideas. But you also have to think about the amount of screens that are made for a kite. A multi-colored print comes with a screen for every color. Certain areas you just can’t design because a kite is 3D and not 2D like when you design. Big prints are also heavier so you try to avoid massive full coverage.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m very lucky that I can design in the style I want. Feedback from Dimitri and Helen steer me to something even better through our collaborative partnership. Of course I look to a lot to other brands as well because sometimes you see new ideas and possibilities. I listen to people on the beach and on kite forums. That’s one of the reasons the Screamer 10m LTD was black. I also just have to go kiting to get new inspiration and see what people buy and like. I also exchange ideas with other designers who have different styles. I like to keep tabs on other brands and often snowboarding as well. It’s important to understand the marketplace. It gives me ideas that I make my own or put a twist on. I love strong contrast designs.
Can you describe the working process?
I always start with the new shape that I get from the designer. This is a flat version of the kite with the panel layouts. Usually the shape gives me ideas of what cutting I might do. Some ideas work perfect on one kind of shape but are not as nice on another shape. I always start with the cutting and later add the graphics. Almost always I work on an idea and then I get new ideas or try something I liked better so I work further in a new version. Once the evolution is complete and I have a nice concept, I mail it to Dimitri who usually is very enthusiastic. We chat further about refinements or ideas that we can dismiss. Then I start giving it extra details to make the kite look better. Usually we have about 5 or 6 versions before Dimitri and Helen give the “perfect!”
Can you describe your process with Dimitri?
Our process is very funny. Dimitri and I Skype a lot because we live on opposite sides of the ocean. Often, while we talk, I make small changes and send it right to him. Sometimes I find myself being carried through the office/house to one of the bathrooms where there is a mirror. And Dimitri shows me which version he likes best and what he wants to change. When he reviews my latest video, I have live commentary on the spot. Dimitri also shows me his videos and provides live commentary. It’s very immediate and collaborative. It’s simply a lot of fun working with Dimitri.
What is some of the work that you're most proud of? And what work presents thegreatest challenge?
I guess I’m proudest about the Renegades 3G, 4G and 5G – there were a lot of positive comments about the looks. I also get great comments on the Screamers as well. I personally love the aggressive nature of the kite and the graphics reflect that attitude. We took a big step forward with the 5G Screamer. The graphics are just awesome.
A big obstacle can be when a company has too many people deciding what is nice and what isn’t. If 10 people were asked, you’ll get 10 different opinions. You simply cannot please them all, so it’s better to keep the deciding group small.
Coming up with something better then the last generation I always have a significant challenge. I usually start with the shape and once I have that, I get ideas of what I want but it’s hard to get
something that’s better then the previous generation. Sometimes it just means I have to doodle and then I see a new idea comes out of that exploration. It can take a long time to come up with something we’re happy with, but Dimitri has his ways to “motivate” me in those cases.
You've recently been to Greece with Epic. What other perks to the job are there?
The perks I enjoy are because of Dimitri. He’s flown me over to the Outer Banks twice now to stay at his home and make me suffer Dimitri’s Boot Camp for the stay.
This year I went to Greece for two amazing trips. I’m basically the little brother there who meets everyone he knows. We’re there to do a lot of kiting, photo shoots, product testing and review graphic plans. Another perk is that I sometimes get to test the new kites/boards and give my opinion about them. It’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it.