Lettering, Design, and Studio Life with Jimbo Bernaus
The first time you see Jimbo Bernaus’s work, it’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
An accomplished hand lettering artist and graphic designer, Jimbo is most known for the powerful pastels and clever design techniques he uses to demonstrate mastery of the form. Many of his pieces are accented with floral embellishments, a design motif that has captured the attention of thousands across social media.
Today, the Croatia-based designer is the co-founder of BAM! Creative Studio (also known as ShoutBam on Instagram), which specializes in brand identity, murals, and letter crafting. They’re also focused on creating brushes, workbooks, and similar products to help amateur letterers enhance their skills.
But Jimbo will be the first to tell you that his success was never a sure thing. From getting started with lettering to gaining traction in the community, and launching his first product, everything has come down to timing, persistence, and a little bit of luck.
An accidental start
Jimbo stumbled into graphic design almost entirely by accident, but that happenstance paved the way for his future as an artist. As Jimbo tells it, he found graphics arts while working through a job-related training course.
“When I was 19, I started something that was graphic arts or some kind of technician course — something like that,” he explained. “I didn’t even know what graphic design was back then. So I just started messing around with the programs — Illustrator and Photoshop — and thanks to the good teachers I got, they recommended me to go to the university.”
Based on those recommendations, Jimbo attended the University of Barcelona for a degree in graphic design. While there, he started doing freelance work to pay the bills. While these jobs only paid in small amounts, they gave Jimbo the opportunity to have fun and make money while studying logotypes and design.
After graduating, Jimbo took a job at a creative agency in Croatia. That’s where he began to apply his skills to solve real-world challenges. As a designer, Jimbo worked mostly in advertising. This was critical for his career, but not because of the design work.
“It was really important for me because I met a lot of people,” he said. “I met a lot of creative directors and a lot of partners, and that kind of kick started my career.”
In 2017, after nearly a year and a half working with the agency, Jimbo decided to call it quits and struck out on his own. Together with his partner, Tea Shockats, Jimbo founded ShoutBam and has been going strong ever since.
Shoutbam: Built on community and experience
For Jimbo, ShoutBam has been a game-changer.
At first, the company started out with a focus on illustration and brand identity. From there, they moved on to creating murals and have recently started creating tutorials and brushes for the artist community.
While the agency has been a major creative outlet for him, Jimbo stresses that the success that he’s seen there wasn’t built overnight. The agency did very little outreach when getting started, but they were only able to do that because of previous experience in the field.
“At some point, I feel a little bit lucky, because we didn’t do a lot of cold calls in the beginning and all this stuff,” Jimbo said. “What helped us most in the beginning was just being yourself and just being nice to people, and trying to be active in the community and trying to be everywhere.”
Jimbo also points to his previous experience at the agency as a big boost to business right out of the gate. As a new agency, Shoutbam was hired by Jimbo’s previous employer to help with design work. A creative director he knew started his own business and hired Shoutbam for additional work. A second director hired them for label design.
Those connections helped the agency establish itself and gain traction in the local community, and it’s what Jimbo recommends to artists who want to strike out on their own.
“If I was someone who just started, I would just go work in an agency, try to meet people, try to go to parties. Also don’t be shy and ask as many questions as you can think of, try to go through Instagram and start reaching out to creative directors. My last advice is to just be yourself and opportunities are going to come your way,” he explained.
Jimbo is quick to recall one story about an artist who attended one of Shoutbam’s workshops. When the company that the attendee worked for needed some design work, he sent that work to Shoutbam because he understood their process and liked their style.
“It was a very organic process,” Jimbo said. “I love that.”
That doesn’t mean that they got everything right. Jimbo was quick to point out that, in the beginning, Shoutbam took on almost any job that someone would hire them to do. They would post these results on Instagram, and it became problematic until they started to curate their feed.
Jimbo explains: “It kind of became a problem as well for us because we were putting everything online. In the beginning, we’d take every job that came our way because we didn’t have money, and we were uploading every single piece of work on the internet.
“At some point, we realized that, on the internet, we just have to put whatever we feel good with and whatever we want to keep doing because people are going to hire you for what they see.”
Once Shoutbam started to curate its feed, they started getting hired for the type of work they wanted to do. It’s a lesson that has stayed with them as their interests have changed and evolved over time.
The art and design of product creation
Though Shoutbam is focused on logo design and brand identity, Jimbo is most known for his artistic hand lettering and floral motifs. But, just like graphic design, Jimbo stumbled into this skill set almost entirely by accident while at the university.
“Back in university, my typography teacher came one day and said, ‘You know, this thing called calligraphy is trendy again and we’re going to try to do it.’ He didn’t know anything about it. We didn’t know anything about it but, you know, he kind of started with us and we learned together,” Jimbo said.
As he continued to practice, he began to mix graphic design with hand lettering and, eventually, florals. But, until 2017, Jimbo only illustrated in black and white.
An iPad changed all of that. Using an iPad, Jimbo was able to evolve his artistic process by adding color to his designs in a way that made sense.
The new equipment brought him into the community of digital artists around the world, and Jimbo found himself at home there — so much so that he wanted to find a way to help other artists develop their creative process.
That’s one reason that Shoutbam started making digital brushes and workbooks for artists. But Jimbo says that he was worried when Shoutbam launched its first major digital product: The Kickoff Lettering Toolbox.
Shoutbam had released a 14-brush set in the past called Rough and Raw, but the Toolbox was something altogether different.
The Toolbox started off as a personal project that grew into a massive resource. It features dozens of lettering brushes, a 130-page workbook, a dozen color palettes, and more.
After four months of hard work, Jimbo found himself crossing his fingers when he finally released it to the community.
“You know, when you start these kinds of personal projects or products, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Probably, you’re going to spend four months working on something that won’t perform as you wanted to. Keep in mind that we had to stop working on almost everything else. This time though, it got a nice response — but what if it doesn’t? It’s that fear, you know?”
Fortunately, the Toolbox and Shoutbam’s other products have been a hit with the community, receiving thousands of downloads and tons of positive feedback. From a business perspective, they’ve been a major success.
While Jimbo says that he’s more strategic about the content he creates for the community, it’s still difficult because — at the end of the day — he’s also an artist. In many ways, he is his own client and, like so many artists, Jimbo maintains a high bar for his own creative work.
What’s next for Jimbo and Shoutbam?
Shoutbam is still going strong in the midst of the global pandemic.
Though the agency lost a few clients upfront because some deliverables couldn’t be produced due to travel restrictions, supply shortages, etc., Jimbo says that it’s given them more time to work on community products.
The pandemic has given Jimbo the time the agency needs to be more social, release freebies for artists, and get better with videos and video tutorials.
“It kind of gave us an opportunity to see what we could do when something hit that hard,” Jimbo said.
And, so far, Jimbo is satisfied with the results.
You can find out more of Jimbo’s work on Instagram, and don’t forget to check out the ShoutBam website, where you can find some great brushes (free and paid), as well as interesting tutorials posted on their blog and recent YouTube channel.