One edgy and colorful, the other muted but intricate, Nickerson’s patterns present commentary on contemporary life.
By Rachel Gallaher
For Seattle-based artist and digital illustrator Jared K. Nickerson, working with renowned Swiss watchmaker Swatch was a bit of a dream come true.
A product designer by day (he currently works as a footwear designer for Brooks Running), and a longtime, self-taught designer, Nickerson was on board as soon as Swatch reached out to ask if he wanted to be part of its Swatch x You artist series. The collaborations, which feature unique designs from artists in cities around the country, are made available to be featured on a customizable watch via the company’s website. Nickerson saw the offer as an opportunity to blend several areas of his creative life.
“It’s Swatch,” he says, “I mean who wouldn’t be excited to work with them? They’ve always pushed the bounds on the more graphical approach to watches, and their more minimal approach to design and product always spoke to me as a designer. I’ve got a watch fetish myself too; working with them checks a lot of boxes for me.”
Like most creative kids, Nickerson loved to draw. “I remember getting in trouble in school for drawing too much,” he recalls. “I remember even getting in trouble because I kept drawing disturbing monsters in class and my teacher was genuinely worried.” Nickerson notes that he has been on his own since the age of 16, and didn’t have the opportunity to attend university, but that he “loved design and communicating through that medium.” So he stuck with it through school and after. “I slowly learned the required software, honed my skills, learned the lingo, and really got lucky early on to nail down a few solid clients.”
Parlaying his artistic side into a career, Nickerson has created digital illustrations and worked on branding for major companies including Nickelodeon, Nike, Adidas, and Facebook, among others. For the Swatch artist collaboration (and Swatch x You series), he created two new patterns that each has an early-MTV vibe. “The Hive (Casual Fridays)” features amoebic-like structures filled with various mechanical pieces. “[This pattern] was an exercise in superimposing the human construct of working for a living, the hive mind, and corporate life but set within a mechanical or even artificial intelligence setting,” Nickerson notes. “It was meant as a commentary on corporate life, not positive nor negative, just an observation. What are these drone’s functions, what are their needs and wants, how do they interact with each other, do they have a Human Resources department (or rather ‘Robot Resources’), do they have casual Fridays?”
The second design, “TV Kills Everything,” is jam-packed with color and features a series of vintage TV sets with slightly dystopian phrases (“Feel the Void,” “Always Watching”) and images emblazoned on their screens—all set in a lush, vegetal background. “This one was more of a specific commentary on the distractions of life and the current state of and political landscape of the USA,” Nickerson says. “How life presents all of this ‘noise,’ these distractions, these forms of energy vampirism. This exclusive Swatch version focused on the silencing of that noise, specifically by nature. Nature is pictured engulfing the noise, reclaiming its resources… in the end Mother Nature always silences the noise.”
Nickerson’s patterns are currently available via the Swatch website for customization. An interactive feature allows customers to drag a watch around on the pattern to choose how it will be manifested on the timepiece. They can also customize the mechanism color, and there is the option to enter text (up to 15 characters) on the back. It’s an optimal way to add an artist’s work to your daily life.
“As an artist I want my artwork to speak to as large of a variety of people as possible,” Nickerson says. “An individual making my artwork their own is a collaboration in and of itself and that really speaks to me.”