To celebrate Black History Month we look back to one of the most loved and respected local heroes in Herne Hill, Brixton and London – creative designer Jon Daniel.
Jon was an award-winning creative director whose range of work – from ad campaigns, to magazine columns and exhibition curation led to accolades and notoriety across London and further afield.
Born in London in 1966 and a long-term resident of Milkwood Road in Herne Hill, his mother, Sheila, came from Grenada and worked as a district nurse and his father, Horace, came from Barbados and worked for London Transport before moving into the civil service. Daniel was a hugely talented artist and a passionate supporter of local community groups.
Winning and infectious enthusiasm
As his friend Stuart Husband wrote in his obituary “Whether he was spearheading an attempt to get the Royal Mail to take up his designs for a set of stamps highlighting the black contribution to Britain, or gleefully detailing his latest celebrity sighting at Herne Hill station, he did it with a winning and infectious enthusiasm”.
The award-winning designer and graphic artist was one of the most prominent black creatives of his generation and a pivotal player in capturing the essence of the Black British struggle and empowerment through his art.
He passed away from pneumonia in 2017 , leaving behind a 28 year career encompassing powerful creativity as an independent creative director, artist, curator, writer and activist.
He channelled what he called his “over-active mind and imagination” into a graphic design course, working for 25 years as an art director for many of London’s leading ad agencies.
His show Post-Colonial: Stamps from the African Diaspora, was hosted at the London store of Stanley Gibbons, the global stamp emporium, in 2011. His exhibition, Afro Supa Hero, a snapshot of a childhood and journey to adulthood, shown through a personal collection of pop cultural heroes and heroines of the African diaspora, debuted at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Liverpool.
He was a passionate supporter of local business and had an extraordinary talent for supporting people, including teaching a session on the Tree Shepherd course ‘Brand Amplifier’, which was the beginning of a new journey for the founder of start-up Y Kairos, Snezana Nikolic, who is a member at GLOWS.
“I first met Jon Daniel when Tree Shepherd organised a course called Brand Amplifier. It was for 6 weeks or so. We were all on this course learning about business and each week we had a speaker – once it was Jon Daniel.
He spoke about his struggles
I really liked the way he spoke and what he had got through to be where he was, he spoke about his struggles. At the end of the session everyone was asking questions, I wanted to speak to him but I decided not to – I thought – I better just send an email. I had an idea about my logo but didn’t know who to ask but I knew I wanted it to be special. So I asked, would he design it? I got in touch and he replied instantly and agreed. I couldn’t believe it. I thought – wow – how does he have time for me?
He had a studio in Herne Hill by Railton Road. It brings me to tears to think about it.
He just wanted to support people
He liked my original idea and he said he could do it for me. I didn’t think he would be able to help me, I was struggling as a start-up, but he just said “Leave it to me, it’s pretty easy” and an hour later he emailed me a new logo. It was perfect. When I asked why he had spent time on this project he said “I just wanted to support you”. He used to pop down to the market in Herne Hill and see how I was getting on. These are the things that keep you going. It reminds you to support others. It’s a chain reaction. He was a special person.
Every time I want to give up I think of him. He didn’t give up. I couldn’t believe it when he passed away. Sometimes when you decide to do things, everything goes in the right direction. He was the
right direction for me. I now have this lovely logo. He was something else, a beautiful soul and person. He did so much for so many – he should be shouted about. “
Anita Thorpe, owner of Diverse worked extensively with Jon over many years and remembers his humility despite his celebrity:
e worked with Jon Daniel in various ways over the years. We’ve sold his Afro Supa Hero merchandise in my shop. Diverse. We also hosted an exhibition of his artwork for Brixton Design Trail, part of the London Design Fair.