Interview with Jamaican Designer Rohan Mitchell, 4rth place winner of the Intl. Reggae Poster Contest, 2013


Congratulations Rohan Mitchell! Your 4th placed poster “Dubwise” pushes the envelope, no cliché in the mix.

Thanks! I really enjoyed creating the design and I’m happy with the result!

Tell us the significance of the owl symbolism?

Brainstorming for ideas, I mind mapped my way from the word reggae to dubwise. Reggae advocates consciousness, and encourages you to not only open your ears but also, your eyes and be wise! We often associate the owl with wisdom, so it automatically embodied the concept for the piece. While creating the poster, I envisioned the illustration as a ‘deity of dub’, which would bring forth this musical nirvana through the powers of drum and bass while spreading the message of dub.

How did you find out about the International Reggae Poster Contest 2013 and what was it that attracted you to participate?

Actually, I knew about the 2012 contest and regretted not being involved. I first found out about it from Veerle Poupeye, who was the curator of Edna Manley College when I was a student there. After checking out the IRPC website and following on Facebook, I became even more enthused by the visuals, organization and more importantly the goals! Mixed in with that, are some ingredients I’m partial to: there’s Jamaica, there’s reggae, there’s nostalgia and of course design/illustration. All of this for worthwhile causes; I had to jump into the 2013 version!

Out of 1,100 submissions, 4th place is impressive, were you surprised?

Definitely, the news blew my mind! It feels wonderful to have your work showcased with 99 other awesome pieces. On a personal level however, I’m more excited about being a part of the contest’s mission. If my concern was just about winning, I think I would have missed the point of it all.

You are from Jamaica and now living in Japan. Right? When did you move to Japan? What is the reggae scene like in that country at present?

Well, I came to Japan in July 2011 but the shift is just temporary. Being here gives me a sample of reggae’s global impact. It’s more prominent in bigger cities like Tokyo and Osaka but its influence is sprinkled even in some of the most rural areas. The Japanese ‘massive’ also have musicians, dancers, sound selectors, producers etc, that consume the reggae culture and manifest it in their own way. It’s something amazing to behold!


How would you summarize your experience with the International Reggae Poster Contest? Did it live up to your expectations?

From struggling with the concept, to chugging mugs of hot coffee for sleep battles, to submitting my entry, to opening an email and seeing the good news—the experience has been awesome! I placed little emphasis on expectations so it’s a bit difficult to speak on that. I’m truly inspired by the objectives of the contest and the way IRPC is packaged and handled. It’s just a ‘good vibration’ to see all the creativity involved and the reach of reggae culture.

“Dubwise” captures the symbolic elements of Dub, key elements also points to the Kingston’s rude boy fashion statement of the 70s-80s, Clarks comes to mind. What is the inspiration? Was there a special song that inspired the poster?

I’ve always been fascinated by the word itself.  Hearing, “dubwise!” echoing through the speakers from artistes like Black Uhuru, was enough high for inspiration. Also, I’m an ‘80s kid with a deep love for that time and space, so I wanted to capture the nostalgic vibe of that era. The colours, the Clarks, the diamonds (from diamond socks), the 45 records…were all used to help create that image.


Who is your favorite Dub master, King Tubby or Augustus Pablo?

I’ll confess to not knowing enough about the two dub giants’ music, but based on what I’ve absorbed overtime, I’d have to say Augustus Pablo. It feels like he laced his dub mixes with the acoustics of his melodica to tell stories. I love King Tubby’s work but Pablo’s productions speak to me on a deeper level.

Are you also a fan of Dubstep music?

I dig Dubstep but calling myself a fan is a bit of an overstatement (laughs). Sometimes I’ll play it with my ‘volume on blast’ when I need to power through a design.

Tell us a bit more about your experiences in Graphic Design? Do you work in the field of Graphic Design?

I worked for both print and time-based advertising agencies for roughly 2 years. I was involved in graphic design, illustration, motion graphics and a bit of video editing. I’ve also freelanced on various projects like:  magazine editorials, t-shirt and book cover designs, movie and music video sets and a bunch of other cool stuff! The design industry can be quite demanding and at times frustrating but I’m just trying to learn from it and enjoy the ride!

Where did you study graphic design?

Edna Manley College—some of the roughest and greatest years of my life!
Although I majored in graphic design there, I had a deep love affair with illustration, so I try to incorporate both when I work.

What are your thoughts on our objective to have the Reggae Hall of Fame museum built in Kingston, Jamaica?

I’m all for it! Jamaica is the mecca of reggae and it is necessary I believe, to preserve the legacy in something state of the art. Reggae isn’t just a music genre; it’s like a heartbeat shared by many around the world. The Reggae Hall of Fame would be a great place for people all over the globe to explore this powerful entity.

One of the contests objective is to support the Alpha Boys’ School in Kingston, Jamaica. What is your take on the school’s historical role in Reggae music?

An academy that has given orphans a home and the gift of music, is a national treasure we have to cherish! The Alpha Boy’s School was integral in the birth our beloved Ska and Reggae—music that has given Jamaica the spotlight on the world stage. Around the 60s and 70s when reggae started to gain popularity, musicians who studied at the school were making their mark on the music and helped to create the mold for what we have today.


What would you like to see as a career benefit coming out of this International design contest?

I can’t quite put my finger on it yet but I know I want be a part of something great and meaningful! This might be a shot in my own leg (laughs), but sometimes I get tired of all the consumerism that comes with working for advertising agencies. I want to do work that creatively inspires positive change. That’s one of the reasons I felt compelled to enter International Reggae Poster Contest.

As one of only three submissions from Jamaica why do you think so few Jamaican designers participated in the contest?

Hmm…that’s a bit tricky to answer. Jamaica has many talented artists who I’m sure could have created some impressive designs. Some may have planned to, but got caught up in the wraps of daily job schedules. Also, seeing ‘international contest’ attached to something can be a bit intimidating; I knew it was for me. Overtime however, when the IRPC has gained more popularity, you’ll definitely see more posters coming out of Jamaica!

What reggae tunes get regular play on your iTunes play list?

These reggae artistes perform the most on my play list pretty much:
Bob Marley
Black Uhuru
Peter Tosh
Steel Pulse
Damian Marley

Thank you Rohan!
Thanks for the chat!


Maria Papaefstathiou

VISUAL DESIGNER since 1996 and blogger since 2010. Living in Athens, Greece. She has been focusing her research on poster design and particularly on social poster design and portrait design. Her main poster project is a series of posters celebrating great personalities of traditional and popular culture in Greece and Jamaica. These include actors, singers, musicians, poets etc. This is an ongoing project. “I believe that design is a powerful tool that we designers can use to spark enthusiasm, change mindsets and bring positive actions to our world and our culture”. FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF GRAPHICART-NEWS.COM BLOG. She carefully curates high-quality designs, illustrations, and art, from all over the world that will teach and provoke other designers. Many consider her blog to be an exceptional educational tool. CO-FOUNDER OF THE INTERNATIONAL REGGAE POSTER CONTEST which was launched on December 2011, partnering, the creative activist Michael Thompson aka Freestylee. (

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