One Minute With…
Hi John, thanks for taking the time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
Hi to you, thanks for having me. I’m a 23 year old designer and illustrator. I live in Sunset Beach, CA with my awesome wife Alex, and our little cat. I work at Biola University Communications and Marketing, in the design studio. My wife is also a designer, and we recently celebrated our first year of marriage. Oh, and we’re addicted to the TV show Breaking Bad.
How did you get into design? Was there a defining point in your career, and if so, how did it shape you as a designer?
As a kid in school I had a short attention span, so I’d tucker down in my notebooks and draw whatever was on my mind. Drawing and making things always made me happier than anything else. Jumping forward to high school, I started playing around with pirated version of Photoshop, and started pushing pixels. I was fortunate enough to make websites, and other random stuff for friends and family with it. It was fun, but I didn’t even know I could do this for a living. It’s interesting, I hear a lot of designers with that same experience, that they didn’t fully know who or what a “designer” was until… one day it clicked. College was one of those first clicks (or defining moments), but those life-changing moments tend to continue to happen, I’m sure you know how things go.
If you could change one thing about your career to date, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a thing. I am happy to have made a lot of good friends, and have had mentors that helped me get to where I am now. I’m still pretty young, and still have a ton to learn; I always try to keep that in mind. Plus, there’s no point to live in regret, just onward and upward.
So, you studied Graphic Design at Biola University, where you now work. In an industry which changes at such a fast rate, do you feel a formal education in design is still relevant?
There is this ongoing debate, that I’m sure you’re aware of, and it’s comprised of formally educated designers and self-taught designers essentially duking it out, as to who’s the most superior breed. It’s only my personal experience, but in my life/career, having a fine arts degree has been a countless blessing. Classes like art history, drawing/figure studies, darkroom photography etc. all helped to bolster the work I was doing in my design classes, and I still reap the benefits.
How would you define the work you do? I mean, you do branding, illustration, print work – Do you see yourself as more of one of those than the others? And do you think designers should narrow themselves into one field/medium or be a jack-of-all-trades?
Massimo Vignelli talks about this profane visual disease that is around us, and how design is the cure to the disease. So whether it’s branding, illustration, or the rest, I’m aiming to be a visual problem solver. Yeah, it sometimes can feel like I’m putting on different proverbial hats, depending on what I’m working on that moment. That back-and-forth has the potential to get confusing, but it all aligns when I think about it all as the means for solving a design problem.
Designers can seem like jacks-of-all-trades, it appears that way because design is so much larger than its mediums. It is a balance, and I believe that we shouldn’t spread ourselves too thin, but it takes time to learn that boundary.
I couldn’t help but admire your desk, which you created yourself – Do you think creative pursuits like these, outside of what we define as “design” enhance you as a designer in any way, or are they just an entirely unrelated hobby?
Thank you sir, I appreciate it. Yeah, working with wood is special, it’s near and dear to me. Long before I knew what design was, I used to make skateboard ramps, among other things, with my dad. I can remember then, having to think through and calculate each decision, to produce the perfect ramp. Knowing what I know now, I treated the desk similarly to how I would design for a layout. I’m no master craftsman, but I keep finding excuses to make things, mostly because I want to get better at it (this is the second desk I’ve made for my home… I think of it as a “Mark II” kind of a thing). The hands-on nature of the whole process is very informative, and is loaded with design lessons.
If, in some Freaky Friday-like situation, you could live the life of another designer, illustrator or creative, for a day, who would it be, and why?
I’ll answer as an extension of the last question; I’d love to be some old carpenter dude. To be able to work day-in and day-out in a woodshop, with all the best equipment, would be a dream. It makes me feel happy inside just thinking about it.
How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet?
In all things, success is defined by a person who has balance, this is someone who has a practical understanding of many things through and through, by way of experience. It’s a bit like the philosophical idea of virtue, where at the center of the scale is virtue, and at the opposite ends is vice; so to be virtuous means to be balanced. Gaining balance is the tough part, but if I can be the kind of person/teammate/client who is willing to learn from my vices, I’ll hopefully find it.
And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design?
Have self-initiated projects, they’ll keep you on your toes. Don’t be intimidated to contact people you don’t know. Make good friends, and keep them. The client is always right, sometimes. Make mistakes, and learn from them. Lastly, love what you do.