One Minute With…
Hi Jordan, thanks for taking time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
Thank for getting in touch. It’s nice to be in such great company.
I’m a graphic designer, illustrator and artist living in Cape Town, South Africa with my lovely girlfriend and cat. I have a fascination with letters and words, designed and written, and for the last few years have been lucky enough to be able to make a living working mainly with custom drawn and experimental type.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Jordan Metcalf.
I wake up at around 6:00, check my mail, read for a bit, have some tea and head to the studio around 8:30. I don’t have a very regimented daily routine once at the studio, so I bounce around between work, meetings, e-mailing, and sketching before heading home around 18:30. I try to keep fairly regular work hours as much as possible. I work at night and on weekends when I need to but I try not make it a habit and usually try project-manage jobs in a way that allows me to do most of the work during working hours. I love what I do, but I also know it’s important to nurture life outside of it, so trying to create a degree separation between work and life is important to me.
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?
At first I studied it because it seemed like a pragmatic compromise between art and industry. I had wanted to study fine art, but worried about not being able to make enough money to live. But fortunately the more I got into design the more it resonated with me, and I quickly discovered it was a much better choice for me.
I imagine my defining moment was probably when I first started messing around with creating custom lettering. It wasn’t something I had seen much of, so I think it happened quite organically. I was working doing graphic, web design, and later directing motion graphics at the time, but at home i was messing around with random type experiments for fun. Little did I know that it would turn into the focus of my work once I went freelance. It wasn’t so much a defining moment as much as an incremental shift.
How do you approach a new project? What’s your creative process like?
I usually start projects with some rough sketches, which I either elaborate and refine by hand or in Photoshop. Some pieces start and end on the computer though, as the result of a digital experimentation that gets elaborated into something more. Depending on what it is I usually execute and refine the design in Illustrator and once everything is in vector, I take it into Photoshop for final grading and texturing. To be honest, up until execution stages, my process is fairly erratic and largely fuelled by stress. Once I know what I’m doing it becomes a lot more fun though.
You’ve got an awesome style, with lots of strong geometry and great type. Where do you get inspiration?
Thanks. I’m constantly inspired by the intersection of man made objects and nature. I live in a city where there are mountains, trees and beaches visible from almost anywhere you are, so there is always this amazing juxtaposition of the sharp geometric lines of buildings and roads and the natural forms and curves of nature. I think there is something beautiful and revealing about our desire for rigidity and geometry in a world that so completely defies that. This informs my work and my thinking quite a bit. Using basic forms and hard geometry to create things that then become soft and detailed and voluminous, and hopefully organic int their own right.
Your best known for your lettering and illustration. How do these disciplines compare? Which do you prefer, and why?
I’m definitely more focused on design and lettering at the moment. I love that at its best, design can be art without the ego. It can be beautiful and conceptual but also is required to communicate a message in an honest, open way. It lacks much of the self-indulgence and ambiguity of a lot of art . I like that openness of communication and am really trying to translate it into personal art pieces. I do still enjoy illustration though, but it is a much more difficult, draining process for me.
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 would love to have spent a day as Shigeo Fukuda. He was a Japanese artist working with graphic, sculpture and spacial design. I was lucky enough to hear him speak a few years prior to his death, and he had an amazing energy, passion and joy for the work he did. His humour, insight, creativity and versatility are still massively inspiring to me.
What design tools could you not live without?
Pens, paper, a computer, Illustrator, Photoshop and a Wacom Tablet are all pretty much indispensable.
And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design?
Spend more time having fun experimenting and less time on the internet. And bear in mind that it doesn’t all happen at once. It will more than likely take a few years before you’re doing work you really love and getting paid for it.