One Minute With…
Justin Mezzell

Justin's Raygun52 Submission

Hi Justin, thanks for taking time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

I’m a designer/illustrator living in Orlando, Florida. I bide my time between my wife, our dog Huxley, an incredible community, Disney theme parks, and do the occasional design here and sometimes there. Aside form calling the Sunshine State home base, I commute to San Francisco for part of every month so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say my office is often nestled in with the clouds. Other than that, I tend to enjoy a good film and/or an equally good – often better – book. My work is largely illustration with the occasional web and UI design.

How did you get into design?

I was always a doodler. My brother and I would scrawl notebook after notebook with sketches and concepts to stories and fake games. I had all but fallen out of any pursuit of art professionally when I was contacted by a local magazine, RELEVANT, while in college to start an internship. I didn’t feel like there was anything I was doing at the time that I was ultimately passionate about it, so I thought I’d give it a try. From there, it all happened really fast so I guess you could say I stumbled into it.

Justin Mezzell

How do you approach a new project? What’s your creative process like?

I love storytelling. I think if I could actually write well, I’d pursue a career in being a novelist but it’s not a gift I have in my arsenal. I try not to let that stop me from telling stories. Most of my self-initiated pieces are created as a window into a larger story. Not necessarily one I’ll finish or write, but more a still from a narrative that is fully self-internalized. The creative process is scattered in the specifics. Inspiration is sporadic and the concepts strike at some of the most inopportune times, but I hunt down anything I can log into and save it until I can start breaking it down and bringing it to life. A lot of my illustration is influenced by my editorial background. You learn a lot about fusing the worlds of narrative and aesthetics – on a deadline. Music is another integral part of the build process. I usually seek out what artist I think best tells the story, put it on repeat and have at it.


You have quite a fun, retro feel to your illustrations. Where do you get inspiration from?

It’s funny because I didn’t know that I really had a vintage flair to my work until a friend had pointed it out to me. Not being schooled in design or art, the history of it is somewhat of a largely uninformed blur. After doing a bit of googling, I was hooked. What started as a quest for simplification of complex objects and mechanics ignited a full-fledged romance of all things vintage. I love antique packaging and lettering, the reductionist art form of retro illustration and mid-century modern architecture. I’m inspired by people’s visions of the future. There is something beautiful about building a lens into the future from our own respective time periods. Retro futurism is probably the most inspiring worldview to me in its boldness to dream. I look to people like Jules Verne who existed as a man outside of his own time – drafting a world in fiction that did not yet exist in reality. Now, we can look back on his dreams as our past but it makes it no less awe-inspiring. It’s actually the near eradication of the NASA space program’s budget that concerns me most as a dreamer. The impact of a generation that won’t get to watch the pursuit of the seemingly impossible. It’s a great shame and, I believe, dangerous to ambition.


I understand that the worlds of illustration and graphic design are worlds apart. Have you experienced this? Which do you prefer, and why?

Working in the freelance world will absolutely make you feel that chasm. A lot of clients approach me as solely one of the other. I’m either illustrating in tandem with a design environment already provided for or I’m providing design sans illustration. It’s not always ideal, in my opinion, but I can see where people draw the distinction. At the very core, both have the same ultimate goal – communication. As I continue to grow and develop, I seek to overall become a far more effective communicator. In that way, I hope to see those lines diminish.

The Royal Tenenbaums

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?

Eric R. Mortensen works for NASA. I don’t know what exactly that entails or what specifically could even be shared, but it’s safe to say that out of all the professions friends of mine have, this one really blew my mind. It’s always an incredible experience to get to work on something that you care so passionately about. I think back to past projects where I’ve really been sold on the concept before the first pen stroke is laid down. It’s an awesome opportunity to believe in what you do and in the case of Eric, how could you not want to be part of that? Also, the dude is just an incredible illustrator and really has an eye for perfection.

Fortune Illustration

What design tools could you not live without?

Coffee. More as a point of dependency but I suppose in some strange, addiction-riddled way, it’s a tool. Obviously, the Adobe Suite. But I’ll leave Flash out of that mix in a big way. Dribbble has been an incredible catalogue of inspiration and, more importantly, a real quarry of work opportunities.

And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design or illustration?

Get busy failing. Dream. Build. And Iterate often. Continually find new ways to do something that seems difficult. But more importantly, remember that life exists beyond your design career. It’s outside of your computer screen and it’s happening right now. Don’t let yourself get so wrapped up in who you are as a designer that you forget who you are as a person. The legacy you leave behind and the stories that you tell are so incredibly important – so tell them well.

Thanks Justin!

Many thanks to Justin for taking some time to talk to One Minute With. I really enjoyed interviewing him, and hopefully you enjoyed reading it!

Why not check out Justin’s site, and follow him on Dribbble and Twitter?

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