One Minute With…
Justin Schafer

Make It Handmade - Justin Schafer Interview

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

No problem, thanks for having me. I’m currently a Sr. Designer at the rather large in-house department at Mutual of Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska. There I do a variety of work, from branding and design to illustration. Something else I’ve been exploring a lot more is hand lettering and screen-printing. I love bringing in a handmade quality into my work. I like to think of design as an opportunity to solve a problem.

I’m also newly married. My wife and I are getting ready to move to Minneapolis, exciting, yet stressful. Because of that I’m currently on the hunt for an art director position at an agency there and rebuilding my website at That’s what seems to consume most of my time nowadays. But, when I’m not designing or preparing to move I love building mid-century modern furniture, and training for triathlons.

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?

When I was younger I was really interested in computer animation. Movies like Toy Story were starting to come out and I was captivated by the new form of animation. Along with art class I was also building websites when I was in high school. Graphic design meant being able to blend art and technology, which was a perfect match for me. I also loved logos. I remember being in middle school trying to redraw popular logos in my sketchbook. I ended up having an entire folder full of them. I think I was curious as to the meaning behind them and why they used the shapes, colors or symbols they used.

Justin Schafer Interview

If you could change one thing about your career to date, what would it be?

I’m not sure I would change anything so far. I still have a long career ahead of me and I feel as though I’ve had a fairly diverse experience thus far. In the future I’d like to explore how design can have a more meaningful impact in the lives of individuals, whether it’s through experience or interaction design. I think there will be a real opportunity down the road for someone like myself who balances that line between left and right brain.

So, you’ve won quite a few awards throughout your career – Have you found these to be important to your career, or is it simply that it’s nice to be recognised by peers?

I’m not sure if they’ve necessarily been important in anyway, but it’s always nice to be recognized for your work. Recognition always makes you feel like your headed down the right path.

Mission Map - Justin Schafer Interview

Speaking of awards, your wedding invites were recently recognised by AIGA – How different is it to design with yourself (and your wife) as the client? What new challenges did it bring?

Any designer will tell you that designing for themselves is a lot harder than clients. When you’re your own client the sky is the limit. As much as creatives struggle to have absolute control and total free reign, the truth is having parameters helps us focus in on what the problem is. On the other hand it gave me an opportunity to explore new techniques I had wanted to. Hand lettering all my wedding materials was a rewarding experience, and gave a genuine quality to the work. However, it made fixes and typos a pain to go back and fix.

Wedding Invitation - Justin Schafer Interview

Where do you see yourself in, say, 5 or 10 years?

Well my wife and I are currently in the process of planning our move to Minneapolis. It’s a great city with tons of agencies and creative professionals so I’m expecting us to call it home for quiet sometime. I’d like to learn more code as well as explore how design thinking and technology intersects. Things like interaction design and experience design are becoming increasingly popular as design values and ideas become more mainstream. I’d also like to see myself step into a creative director role, impacting larger more strategic decisions.

The Vegas Vibe - Justin Schafer Interview

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’ve recently been reading a lot about Saul Bass. He was an incredible illustrator and practically invented the genre of film title sequences. He saw an opportunity during the film that no one else did. Plus he got to work side-by-side with guys like Martin Scorsese and Alfred Hitchcock. How could you beat that?

How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet?

No, I think the best is always yet to come. There will never be a moment when I say I’ve become successful; it’s just not my nature. I’m constantly pushing forward, reworking things and looking to make them better. I feel like success is a form of settling, in my eyes, success doesn’t exist.

Engineered to Perfection - Justin Schafer Interview

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

Make sure you love it, and commit yourself to it. Be prepared to work hard, the design industry is pretty popular these days so you’ll have to put in the hours in order to set yourself apart. Learn the web side of things, it’s constantly increasing in demand. I’d also suggest taking some classes in sociology, anthropology or psychology. You can’t impact people through design without first understanding what influences us and why we make the decisions we do. If you approach design as a problem-solving tool you’ll be able to rationalize your work and have a more meaningful impact.

Thanks Justin!

Thanks a million to Justin for sharing his thoughts! I really enjoyed talking to him, and found his answers really interesting!

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

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