Where did you grow up and what are some of your favorite memories as a kid?
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio in a smaller city called Worthington. I lived there until I was about ten years old, then my family and I made the move to Phoenix, Arizona. My favorite memories definitely took place while I was still in Ohio. I was so young that nearly anything could keep me entertained, especially since I barely knew what the Internet even was around this time. Anyway! I’ll always remember running around my back yard with all of my brothers and neighborhood friends trying to catch fireflies and put them in a jar so I could use them as a nightlight! I saw it on an episode of Arthur so of course I thought it would be doable.My brothers and I would try to catch lots of creatures actually. Worms, rabbits, squirrels, frogs, etc. we were very active outside!
Where would you say you get your creativity from? Does it run in the family?
Oh gosh…That’s tough. I’d have to say it for sure runs in the family. My dad is great with fixing and building things (like most dads really) so I get a lot of “do-it-yourself attitude from him. My mom is the same way. Very quick thinking, always thinking on her feet and can create workarounds for various situations. For example, I think my family would definitely credit her with the creation of the “Pokemon Trading Card Binder” setup. My brothers and I didn’t know where to put our collection of Pokemon cards so my mother came up with the idea to create a binder with plastic “card sleeves” similar to this image... This seems incredibly popular nowadays but I swear it wasn’t a thing nearly 16-17 years ago!
How has your family influenced you and your work?
My parents have instilled an incredibly huge amount of positivity in my everyday life. Additionally, a “carve your own path” and “work hard” type of mindset is. We’ve been through a lot as a family throughout my early childhood and the move to Phoenix. It’s been a difficult journey, but throughout it all, we’ve always had each other. That positive outlook and overall mindset has guided my work and me to a new level.
What was your journey from school through to where you are today in your career?
Dang it’s been a crazy hectic journey. I’ve never had to write it out before, so I’ll try to sum it all up! My entire college career has been filled with stress, a competitive mindset, and overall hate for design at times. Just to be accepted into the Arizona State University design program you had to go through the entire years worth of work, THEN submit your portfolio to be considered eligible to continue the remaining 3 years. 200+ students apply with only 44 being accepted. I made it in! But, the next 3 years we’re the most stressful and sleep deprived years of my life thus far. My classmates and I had many long late nights (or should I say mornings) in the studio working on projects. The type of projects we were completing were very conceptual and not your typical “design a business card” or “branding system” type of design. Very hands-on stuff. No computers were involved in the design process for the first 2 years, really. Just a bit here and there for printing, scanning, etc.
Anyway! Long story short, I got extremely burnt out creatively, mentally, physically, all of the above. It was a rigorous program. Throughout it all I was working part-time at an advertising agency (beginning my mornings at 6am just to make a decent paycheck), doing freelance work, and then schoolwork was last, sadly. Every bit of my day was filled with something to do, so time-management was key.
As for the rest of my journey, I’ll get into that with the next question since I see it’s about my passion for typography ;)
How did your passion for typography develop?
I’ve always been interested in letterforms. I was the guy that drew people’s names on their homework folders in 3rd grade because my “lettering” was considered the “coolest” in the class haha. That was before I even knew what lettering even was. But, ultimately it developed during my 2nd year of college. I took multiple typography courses and loved the entire process. Additionally, this is when I just got on Instagram! I had known about Instagram for a while but didn’t utilize it for myself because I thought it was a great place for people to post selfies, starbucks, and other stupid stuff.
Well! I somehow stumbled into the world of lettering within Instagram. That helped spark my want to create my very own lettering. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to get better at it. I wanted to practice to become “one of the greats” is what I’d tell myself. So, in order to do that, I sat down every single day for an entire year to draw a new piece of lettering. I then shared that piece on Instagram to store the process and see how far I’ve come in a year. I never missed a day. I made sure I had the time to create a new piece no matter what happened. It was a mental game for me to hold myself accountable for creating something.
Along with posting every single day I wanted to continue my growth by taking workshops and classes. Skillshare was a great place to learn some more “technical” things while the workshops with Jessica Hische, Ken Barber, John Downer and many others have helped guide my lettering in the right direction. As each day went by, I knew I was falling in love with typography more and more.
What are some of your favorite parts of the design process?
I love the entire process! I think the beginning stages are especially fun because you at first have NO idea what you’re doing, but through trial and error, sketching, erasing, throwing things away, you somehow land with a killer idea that you’re stoked about. That killer idea is what gets you excited about the project to continue developing it further!
The other part of the design process that I absolutely love is the vectoring stage. There’s something really calming and meditating about putting on those headphones, jamming your tunes, and massaging those Bezier handles all day long until perfection. The idea and overall look/feel is generally already there, it’s just a matter of executing that idea.
How important in your opinion is it to do what you love in this life?
I love how you phrased this question. That’s exactly it! There’s only ONE life, so why the hell do something you hate or dread doing day in and day out? I can’t fathom why people would have a career “just for the money”. There’s more to life than objects and things. Objects can be replaced. So, obviously, to me it’s beyond important to do what you love. You’ll be better off mentally, physically, and emotionally. And! You’ll be happier and won’t be as stressed. If you are stressed out when you’re doing what you love, you know it’s worth it because it’s generally a “good stress” if that makes sense.
How important is it to not take yourself too seriously and how does this influence/effect your work?
I think it’s very important to not take yourself or your work too seriously. At the end of the day, it should hopefully all be about fun and enjoyment anyway. So! Having fun with your work and not being so uptight about certain things within your process can make everything much more enjoyable. For example, I feel like a lot of illustrators have their own style, and with that style they can be as crazy or as serious as they want to be. Drawing a human face with a large nose, goofy eyes, and a disproportioned mouth is just one way you can take your work to a different level without being too “serious”. Hopefully I’m getting my point across that you essentially don’t have to follow rules and guidelines all the time. It’s necessary sure, but not 100% of the time.
Why the move to NYC? In what ways has living there been a benefit to your work and creativity?
I made the move out here to NYC with my girlfriend to continue my education! I was accepted into the Type @ Cooper program, which is essentially a yearlong certificate based type design program. I’m super excited to continue learning about typography and creating my very own typeface(s). Additionally, continuing to learn with the crew at Stranger & Stranger. I love the alcohol packaging design world and these guys know how to do it best. So! I created some projects specifically tailored to them to catch their eye. I landed an internship and couldn’t be happier. I’ve learned SO much since moving out here and it’s only been about a month!
As far as my creativity goes, I think I’m honestly uninspired and unmotivated at this current time. It’s a huge change for me to live in a place like New York. Lots to get acclimated to, that’s for sure. Expensive food, living, and travel, dirty streets, cramped spaces, people everywhere. It’s tough! I’m an introvert so it’s difficult to be alone in this city haha. I’m thinking once school starts I’ll get that motivation back. Like every designer, the inspiration and motivation always comes and goes.
What are some of the things that drive you to keep pushing new work out there?
For me, it’s just the beauty and joy involved with creating something. I just love to create. Whether that’s building furniture, taking photos, making a video, drawing a character, etc. as long as I’m creating, I’m happy. That constant creation is what drives me. I know if I create something, that will allow more creation. Once one project ends, another begins; it’s an endless cycle of constantly making something.
What are your biggest challenges of being a freelance designer/illustrator and what are the things that you love about it?
Let’s break this up into a pro / con list because why not!
Pros about being a freelancer:
• You’re the boss man!
• Take on projects YOU are passionate about
• Work with clients YOU want to work with
• Freedom to wake up whenever you want
• Freedom to work at your own studio space or wherever you want really
• Don’t have to travel anywhere – except walk 5 steps out of my bedroom to my computer
• Taking a break whenever you want to play some video games. I do this a lot in between projects so I’m not constantly “working”. Always playing my old school stuff like Link’s Awakening. THE GOOD STUFF.
Cons about being a freelancer:
• Living paycheck to paycheck at times
• No steady flow of income so it can be scary when the bills are piling up
• No health insurance or anything normally provided by a company. So! You need to pay for that yourself
• Can get lonely at times since you’re by yourself (unless you work in a coworking space, or have some other setup)
• TONS and tons of paperwork involved before a project even starts. Contracts, NDA’s, Invoicing, etc.
• Occasional clients that think paying you a year later is “acceptable” (luckily this has only happened once… so far)
I think that about sums it all up. It’s obviously a personal decision one needs to make. If you think you can handle the uncertainty, and love working alone, doing your own thang, then I recommend freelance! It’s hard to maintain the client work though. I’m still getting used to that. I have a hard time myself and I’ve been freelancing for 2 years now. I’ve heard stories from people 5-7 years in with a tough time getting that steady flow. It’s always a back and forth process but I LOVE the freelance life more than anything.
Would you say you’re mostly confident in your work and ability to create? – what are some of the things you do/who do you go to build your confidence?
Yes! I think I can say I am confident. It’s been a challenge reaching that stage, and to be honest, there are some days where I question my ability. Regardless, I think I’ve practiced enough and have proven to myself and others that I’m able to do what I love in a what that I love. I also feel like you need to be confident in yourself and your work because if you’re not confident in it, who would be? Same goes for selling products. If you’re not confident in the products you use or if you wouldn’t use them yourself, who would?
What are you looking forward to in regards to your work/career?
I’m looking forward to working with Plan B Skateboards or Element Skateboards. They’re both definitely “bucket list” clients and I would be extremely ecstatic to work alongside those inspiring and super rad companies. I’ve had them both on the mind for years now – just need to make it happen! Other than that, I’m really looking forward to having a dedicated studio space. It’s nice to work in my bedroom at times, but I feel a dedicated space would allow for much better creativity, work flow and just provide an all around better feeling.
At this point in your life... what do you most want to be remembered for?
Oh dang, nobody has ever asked me this before, nor have I ever thought about it! I’d hope to be remembered for my compassion and openness to share my thoughts and process. I’d rather be remembered for my traits and personality as a person rather than the work I produce.