Q&A with Jon Jackson:
Tell me a little bit about yourself, who you are, and where you are from.
I am originally from Los Angeles, and now live in New York; I have yet to realize that Vans are not a four-season shoe.
How do you describe yourself as a creative and the kind of work you do?
I am a designer. It is pretty vague but it has allowed me to work on so many different types of projects and for wildly different brands.
As the Executive Creative Director at Huge, you’re largely responsible for the creative culture within the company. Please explain what this entails, and what it is like to manage other creatives.
For me, managing creatives at Huge is an amazing opportunity; there are so many talented people to learn from and to be inspired by. The challenge is that people are all so different, so what pushes one designer to get to the next idea might make another shut down. Getting to know people is the best way to manage and there is no substitution for time spent with the team. So sitting in a room debating, laughing, and throwing around 100 bad ideas to get to the one good is a great way to push our work and ideas.
And, that’s one thing that is so great about Huge. No one cares where the good idea comes from; we all just want to get there and make something cool. I love making things; it’s a big part of what gets me excited to come to work each day (Not that I don’t also love timesheets and management meetings).
How did you figure out what you wanted to do creatively?
Growing up, I was always drawing, creating games with my brothers, and just creating stuff. The problem was that these great visions in my head of cool things I wanted to make never matched up with the final product. So once I started getting into Illustrator and Photoshop, I finally felt like I could make exactly what was in my head. After that, there was no turning back.
How did you get to where you are today? What has been your career path?
It has been a mixed bag of fortunate events and hard work. I was actually hired by the Walt Disney Company before I had even graduated from college, which was fortunate. They hired me to do digital work without my having formal experience, which meant a lot of hard work. But then I fell in love with the immediacy of digital media. I love the ability to keep improving your work in a way that’s not possible with print work. While I focused on digital, I also kept my experience well-rounded by doing freelance work outside the digital space. As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to create everything from snowboard graphics to editorial illustrations. The excitement of doing something I have never done before definitely drives me as a creative.
Have you had any metors? Has anyone helped steer you along on your professional path?
I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented and insane designers on the planet. One of my first CDs was Howard Brown, who always had the most inspiring things to share. He had so many books and swipe, and would bring them into the office daily. He was like the analog version of the site ffffound long before it existed. Joe Stewart, who was the ECD at Huge before me, was really a great friend and mentor. Perhaps the most valuable thing I’ve learned from him was how to manage creatives.
What are a few of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
For me, projects become favorites for a lot of different reasons. The billboard project I did before I moved to NYC from LA (http://adiosla.com) is one favorite, if only because of the reactions that I received from it. Obviously, work that is close to the heart is always special, so the poster invitations (http://cargocollective.com/lagraphica/Jon-Nicole) that I created for my wedding are also high on my favorite list. And, the last project you work on is always top of mind, so launching all of the new branding and the new website for Huge (www.hugeinc.com) is also a favorite.
You’ve recently redesigned the Huge website. Tell me about this creative process and why you decided to do a redesign.
We have grown so much since the site was last designed and we wanted to celebrate that growth with a nod to where we are heading. So, we elevated the branding to be more sophisticated and built a website that shows off our culture and all of the work that we have been doing across offices.
Describe your style.
I am definitely of the Dieter Rams school of thought: as little design as possible. I like making things beautiful, but not to the point where you’re sacrificing the purpose or the story that you’re trying to tell. I also really respect craft. I want to think about every element on the page; nothing should be present just to be there. So, I guess my style could be considered clean and functional, with a high degree of polish.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
Not sure if this would be considered a ritual, routine, or just an addiction – but I do drink a lot of coffee.
Where are you most creative? When do the best ideas come to you?
I am most creative around other people. I love talking through ideas, sometimes until I have exhausted every possible angle and annoyed everyone in the room. When working out an idea, I love how off-track conversations can sometimes get, but how those conversations will very often end with a really fresh idea.
Who inspires you? Where do you get inspiration? Be specific if you can.
For me, inspiration comes from so many places. I love looking at how things have been done before. I have a collection of old encyclopedias that have amazing illustrations from Charlie Harper, which are incredibly inspiring. I also look to fine art, and the work of Brooklyn artist Kevin Cyr and Chicago’s Cody Hudson. And, I love Spike Jones’ films and Kyle Alexander’s photography. There is so much incredible work going on across mediums that I pull inspiration from… Instagram, Behance, Tumblr, Twitter and even Pinterest included.
How do you define success? What has helped you to become successful?
I define success differently now than how I did when I was designing everything myself. Making sure that the project is well-designed and interesting is paramount. Now, I feel success is also measured by the growth of our designers and writers. The more that people can learn and grow from a project, the more valuable our department becomes and, in turn, the more we can push our work to be better.
One thing that I think has made me successful is always having a vision. I tend to have very strong opinions and I’m always willing to share my ideas of how something should work or be handled. I guess I learned at a young age in tee-ball: always be thinking about what to do if the ball comes to you. Today, I just replace the ball with design challenges and business goals.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received in general, or about how to be more creative?
I think the best advice that I have received is that you are going to be wrong a lot – and that is OK. In fact, it is better than ok. Being wrong and learning from your mistakes is the only way to get to what’s right. The sooner you realize you’re wrong, the better; but without trying and failing, you will just be stuck with results that are only fair.