Interview with Jordan Dale Young
I’m a graphic designer and vector artist, working in all print and web media, from branding to websites to murals. I also do web development and occasionally dabble in font making.
Hi Jordan! Would you introduce yourself and your practice?
Hi! I'm Jordan, I'm a graphic designer and vector artist. I create design work for all print and web media, so that means my commission projects range from branding and packaging, to websites, to murals. I also create non-commissioned artwork that is either sold or displayed at art shows. Sometimes those projects overlap, because a client will see an artwork I already created and want me to adapt it to their project. And I also occasionally create fonts.
What design projects are your favorite to work on? Which projects provide a challenge?
Because I primarily work on a computer, I really love when my artwork can manifest physically. This can be as simple as working with a printer to translate a business card design into its physical form - not just seeing it on a screen, but also working with different physical layers, like with letterpress or textures, and the way light interacts with ink. That's an experience that is just impossible to replicate on a screen. There are two main challenges that this presents though: the first is the limitation of working on a computer, because it can never fully replicate the end product when working on a physical piece, like a bottle of design. There are layers and dimensions that you can imitate with a 3D mockup on the screen, but it always falls short of full representation. The second challenge is the advantage of working on a computer, because I'm not bound by anything but what I can imagine. This is challenging because there can be a lot of limitations with printing and manufacturing, whether it's a physical impossibility, like not being able to make paper exude light, or a practical issue where what I create looks beautiful, but it's not financially feasible because it's too complicated to physically produce.
Take us through a graphic design piece, like your Fashion Dance piece, and explain how you took a client's concept through your creative design process.
A client of mine had just received her doctorate and wanted new business cards that reflected not only her degree attainment but also her warmth, quirkiness, and sense of curiosity that goes with her work as a writer, researcher and educator. We first decided on a concept, and to encapsulate all of those qualities an owl perched on books seem to be a perfect symbol. We worked on various renditions of that illustration, making tweaks like smoothing out corners of the owl to make sure it conveyed her warmth. It was very geometrically based too, so a lot of intention went into making sure the owl seemed friendly. We also wanted a nod to adventure and exploration, which she understood as an important part of her approach to life and work. So we went with hot gold foil and gold ink on navy blue to visually allude to US passports. It was a really fun project and one of my favorites to see printed.
What is a piece of advice for your younger self? What is something you wish you had known or learned earlier in your design career?
I really wish I could explain the importance of doing the boring organizational work at the beginning of a project. Especially as a new designer, when you land a project it's really hard to restrain your excitement and not just dive into the creative part, but that's a big mistake. It's so important to make sure expectations are set - and in writing - expectations you have for the client, and that the client has for you. This accomplishes two main things: first, it makes sure that you are both on the same page from the start. If you aren't, no one is happy, because the client isn't getting what they expect, and if you're the designer It absolutely sucks to disappoint your client. The second thing is the having it in writing part: as the project goes on, even if you both started on the same page, the creative process might branch out and the original intention of the project might get forgotten. Having the initial expectations in writing allows you (and the client) to return to that as a way to see if you're still on track and keep a kind of focus. After doing those things, the creative part is so much more fun, because it prevents so much potential stress and frustration and headache later. So younger self: set expectations and write them down - you'll have so much more fun.
What are you working on now? Where can we see your design work next?
To stay up to date on my latest work, you can visit my website at jordandaleyoung.com or follow me on Instagram @jordandaleyoung. I'm currently working on a bottle design project for a whey and fruit-based drink. It's a really fun project, because the product is new to most consumers, so the design plays a huge role in perception of the drink. The style is really colorful and bold, which is right where I like to create. It's now being tested and put on shelves, so it's amazing to see customers choose a bottle that I designed. I'm also working on a 400-foot mural in my vector art style, that will be displayed in the Boston area as part of a multi-use development project that includes athletic facilities, residential spaces and workplaces. It's a dream scenario, because the commission was for me and my style specifically, so I can really naturally lean into my creative style.