Though he’s super busy, John was kind enough to answer my questions and share some of his recent projects (all images his).
What projects have you been working on lately?
Well, I’m actually still working with my long term primary client more so than ever. I started with them around 2013 when I was referred to them through my client at Disney. I’ve been with them ever since. They started as a small shop, brand building for the personal care industry, soaps, lotions, hair care, etc. It’s natural and organic and made in So Cal. It was a goal of the two owners to get their product into Target, as the “house brand.” Fortunately, through good marketing, some great teamwork, smart brand-building and frankly, good design, they landed a really great place on their shelves. Basically, after years of hard work, the brand exploded to what it has become today. It’s called Raw Sugar (not the little brown sugar packets) and has expanded to all the big drug retailers, in addition to all Targets, and a new online presence.
It was recently purchased by WM Partners. I stopped working on Raw Sugar after about 5 years, and became the designer for all the other products created by their parent company, Bolero Home Decor. Our primary client now is Dollar Tree. We do over 100 SKUs a year. This is my happy place, as it utilizes not only good branding, but tons of fresh surface design. I don’t ever get bored, as every collection (there’s around 7 or 8 a year) is completely reimagined. I’m truly fortunate to have found the best clients on the planet.
How did COVID impacted your career, if at all?
Boy, COVID was a mixed bag for me. As with everyone, it came with highs and lows. From a career standpoint, my studio work never slowed down. It might have even increased as mass market became more affordable to those unemployed for so long, dictating a need for more available, affordable product. We were there to keep up with the demand.
As far as UCLA Extension goes, I believe everyone is aware of that very scary week in March 2020 when the world closed its doors and we were forced to move all classes from in person to online in a matter of a weekend. Most of us had never taught online, and to be honest, the idea terrified me. I was concerned that the educational experience online would never compare to in-person. I was terrified that I couldn’t actually make the class experience engaging. After some bumps in the road, overcoming technology issues, perhaps a new attitude, and some retooling of the course structure, and we realized that this had to continue as much as possible, in a normal setting. It actually worked out. Ultimately, many lessons were learned. However, it is SO nice to be back in the classroom.
Are there any trends or developments in the design world that you’re especially interested in lately?
Yes. It’s kind of interesting how COVID affected the design world. Because many designers had tons of unemployed time on their hands, and because designers tend to be folks that need to stay busy, there was a tremendous amount of experimentation happening through personal projects. We are now seeing a huge influx in typographic experimentation, and for the first time in a while, we are seeing new fonts and experimental branding emerging. It’s feeling super fresh, and I’m happy to report this trend is being reflected in much of the student work I’m seeing. I would also say motion has really taken a strong position in design. As a tool, we are seeing motion everywhere. Branding, digital, advertising: it’s the new media go-to, and again, I’m seeing tons of great creative from our students to support this trend.
Thanks so much, John!
Take a peek at what John is teaching today.