Did you ever draw out your own versions of logos as a kid? Or played around with type on your assignments? Well we had a chat with Aaron Poe from Ammunition —who was fascinated with ‘branding’ at a young age looking at bands and sports teams as he grew up— he shares with us some great advice and even how this has influenced who his dream client might be.
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design? When I was three years old, I was fascinated with the rock group KISS. I absolutely loved their album art and face paint. Very conceptual band with a bold graphic approach. KISS is as much a ‘brand’ as they are a rock band. As I grew up, I became a multi-sport athlete, and was intrigued by the branding within the pro sports world. I had a massive collection of baseball hats. During my junior year in high school, the MLB announced two new expansion teams – the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins. I sketched what I thought would be cool logos and color palettes for both teams. A purple, snow capped mountain with a baseball streaking by for the Rockies and a twisting marlin with a baseball in its mouth for the Marlins. When both teams rolled out their uniforms for the inaugural season, they pretty much looked exactly what I had sketched. That’s when I realized I could turn art into something commercial. My first year in college landed me in San Diego, where I designed hats and t-shirts for a surf/skate brand called SRH. That was the first time I saw my work out in the real world.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? After studying photography in San Diego and then LA, I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do long term. So my girlfriend (now wife) and I picked up and moved to New York in November 2001. It was an interesting time, because 9/11 had just happened. I went to Parsons, The New School for Design to study graphic design. I graduated in 2006 in with a degree in Communication Design, which was a really great program, with tough, influential professors. That experience opened up my mind conceptually. New York is still the most inspiring place I’ve ever lived. During my senior year, I took internships at the NFL, Surface magazine, and a boutique agency called Chandelier Creative. Upon graduation, I landed at a design consultancy called Third Eye Design (now known as Noë & Associates), which also had studios in Glasgow and London. The New York studio was small, it was just 3 of us, and I was their first American hire. I worked on a few brand identity projects for various clients across real estate, spirits and lifestyle sectors. It was a great experience. I’m still friends with them to this day.
Top: Site design for communications firm The Hatch Agency. Bottom: Design for Ammunition’s new website
Who are your top five design crushes right now? I would be hesitant to focus on individual designers because it’s rarely ever ‘one person’ responsible for the creative results. So my top five design studio crushes, in no particular order, would be: Red Antler (NY), SubRosa (NY), ManvsMachine (London & LA), Gretel (NY) and BASIC (San Diego).
Do you ever wish you were a freelancer or in-house designer? Freelancer, no, not really. I like to surround myself with other creatives and receive a consistent paycheck! After 12 years of agency life, I’ve definitely thought about going in-house. I just never felt compelled enough to take the leap. My career priorities are People, Purpose and Pay. In that order. I need to be surrounded by really creative people, which usually leads to the right cultural fit. I also need to feel like what we’re trying to do everyday has a meaningful and positive effect of some sort to human beings. Of course, we all work to make money, but if the first two priorities are aligned, the money tends to follow.
Top: Packaging design for sustainable beauty brand LXMI. Bottom: Packaging design for the Square Stand
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self? To learn the subtle art of not giving a fuck. As a teenager, I lacked the confidence to not care about what other people thought of me. I got caught up in the social scene and probably didn’t put my energy in the right places, which delayed my decision to get into the design profession.
Who would be the “dream client” that you would do anything to work for? This is an interesting question, I get this one a lot. For me, it’s not about any particular ‘dream’ client, its more about… what problem would I love to solve through design? For that reason, I’d love to rebrand and redesign Craigslist. I fully understand why the site shows up the way it does. In fact, it’s part of its charm, but I would love to make it even more functional without sacrificing page load or losing its brutal design aesthetic. I think it would be a fun UX/UI challenge and an interesting typography exploration. So much room for improvement there!