Wanting to get away from the big city for some sunshine Joshua Gajownik headed to Raleigh—becoming a mover and shaker by pushing the creative scene. Joshua is a Creative Director who helped set up three companies —Creative Offices Of, The Assembly and Hearfest. Talk about determination and drive!
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened? After growing up in Pittsburgh and going to college at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in upstate New York you’d think I would’ve had my fill of damp, dark places. Indeed, after graduation, my sights were set on the West Coast. However, I ended up scrapping that plan entirely once I got a job at the NYC branding firm Landor. Clearly job security was way more important than personal satisfaction. For ten years I survived brutal hours, imposing egos, and comically small apartments. I had money in the bank, was well-known in my circles, and enjoyed my pick of clientele and work. Sadly there was always something missing — I always felt as if I was not really a part of a community and worse yet, I felt out of touch with my own personal design identity because it was always about helping my firms and bosses achieve their vision. When an opportunity arose for my wife (also a designer) to move back to her hometown in Raleigh, North Carolina, we both jumped at the chance for a change of scenery. Not only did I re-acquire a sense of community and personal identity, I finally got back to my original plan — to be somewhere warm and sunny. I have been truly happy ever since.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. I am an independent creative director and partner of three companies that I helped start: Haerfest (a leather bags and accessories brand), The Assembly (a shared studio space in downtown Raleigh), and Creative Offices Of (a collective of talented individuals). I specialize in holistic branding, where every part of a brand’s story permeates its identity, product design, digital persona and beyond. I live and work in Raleigh, North Carolina with my wife and business partner Nikelle Orellana-Reyes. When I have some very rare free time, you can find me helping Nikelle at her floral design studio and shop, Wylde.
Whats your take on internships? (do you take interns now?) Do as many internships as you can with shops and creatives that you respect. During college, I did four different summer internships. Taken together, that year’s worth of time was more valuable and transformative to me than the fours years I spent in school. Don’t get me wrong about school though. School is super important, but you should always look to balance theoretical education with real-life application. Those internships showed me how to be a designer and deal with the creative world. Also, with internships you can only benefit from the relationships and networks you’ll make, the lessons learned from real work experiences, and the diverse portfolio you will build. These things are invaluable for forging a career. And yes, we are looking for interns.
What is the design landscape like in your city and where do you fit in? Raleigh is on the upswing for design because we have a relatively young and empowered creative community. State capital cities have the stigma of being stodgy and uninspiring, but Raleigh in recent years has witnessed a bourgeoning food scene, an emerging modern art movement, and an inspired entrepreneurial culture. The city has real potential to become a new creative destination because it is incredibly open to talented individuals who are looking to be a part of a thriving creative class. I feel fortunate and humble to be one of the many creatives who are helping to cultivate and steward this class. Seriously, despite the HB2 bullshit (trust me we are working on that), it is truly amazing here.
Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt? Independent designers and design shops are the future of creative companies. Brands and entrepreneurs with leaner budgets are looking for big ideas that are strongly designed with solutions that can cross disciplines. This is the reason why big ad agencies are doing everything they can to hire designers. In preparation for this cross-disciplined and hybridized approach, I see the value in surrounding myself with incredibly talented individuals across all fields (see The Assembly).
What advice would you give students starting out? From Anthony Burrill: Work hard and be nice to people / Treat everyone with respect and dignity NO MORE HATE! / Everything can be creative / Be curious, ask questions, and never stop learning / Learn the difference between failure and habit: failure is fine if you learn something from it, however if you keep failing then you might be developing a bad habit / Make sure you love what you do / Surround yourself with people you admire, love, and respect