Original Interview: September 2017

Jenn Kitagawa

Oh how we love Jenn Kitagawa‘s colorful, playful and fun illustrations! Believing that curiosity is important creative career she strives to constantly learn. Two solid bits of advice from Jenn—”Just fucking do it!”  and “don’t waste time on trying to find your style”.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
My first 3 years of school were spent studying design and illustration at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada. From there I transferred to ACAD (The Alberta College of Art & Design) where I focused on editorial design and branding, and received my Bachelors of Design.

I started freelancing while I was still in school and I designed posters and business cards for friends. Once I graduated I had my first full time design job working in Toronto on a small team at Premise Design. After about a year and half at Premise, I started thinking about freelancing full time when I was offered an interview for the lead graphic design position at the record label Arts & Crafts, and I ended up getting the job.

What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?
When I graduated I planned to move to New York and intern for Nylon Magazine and Mike Perry and that’s exactly what I did! For a couple of months it was great experiencing the inner workings of both the magazine and Mike’s studio. But unfortunately I had some visa problems and my internships were cut short. The silver lining to this situation was that it forced me to move to Toronto much earlier than I was planning.

What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why?
The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines book is a great resource as a freelancer. It has really practical advice from invoicing to how many times a year you should be sending promos. I know you can google everything but sometimes there is value in using a physical book with a table of contents! Imagine!

Reply All is my hands down favourite podcast. It’s not a design podcast but it’s about the various weird things happening on the internet. I think it’s important to stay curious and constantly be learning. (I listen to a lot of podcasts.) Another podcast that is now defunct that I used to listen to all the time and still listen to old episodes is Sam Weber’s Your Dreams My Nightmares. Sam would sit down over some drinks with illustrators or designers and talk about anything from their work, upbringing or whether art school is still relevant.

How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?
I think focusing on trying to find your style can be a waste of time. I was focused on this early in my career and you just can’t force it. As soon as you stop looking at other people’s work and just start drawing what you see, a style will naturally develop. It’s definitely smart to know what is happening visually around you but it’s a balance of doing your own thing and knowing what’s going on.

What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
1) Hard work goes a long way.
2) You have to really love what you do.
3) Taking time away from your work is necessary.
4) Having creative friends is invaluable.
5) Just fucking doing it!

What’s on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
I’m currently looking for a studio space outside of my house! So stoked about this. I’ve been looking for the past few months with a few of my pals (Rico Moran, Angela Lewis) who are both very talented people! I’m also in the middle of redoing my very neglected website and stationery with my pals over at Equal Parts Studio.

On the personal side, I’m planning my first trip to Japan in November. I cannot wait to unplug for a while and hopefully re-adjust my creative/cultural/mental focus. It’s been an incredibly busy and fun year and I’m looking forward to doing some traveling. And if I can make it happen, I’m hoping to paint a mural while I’m visiting too!

Website: jennkitagawa.com
Instagram: @jennkitagawa
Twitter: @JennKitagawa