Joseph King, Creative Director & Co-founder at Shore thanks LEGO for he’s career path of choice. He tells us about how he breaks up a typical working day, creating their own CMS, and how a dose of healthy competition has propelled the design scene in Seattle!
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
Without a doubt LEGO had the biggest impression on me as a child. I’d stay up all night, raking through piles on my bedroom floor searching for a specific piece, often waking my parents in the process. I was obsessed. I’m convinced the exposure to shape, color, and logic combined with imagination had a profound impact on me.
In high school, I bought an issue of Ray Gun Magazine because Radiohead was on the cover (I realize I’m dating myself), and I was enamored by the art direction. I think this is when design as a formal career kind of clicked. In my first year of university, people were starting to design websites using Photoshop and simple HTML so I started to experiment. I changed my major from fine art to design. I taught myself and others Flash while in school, and got my first job from a website I built during my senior year. My introduction to the industry was through digital which remains a central part of our studio focus.
What does a typical working day include for you right now?
30% email and project management, 30% design, 30% new business and meetings, 10% internal projects and promotion.
What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate?
The work is always most important. Can they produce fundamentally-sound, great looking and thoughtful work? There’s nothing a candidate can really do to make up for that, but there’s a few other things we look for:
• Self-initiated projects – This demonstrates a student goes beyond class assignments and wants to pursue their own ideas. A sense of curiosity and intrinsic desire to always be creating is essential.
• Industry knowledge – Tell me about studios, designers, illustrators or type designers you admire who are working today. This also shows you dig deeper and have a desire to know who’s shaping design today.
• Nice person – This is obvious. Are you the kind of person others will want to be around 8-10hrs a day? Don’t be negative, don’t be defensive, be excited to work and work hard. The rest will take care of itself.
Any passion projects you would like to share?
We’ve been working on a custom CMS platform for a while. We’re technology agnostic, but we didn’t like anything currently available, so we built our own from scratch. It was a significant undertaking but our clients get tremendous value in managing their own content and we have zero restrictions while we design. Our approach is never one-size-fits-all, and our CMS reflects that. It’s more of a framework and a way of solving specific challenges for a client with a shared set of tools. It’s honestly a delight to use, which is a strange way to describe a CMS. We’re working on v.2, with the hopes of releasing it so other studios and developers can use it as well.
What role does digital design play in your studio in 2015, and how to you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age?
The majority of our background is digital, it’s key to our practice and approach to brand. Digital is by far the most critical consumer touchpoint in terms of engagement, so its relevance can’t be overstated. We prefer working on assignments that involve brand creation including web design and execution. As we’re concepting a visual identity, we explore visual, verbal and behavioral qualities that will express themselves through digital, so showing how the web might come to life is central to how we demonstrate a new brand to our clients. We might prototype how a brand moves, or how users will interact with content. We don’t incorporate formal UX into our digital work, having worked on small and large projects for over a decade at this point it’s somewhat instinctual. We work quickly and share rough concepts with clients, iterating until we land on the solution collaboratively.
What is the design landscape like on your city and where do you fit in?
Seattle is a rapidly growing city and the design scene—including architecture, industrial design, art and more—is developing in kind. The design industry has been largely dominated by a handful of big agencies and a few Fortune 100 companies, but in recent years there’s been an influx of smaller studios and independent designers striking out on their own. In my experience, designers in Seattle often look outside for inspiration, to bigger markets like SF or NYC for obvious reasons or nearby Portland for its street cred. Seattle has been economically prosperous for decades but perhaps undervalued creatively. I think there’s a sense of optimism, a dose of healthy competition that’s propelling everyone forward and raising the bar. We’re happy to be a small part of that momentum and excitement.
What has been your highlights since you started out?
Many of our clients starting out were friends or former colleagues. It was a mutually beneficial situation because we needed work to build a portfolio, and we were more flexible with fees. One of our clients was Kate Wallich, an immensely talented dance choreographer, director and teacher in Seattle. Working with friends can sometimes be difficult, but she gave us tremendous freedom to shape her brand identity and experiment.
Working with outdoor retailer REI has been amazing. We’re members, huge fans of the company, and love the outdoors. We’ve been partnering with their internal teams on campaign and brand assignments over the past year. We were able to see a campaign we conceived on billboards across the country, which was really special for us as a small studio. It’s been our commitment to work with clients we truly care about, and REI is no exception.
Last but not least, simply running our own studio has been the biggest highlight for us personally. It’s only been two years and by no means easy, but being able to make choices about the clients we pursue, how we position ourselves and design execution on our terms has been incredibly rewarding.
2016 for you in a sentence.
The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. –Socrates