When Jillian Adel graduated, she thought she was going to work in music rather than design. Jillian tells us about how weird the design landscape is in L.A., where she is based now. While also her love for collaborating, how getting into each other’s space and how it affects each other’s energy to see what comes of it all!
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?
When I graduated, I thought I would work in music rather than design. I used to book, plan and promote concerts in college alongside studying design. I had my own music promotion company senior year. And then I booked at club venues in NYC and Philly during and after college. I really had no idea what one did with design after college. The internet wasn’t what it was. Not to mention, it was 2008 so the market was in prime crash mode. So, I moved to the suburbs of Philly to live with my mom, which wasn’t even really where I grew up. I had very few friends, no design or music community, and all my friends from college were either in New York or traveling or doing other cool things. I booked shows with a company in Philly for a bit, got a part time job at a regional marketing company, and ended up waitressing at a Jewish deli for a little over a year to save up to move back to New York where I knew I had to be. It took some time, but I eventually started freelancing through a staffing agency in New York, and they eventually placed me at my first full time job in 2010.
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self?
You can make art for a living. I was constantly creating growing up. At the age of 12, I had my own beaded jewelry line. Through high school, I took sewing and was looking to be a fashion design major. And I’ve been drawing song lyrics since I was a teenager. But when it was time to start thinking about college and adult careers, I came from a family of chiropractors and blue collar types, so I didn’t understand how art could ever afford me the lifestyle and career I desired. I was an international relations major entering college, then photojournalism, and eventually design. But even from the ages of 19-25, I thought art had to communicate or serve a very specific business purpose in order to be valuable rather than simply communicate an emotion. It wasn’t until I met people really embracing design as art and vice versa around the age of 25 that it all started to click for me, and I wonder how different my story would’ve been if I had had this type of influence much earlier in life.
Tell us about any collaborations you have been working on.
I recently participated in Braulio Amado Graphic Interviews for Graphic Artist 3, where we answered 6 questions about ourselves with visuals. No type allowed. I love collaborating. Design is such a solo sport, but I’ve learned from the dance world how great it is to really influence each other. I love getting into each other’s space and affect each other’s energy to see what comes of it, and just straight up having fun. Even though I made this art on my own, the way Braulio presented the project, the questions he asked, and then eventually how he designed the book in the end with our art, was really fun to see. I feel like he’s already a huge influence on me, but to see how participating in a project that was his influenced what I made even further was really awesome.
What role does digital design play in your studio in 2015, and how do you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age?
I’m pretty fluid when it comes to digital vs. analog in making work. I’m pretty experimental, so I’ll use just about anything to make work if it gives an interesting result. I’m influenced by texture more than anything else, so even my digital work has a tangible feel. I’ve spent spans of time buying every pen or art tool I could find and experimenting to see if it makes an interesting result. But I also love efficiency, so if I can accomplish a project by going straight to digital, I prefer that. Kyle’s Ultimate Brushes in Photoshop with a Wacom are great. But I also recently bought an iPad and Apple Pen and have fallen in love with Procreate. If you spend time customizing the brushes, they really get close to a lot of analog alternatives. The app takes automatic videos of your drawing, one frame per stroke, so I can overlay music and it creates a way more dynamic version of my art than a still piece, and it’s fun to see my brain working out the process.
What is the design landscape like on your city and where do you fit in?
L.A. is super weird in terms of community. It’s the only city I’ve ever been to that doesn’t have a city center, so there isn’t one assumed location that people expect to have to travel to for events, and it can be really difficult get places due to geography and trafficy nature of the city. I remember asking people before I moved to L.A what the landscape was like and no one could really answer me.
Now having been here for two years, I’ve learned that many of the bigger companies and agencies are on the west side in Santa Monica, Playa Vista, and Venice. There’s also some in Mid-Wilshire and Downtown. There are a few organizations that encourage community: AIGA, Type Ed, and Creative Mornings. WorkingNotWorking is out here and puts on happy hours that I’m never able to make since they’re on the other side of town, but they’re great people. And there are a few co-working spaces that all have very different vibes: Announcement, The Unique Space, and Maker City. I love the people at Announcement and what they’re about. They put on great, accessible events. I taught a workshop there last year.
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