Jolby & Friends

We chat with Colby Nichols (Co-Founder, Creative Director + 1/2 Wizard) and Brett Stenson (1/2 Art Director, 1/2 Cosmic Cowboy) from Jolby & friends about everything from clients to portfolios. We discuss making work for social good, what it means to be a designer vs an artist, plus they write some funny little letters to their 16yr old selves.

What career advice would you give your 16yr old self?

Colby: Hey little dude, it’s me, you from the super-far future. We have an eye patch and a robotic arm! JK dude. For real though you need to keep drawing as much and as often as you can. Keep smiling, too. Your light sense of humor and willingness to work hard will be the things that get us far! Oh, and don’t bomb that hill on your skateboard. You break your collarbone and it hurts super bad.

Brett: Wear what you want to wear. Listen to the music you want to listen to. Love the people you want to love. Respect and pay attention to the people around you, they may play an unexpected role in your future. Everyone when they’re young has at some point felt they needed to make sacrifices to fit in, but I think it’s important to listen to your own personal voice - it’s your center. I wish I personally paid more attention to design and art as a student in high school, but that’s just the way it is when you’re young and distracted – the other experiences I had instead are just as pivotal to my own personal growth. If you want to pursue design/art, it’s never too late.

What do you look for in a great portfolio?

Brett: I look for a clear sense of passion, curiosity in approaches, and versatility of technique and skill. Sometimes folks that experiment in weird and interesting ways really put themselves out there, and break new grounds for an approach no one has thought of before - which gets me super excited vs. being safe and expected. To be honest too, designers really need to be able to navigate the seas of dealing with last minute changes to a project, fast deadlines, and be open minded to exploring any option to solve a problem for a client. You can be incredible at design, but dealing with the client relationship and the workings of our business is paramount. There are also murky waters between being an artist and being a designer - artists make work for themselves to communicate their own voices, but designers are the visual translators for communicating the needs of another person. Communicating the needs of many different people successfully and uniquely to each person is what makes a designer a good designer to me, and having a clear passion for making work makes me extremely excited to see what they do next.

Colby: The portfolio is only half of your shot at a good design gig! In a portfolio I hope for a solid handle on typography, illustration, color and an overall sense of composition/grid. Those things in our studio are very important. The other half of it comes down to who you are as a person. Let’s set the portfolio aside and show me how you would do in front of our clients or pitching a big idea to us. Are you nice? Confident? Can I tell that you’re easy to work with? Can you take direction well? Will you be able to teach me something? All of those questions are equally as important as the best project in your portfolio.

Design work by Jolby & Friends The Design Kids interviews Jolby & Friends work-2

What do you look for in a great client?

Colby: Some of best clients have come to us without knowing what it is they want, but they know they want us to do it. A client presenting trust to us is what I look for. I have been challenged tremendously by clients that were the complete opposite of that, too, and they have equally been great.

Brett: Trust. Passion. Open-mindedness. Courage. Communication. Ideal clients have come in all shapes and sizes, but most have a few of those words in common, and when they come through our studio, we savor those interactions for years to come. We want to have a relationship beyond just the work with all of our clients, because if we know you well and feel connected, we feel we can speak the same language and make the work that fits you perfectly.

What do you think the design community could do more of to give back?

Brett: Make work for people that you feel are fighting the fights you want to be apart of. Your service as a designer is to improve the perception of a person or group of person’s product or service. If you can improve the way a women’s rights group, a nature preserve, or an after-school program is perceived for the better and give them a visual voice to rally around, you would be surprised how much that makes a difference both for them and those they are trying to get support from.

Colby: I feel that design is caught-up in an era where we seek a like or a share or a retweet instead of remembering that there were creatives before us and there will be creatives after us and all of our work will (hopefully) live on much longer than we do. So, to give back I would say to consider that piece of communication you’re working on in 10, 20, 30 years and ask yourself, "what will it look like then?". Don't just think about what you can make right now to get more likes or followers.

Design work by Jolby & Friends The Design Kids interviews Jolby & Friends work-4
Design work by Jolby & Friends The Design Kids interviews Jolby & Friends work-4

Make work for people that you feel are fighting the fights you want to be apart of.

Who’s on the team, what are their roles and why do you love them?

We have a team of 11 currently:

Josh Kenyon - 1/2 Co-Founder, Creative Director 1/2 Pattern Freak. ❤️: He’s our food guide!

Colby Nichols - 1/2 Co-Founder, Creative Director 1/2 Pattern Freak. ❤️: Certified wizard!

Steven Kasprzyk - 1/2 Business Development Manager 1/2 Wise Guy. ❤️: Has a huge heart.

Brett Stenson - 1/2 Art Director 1/2 Cosmic Cowboy. ❤️: He’s a visual warlock!

Vilay Dethluxay - 1/2 Senior Producer 1/2 Fish Sauce. ❤️: Organizational mastermind.

Rachel Hughes - 1/2 Producer 1/2 Hustler. ❤️: Queen of Mom Jokes.

Sam Boyd - 1/2 Office Manager 1/2 Adventurer. ❤️: Keeps everyone together and sane.

Sarah Martin - 1/2 Senior Designer 1/2 Ham Lord. ❤️: Gatekeeper to the Glitter Realm.

AJ Minnis - 1/2 Designer 1/2 Juice: ❤️: Senior Youth Correspondant.

Dillon Lawrence - 1/2 Designer 1/2 Mountain Dweller. ❤️: Always sending it!

Maggie Johnson - 1/2 Designer 1/2 cheesybeefyspicycrunchy. ❤️: Breaks down every Friday in manic-laughter!

2018 for you in a sentence.

Brett: A sea change. I feel in many ways, a lot of people are being more raw and open in every way. Voices are being found and heard, and people are using design to both help those who need a voice, and many are using their own voices as designers to make work for themselves to speak their minds. It’s a turbulent time, but this year will be remembered.

Colby: Scary, heavy, and non-stop. Things have been bad before and we found a way to survive and sometimes even thrive. Stay close to those you love and make time for the people you care about.

Design work by Jolby & Friends The Design Kids interviews Jolby & Friends work-6
Design work by Jolby & Friends The Design Kids interviews Jolby & Friends work-6

Where to find Jolby & Friends online.

Get involved