Jacob Cass is the founder of JUST™ Creative, a design studio and awesome blog full of helpful articles and resources for creatives. I’ve been a big fan of Jacobs work ever since I started out in design. He has over 15 years of experience in the field and has worked for many big companies in the past including Red Bull, Nintendo, Coca Cola and Disney, to name a few!
Jacob is a digital nomad (he travels the globe whilst getting creative and looking after his clients), so it will be really interesting to hear how he manages his time between client admin, catching a flight and sketching out inspiring concepts for his clients! So, let’s get to it!
Question 1: Firstly, our community of designers are mostly just getting started in design and are in that phase of their career where they’re balancing personal work and skill development, with hunting for paid client work. Back in the early days of your career how did you tackle the challenge of not having enough experience to get paid work for your portfolio, and having enough portfolio pieces to impress potential clients?
Building up your portfolio is a gradual process and you should be refining your portfolio all throughout your career. There’s no excuse for “not having a portfolio”. You need to start creating and you do that by making your own work. Start a side project, work on fictional briefs or approach a charity or business to help them with their graphic needs. You can start out by doing this for free to get experience, and then slowly start charging as your experience grows.
Question 2: Your website is absolutely full of helpful blog articles, resources and tips & tricks for designers which I’m sure helps to raise your profile, reputation and ultimately attract more clients. When you first started out in design did you plan to become such an influential blogger and what are some of the main benefits blogging has brought to you?
Back in 2007, the internet of things was quite different, especially the blogging world. Hardly anyone was blogging about design, so for those who were, it was a close knit community. Today, there is just so much noise and the idea of “blogging” is now based around “content marketing” and the benefits are well known now. So to answer the question, I never planned to become “influential”, but if you put out great content, then your community grows. As does your reputation, profile and ultimately, your business.
Question 3: In a recent interview you did with ‘The Logo Creative’, you mentioned that some of your main inspiration comes from travel and galleries online, can you outline 5 awesome online galleries, or online resources that could be helpful for other designers?
LogoLounge – My preferred logo search engine. It’s $100 a year but worth it as your logos are also considered for publication in their books.
Dribbble – Pure eye candy by designers around the world.
Pinterest – Curated collections of designs.
Google – A quick search of “XX gallery”.
Awwards – Fresh website inspiration.
Question 4: You work as a one-man-band running your studio, have you ever worked in an agency or similar environment before, and if not, do you ever think about doing so?
Yes, I’ve worked in agency environments, start-ups and as a freelancer. I lived in NYC for 5 years, and in the first year I went between 3 agencies and 1 start up and then settled on one agency that I stayed at for 4 years. They all have their pros and cons, but for me the ultimate “pro” is freedom, and that only comes by working for yourself.
Question 5: Following on from above, working as a one-man-band, you must work on your own quite a lot – do you ever miss the company of a potential work colleague or having others around to bounce creatively of?
I quite enjoy working on my own to be honest, even in agency environments. These days all my feedback comes from my clients, their partners or a few designers via email. My non-designer wife also provides honest feedback at times.
Question 6: How does an average week look like for you, how much of your time is spent seeing to admin, enquiries, and looking after clients, compared to actually getting creative time?
As much as I would hate to admit it, 30% is design and 70% is admin. I’m fast with my tools and thinking, so this could be a contributing factor but admin is a huge part of running your own business. Email, content-marketing, social media, taxes, paperwork, blah blah blah.
Question 7: As well as logo design which you primarily work on for clients, do you ever work on other forms of design, layout, web or even illustration for clients, or are you solely a logo designer? If so, do you ever miss working on a variety of styles – or are you just really passionate about logos?
Yes, I work the gamut in terms of design however I specialize in logo design & branding (& promote this heavily) which in turn, leads to work in other areas such as print, packaging, web design and marketing collateral.
In New York, I specialized in interactive design creating websites & apps for Fortune 500 brands, which meant I was working on 3-6 different clients and styles a day. One minute I’m designing a creative website for Nintendo, then a minute later designing a corporate website for a finance client, so a big switch!
Question 8: Like many creatives who face this problem, what do you do when you hit a creative block or find the creative juices aren’t flowing?
Creative blocks are often due to factors well inside of our control, so it is a matter of altering your patterns. Change your environment, get more sleep, read, travel, drink more coffee, think differently, do creative exercises, sketch.
Question 9: Throughout your design career you must have worked on some awesome projects with some really great clients, but I’m guessing like many designers you’ve also had your fair share of difficult clients to deal with over time. What would be your three top tips for other designers of how to avoid getting into these situations and how to resolve them smoothly?
Have a filter in place from the beginning to weed out these sorts of clients. Know your worth as a designer and position yourself as an expert rather than an order taker.
Clear communication. Just like any relationship, clear communication is the key to success.
If the client is being difficult, give them what they ask for, then offer your own better solution and explain to them why it works better.
Question 10: What have you got planned for 2017? On your website you mention your travels will stop after September this year, do you plan to settle in one location after this and have a permanent studio location anytime soon, or will you be getting set to jet off on another adventure?
My wife and I plan to head home to Sydney in 2017 but whether or not the travels are going to stop is another question. We’re eager for kids, but also eager to keep traveling so we’re going to consider our options when we’re home. It could be an Australian road trip… crickey! One thing is for sure though, I want to continue working for myself and with Sydney just declared the most expensive city in the world, I’m going to have to get used to the prices and crank up the business a notch… or three.
Thanks for your time Jacob and for sitting in the Briefbox Q&A chair this month, we’re sure this is going to be really helpful for aspiring designers everywhere! You can Jacobs work, blog and tweets in the links below, be sure to check out his insights and portfolio for a creative boost!!