I’ve been working as a graphic designer and art director now for 29 years – 2020 marks my 10th year with my own business, Joce Creative. I specialize in logo design, and design everything from brochures to viewbooks, annual reports, and comprehensive campaigns for both small and mid-size clients.
I am proud to say that I have worked from the ground up. I think it’s important for students to realize that it’s ok not to have that “dream job” right after graduation. After university, I started doing production at a newspaper in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. After that, I was a production designer for a Halifax-based company called McArthur Thompson & Law (currently National) and eventually art director for the same company. After moving to New Brunswick, I was so excited to work for the design boutique, Hudson Design Group; and then as art director for SGCI and finally, senior art director at Hawk Marketing before I went on my own as a freelancer.
Project for Moncton-based photographer, Tia Fennelly:
Above: Tia Fennelly is a Moncton-based photographer, specializing in wedding photography. Tia wanted her logo to stand apart from typical signature logos or, the typical lens or camera icon. She wanted an identity that reflected her personality and at the same time, appeal to the young, modern bride. As a photographer, Tia chases moments; and captures whimsical romantic images which are soft, raw, emotional, empowering and authentic. The chosen logo design was based on old style photo corners and cropping. The various rectangles, when rotated, created the perfect corners for her lettermark “T”. The lettermark stands out from other photographers’ logos and works effectively on its own as a watermark.
Tell us about your process for logo design.
I’ll go through some questions with the client to find out target audience, competition, etc. I’ll ask the client to tell me what logos they like and also, what they don’t like. If you have a client who is unsure of what they like, they usually have an opinion of what they don’t like; this is very helpful. But they usually find me because they’ve seen my previous work, so they like my design style and usually want simple, clean logos appropriate for their target audience.
I always start with pencil sketches. To be honest, I don’t like looking too much at other logos, because I don’t want to be influenced by them. If I am stuck on a logo I’ll do some “mind mapping” to generate ideas I may not have thought of with sketching alone. If the logo is wordmark based, I will dive into font research. Then I vectorize my sketches for presentation. I always show my logo designs in context; it helps a client decide on a logo if they can picture it as an end product.
I also design my logos at a small scale, never too close up. If you design too close up you are adding too many details; I am constantly zooming in and out to test readability.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I grew up close to nature, so I love sometimes using patterns in nature as inspiration. I get inspired by unique colour combinations found in nature, fashion or interiors. I love typography, lettering, bold colour, and photography. I enjoy how European design is bolder and pushes the limits. I feel perhaps their clients are more willing to keep things less “safe”. Staying safe too long means you don’t get noticed.
In my downtime, I usually have a sketchbook on hand. I feel it’s important to loosen up since much of my work day is spent in front of the computer. I have been learning how to do lettering and I also love painting mini watercolours. I also do some of my own self-directed projects like my Spring Lettering Countdowns and create elaborate client gift tags during the holidays.
I love following photographers, letterers and illustrators on Instagram. Atlantic Canada has some amazing talent and I love following creatives from our region for inspiration too.
“Atlantic Canada has some amazing talent and I love following creatives from our region for inspiration.”
What influences your sense of design and your work?
There is so much that influences my sense of design – let’s start with Swiss design style from the 60’s & 70’s. I love logos and trademarks with simple lines and shapes. I admire the work of Burton Kramer, Stuart Ash, and Hans Kleefeld, to name a few. I also love Heather Cooper’s work. Their work is as excellent today as it was back then, and many of their logos are still around. Graphic design is much like interior design and architecture – trends come and go, but simple design is always beautiful, timeless and effective.
I also love lettering; especially the work of Louise Fili, Jessica Hische and Tobias Hall. In terms of logo design, I get inspired by the works of Josiah Jost, Paula Scher, and Michael Beirut to name a few. Books by David Airey were really helpful to me in my first years of developing my own studio.
My entire career has been spent in Atlantic Canada. I have been fortunate to work for ad agencies and design boutiques as senior art director and graphic designer. The ad agencies teach you strategy and the design boutiques teach you precision and detail. I learned so much from my creative directors and art directors; who were great mentors. These agencies taught me to be very client-focused and strategic. As a freelancer, your success is only partly skill-related; the rest is based on your reliability, good relationships, detailed work, and ability to meet deadlines.
How did your formal education influence where you are now as a designer?
I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for NSCAD. My degree from NSCAD surely helped my résumé get noticed during my first years.
I am fortunate to have studied at a university with such a great reputation. I studied under Hanno Ehses FGDC, Frank Fox, Ludwig Scharfe, Horst Deppe FGDC and Tony Mann FGDC. They certainly helped me develop an eye for modern Swiss design, detailed work, and an appreciation for typography. As well, I feel the foundation program that included drawing and photography courses were an asset. My introduction into photography was critical because it taught me cropping and composition.
I really feel that having an art background has been a huge asset as a designer in terms of understanding colour, shading and composition.
What do you feel is the value of being a CGD™ certified designer?
Graphic design is a profession that requires technical and creative expertise. My work has been evaluated and deemed to be meet a high standard by trusted and respected professionals in my industry. I love the friendships and connections I have developed with other designers in the region. I feel that being CGD certified tells clients (and peers) that I am passionate about my work, and that I take my profession very seriously.
See more at https://www.jocecreative.com/