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Life & Work with Sam Jennings

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sam Jennings.

Hi Sam, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
After studying painting and digital design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I started a career designing websites just as the internet was getting big. This led to connecting with the musician Prince to build a new web business for him called the NPG Music Club in 2001. This music club offered fans downloadable music directly from Prince before places like iTunes had been created and was the first artist-owned music service.

My role expanded with Prince and I began designing album packages, tour books, and merchandise. Since then, I have worked for several artists and brands designing award-winning campaigns and websites. I moved to Los Angeles to be closer to the hub of entertainment. Since then, I have been working steadily for a broad range of clients including Amazon Music, EBONY magazine and musician Avril Lavigne.

During this entire time, I have also been an avid oil painter, painting portraits in vibrant colors and more recently creating art digitally using a stylus. Always keeping my creativity flowing has been key to remaining excited about my work.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The struggle with doing anything technology-related is to keep ahead of what’s new. There is always some new software or hardware to learn and some new trend to pay attention too. When I was starting out with websites, I had to teach myself html and css because it was so new there were not a lot of places to learn it from. While working for Prince, he would often ask me to try new things like photography or package design, and it was on me to rise to his level of expectations.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
In my artistic painting, I love painting faces with bright colors. I find the face to be very communicative and an often powerful image to try and portray. The bright colors are my way to give the person an identity, a brighter personality, and more depth.

My graphic design work has been largely focused on the music industry. I am known for designing 3 of Prince’s mid-2000s album covers, as well as his award-winning online music business, the NPG Music Club. Working so closely with Prince was an achievement I am most proud of, that we were able to have a creative working relationship where he trusted me to visually represent his music. He was an intensively creative person and to be a part of that energy for the nine years I worked for him was amazing.

That experience has set me apart from others. Prince challenged me to push boundaries and try new things. Professionally I am not afraid to do something I’ve never done before and see what happens. It’s a “will-do” spirit that makes me an excellent team player.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
For those just starting out, the important thing is to do the work. You will only get better if you create, create, create. If you don’t have any professional projects to work on, make one up and use it for your portfolio. Want to be a UX designer but don’t have any experience, come up with your own project or find a small start-up that will give you a chance. Creativity is a muscle that you have to work to make it stronger. Stay idle and it will melt away.

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Sam Jennings

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