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Meet Jamie Stark of Stark Designs in Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Stark.

Jamie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve been working as a designer and creative director for more than 20 years. I started in NYC in the flatiron district working for small studios that did entertainment and book design. I was mentored by guys like Larry Lurin, who designed movie posters for Raging Bull, Platoon and tons of other famous films. I worked for Joe Caroff who designed the 007 logos and the West Side Story poster. I worked for famed Carl Ally copywriter, Dick Raboy doing financial advertising. I freelanced in Bob Salpeter’s studio who was one of Paul Rand’s protégés. I got a chance to learn bits and pieces of my trade from guys who had been industry heavy hitters in the last part of the 20th century, and while I may not have realized it at the time, it was invaluable.

I became a freelance art and creative director for a now defunct division of Ogilvy & Mather called FoodComm where I was creative lead on accounts like Dannon and Ocean Spray.

Ultimately, I formed my own studio in NYC that employed staff and freelancers to service a roster of mainly large businesses. We spent a decade servicing clients like Pepsi, Avis, Milgard, Maersk, Equal Sweetener and many more.

I followed some business out to Southern California five years ago and have never looked back. The creative community in Orange County is active and welcoming and I have become deeply involved with it. I’m on the board of AIGA-OC where I run a mentorship program for young designers. The mentors I had changed my career for the better, and I wanted to do the same for other designers. I’ve paired over 100 young designers with mentors in the past few years and it has resulted in freelance relationships, jobs, and quite a few friendships.

I was also fortunate enough to be asked to teach illustrative typography at LCAD (Laguna College of Art & Design) which is a tiny, but amazing, accredited, 4-year art school that also offers several MFA programs. This has afforded me the opportunity to mentor many more young artists and has also influenced the way that I work and the type of work that I do. Teaching has been a wonderful experience.

These days, along with teaching, I have a thriving business designing packaging, advertising, and branding for a variety of U.S.-based and international clients. Between those things, and spending time with my family, I am a very busy guy.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Most of my work has been for large corporate marketing departments and every time you get a regime change at those offices it can tank your business. I’ve watched my billing rise and fall over the years and seen many aspects of the business become commoditized. There is global access to talent and the competition is fierce. Pricing is down overall and the trends have been toward in-house design at many companies.

There is, however, always a market for good work and our reach as designers and artists has increased dramatically. Because of social media, I’ve found clients in places like Mexico and Switzerland and that’s just not something that would have happened years ago.

One of the keys to success is never waiting for the phone to ring. If you’re not busy with client projects, write a book, teach a class, or become your own client. Design things, produce them and sell them yourself. Figure out your side hustle and make stuff happen. Make promoting yourself and your work part of your job, not an afterthought.

Success is never a linear path and it’s defined differently by different people. The years that I earned the most money were some of the least happy, most stressful times in my life.

I have a wonderful wife and kids, a beautiful home and I love my work. That feels like a success when I write it down.

Please tell us about Stark Designs, LLC.
I’m a freelance creative director and graphic designer specializing in branding, packaging, and advertising. A lot of my work is characterized by illustrative, highly detailed typography with a vintage feel, but I do all things commercial art related.

I particularly love working with a new product that is un-named and unbranded. Let’s name it, find a defensible position within the marketplace, that you can own, and then design and package it so that people throw money at you.

I want to make the needle move for people’s businesses and products. The client’s success is my success.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Too hard to name just one thing. Trips to Cape Cod and the Jersey Shore. Bookstores and libraries. Going to the MET. Eating foods that I never tried before. Discovering Lou Reed, Jim Carroll, Charles Bukowski and Lucian Freud. Finding out people can get paid to design things and make art…

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