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Meet OC Graphic Designer and Creative Director: Jamie Stark

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

Jamie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My career as a graphic designer, art, and creative director began 20 years ago in New York City. I worked in the Flatiron district, which at the time, was teeming with designers, photographers and ad agencies. The entire area was as specialized and unique as the field itself, and it was brimming with creativity. At that time, I was fortunate enough to work with and for, some of the true creative geniuses in our field. I interned and later worked for, Larry Lurin, who designed the movie posters for Raging Bull and Platoon among hundreds of others. I worked for Joe Caroff at Kirschener Caroff Design who designed the James Bond 007 logo and the West Side Story poster. It is these creative roots that enabled me to continue to build my own business and go on to freelance for ad agencies like Ogilvy & Mather, and then go on to run my own design studio with fortune 500 clients. My client list includes Pepsi, Avis, Milgard, Ocean Spray, Dannon, Mearsk, Equal Sweetener and many more.

I’ve been in SoCal for about 4 years and in that time I’ve had the opportunity to become a part of the thriving creative community here. The bulk of my work these days is branding and package design for several large west coast companies. I’m on the board of AIGA-OC (American Institute of Graphic Arts) where I founded and run a mentorship program that pairs young designers with seasoned creatives. The mentors help give advice and guidance to the junior creatives with the goal of kickstarting their careers. I was also fortunate enough to be asked to teach typographic design to illustration students at LCAD. I have been professing the joys of good typography as well as instructing illustrative typography technique for 2 years now and I find it immensely rewarding.

These activities along with raising a family keeps me insanely busy—but I’m happy and grateful for such a wonderful life.

Has it been a smooth road?
Being a creative pro is a constant hustle. Your fortunes change with the economy and with client relationships. If you have a great relationship with the VP of marketing at XYZ corp and are doing tons of work for them and they leave for another job you may loose that business. If they land at another company you might have a new client. It’s unpredictable year over year.

My business has expanded and contracted regularly over my career. Always feast or famine. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching and my involvement with AIGA is that is keeps my from getting lost in the cyclical nature of the business. The industry has changed tremendously during the years I have been involved in it. Globalization means that you compete for work with people everywhere and this lowers pricing. Conversely, it opens opportunities to work with people anywhere. For the last decade, my business has been with companies that are spread out across the U.S. and that would have been a tough sell before communications improved to the point they are at now.

Small business ownership is its own challenge. When you have employees you worry that you won’t do enough business to meet payroll. When you are on you own you wish you had employees to help you out. You have to be careful about overhead and insurance costs and all the other unsexy, uncreative aspects of doing business and it can be a grind, but despite the ups and downs I’ve been able to have a career in my chosen profession. Creativity in the service of business is still creativity and I have been lucky to spend my life doing something so fun and rewarding.

Have you ever wanted to stop doing what you do and just start over?
Ha. I feel like quitting about once a month—but then I realize there is nothing else I can do that I would enjoy as much. The pressure of keeping a small business going, doing enough billing to pay for life, keeping clients happy—all of it can be overwhelming. If I lose a big client I feel like there will never be another one. I threaten to start a different business or get a job at an ad agency, but then something comes along. Doors close and others open. Ultimately I get paid, year after year, to be creative. I get to come up with ideas, and design things, that communicate, sell and inspire. It’s a really fun job when you don’t get lost in the minutia.

What would you tell someone who is just starting out?
Do great work and share it with as many people as you can. Manage and curate your online presence. Use your social media to promote your work, not your life. Post your work on industry sites like Dribbble and Behance, and when you do cross post it to your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. Whatever social platforms you use, make them all about the business of promoting your work There is a ton of talent in this business, but the most visible person gets the work. Make a point to post some work on a regular schedule—once a week ideally. I guarantee if a person starting out does this religiously they will have a decent following, and some name recognition after 2 years—it’s all about hustle.

Also get involved in the creative community. Join AIGA, volunteer for stuff, meet people. This is especially valuable when you are young and job seeking. It will open all kinds of doors.

What are you looking forward to?
I am, and always have been, excited about new technologies. Tools like Adobe Creative Suite are so powerful that we are only limited by our imaginations, not the tech. I also feel like the massive amount of shared work on the internet has upped the overall quality of graphic design work. People copy each other and steal each other’s ideas, but they also inspire and teach one another. Designers who see great work, and can recognize it, are more likely to produce it.

On the flip side, I’m excited about people’s rejection of modern technologies in favor of craft. I find the rise of letterpress printing as an art form to be inspiring. The movement away from digital toward handmade, handcrafted, hand lettered work that is less precise but no less beautiful is a wonderful thing.

I’m simultaneously disturbed and intrigued by the disruption of traditional advertising models. Print ads are going away, web ads are mostly blocked, TV ads are either not present (Netflix) or circumvented by DVR. Content marketing is more prevalent than it was, but that’s a subtle art, and can lead to consumer rejection if it’s too heavy-handed. Whole industries are changing or disappearing completely. I’m wondering with what will they be replaced. Whatever it is they always need good design in one form or another and that’s good news.

Contact Info:

  • Website: jamiestark.com
  • Phone: 973-233-0339
  • Email: stark@starkdesigns.com

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