After seeing Joseph Veazey’s playful design aesthetic on It’s Nice That, we reached out to the designer to learn more about him, his work and the pros and cons of the graphic design industry.

We have a few favorite websites (other than ourselves) here at Selectism; and, one of them is the design portal “It’s Nice That.” That’s where we came across the work of Joseph Veazey, whose resume includes a stint with Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, and most currently, art direction at women’s ready-to-wear label Azede Jean-Pierre. Veazey’s work fairly jumped from the screen with its humorous borderline oddball sensibility and technical skill, so we reached out to have a one-on-one with the artist.

For many of us — especially those of us who don’t have a background in design — one of the most fascinating aspects of the job is the creative process. This of course varies from designer to designer, and it is that personal, almost ritualistic aspect of concepting that often draws our curiosity. With that in mind, we wanted to know where Veazey’s penchant for creation began. “I was always drawing, even when I was little. We even have old home videos where I’m just sitting there sketching,” he says. “I taught myself for the most part, but I also took a lot of classes in high school — even then, they just let you do what you wanted. One thing it did make me realize was that I was interested in applied,” Veazey reflects.

In high-school, his work outside of art classes also worked to cement his belief that design, above all, should serve a purpose. “I would hand-draw custom sneakers and t-shirts for people and make cards and invitations, so I knew I always preferred art that was useful.” Still, it was early on for Veazey, and although he knew that art was his calling, he wasn’t sure how he wanted to pursue it. After enrolling at the Savannah Institute of Art and Design (SCAD), he was faced between choosing to study graphic design or illustration. “I knew graphic design or illustration was what I wanted to do, but I felt like you didn’t really need to be taught illustration. With graphic design, there was still a lot of fundamental stuff I needed to learn.”

Veazey balanced learning these technical fundamental skills with his own personal studies. He soon discovered SCAD’s library, where he says much of his conceptual learning took place. “I’d go to the school library and anything that looked interesting I would read. At that point, I still didn’t really know what design was, so I just started to teach myself.” Through these reading sessions, Veazey learned about celebrated graphic designers like the late Tibor Kalman, founder of M & Co. design firm.

Then, in his junior year, a rare opportunity came knocking. Adult Swim conducted campus-wide interviews at SCAD and Veazey was invited to come on as an intern. Unsurprisingly, his tenure there was a success. “When I was an intern, they let me do a billboard for some reason,” he tells us. “It was a really weird one, too. It had all of these hand-drawn doodles on it and didn’t even really think it was going to be a billboard.” The momentum continued in his favor after graduation — Veazey was offered a full-time position as a graphic designer.

His in-house work with Adult Swim triggered an interesting shift in our conversation. We were curious to find about the differences between working in-house versus working independently. We wondered, as many do, if working in a corporate environment was truly the killer of creativity it is often made out to be.

“It is interesting working in-house,” he admits. “It challenges you to be more creative sometimes because you’re doing the same things over and over again so it’s up to you to find new ways to do it. I had to learn to work conceptually at Cartoon Network.” He credits people like Jacob Escobedo, the creative director at Adult Swim, with helping to develop this ability. Working in-house also went a long way in teaching Veazey how to develop a creative process that worked for him. He says he generally likes to start with a broad idea and then narrow the spectrum until he finds what works best. Another thing that he finds tremendously helpful is his personal library of sketchbooks and illustration thoughts. He frequently draws on these archives when he’s starting a new project.

Veazey also tells us that for him, looking at inspiration that is as far as possible from the intended concept helps his process the most. “I do look at inspiration but I try not to look at things that are in the same category as what I’m doing. I think the further you can get away from what you’re doing, the more inspired you’ll be.”

This has served him well in his post at Azede Jean-Pierre, where in addition to creating the logo and branding, he also collaborates with the company’s designer on fabric prints. As an example of how unlikely inspiration can work in a designer’s favor, he shows us the invitation for one seasonal collection that was inspired by insects. The collection’s prints are equally impressive: vibrant, geometric and chic, one could hardly tell — with the exception of a pronounced ant print — that the shapes were created to mimic the patterns on the backs of certain insects.

Veazey’s process remains unchanged in his personal works. His annual holiday cards, a tradition he started three years ago, often involve a certain angle of whimsy and eccentric humor that is sourced from the most unlikely inspirations. Sometimes, he says, they’re even inspired by a lack of funds.

“I did this holiday card at a time I didn’t have any money. This is something that would be really expensive to do in large format, but I found out that Staples has a blueprint printer for architects and it’s dirt cheap — it’s free, practically. I just printed this card a bunch of times and sliced it. It cost like five cents for each one.” The card in question is a black-and-white style infographic featuring some of the most bizarre facts of the year. And, strangely enough, it’s precisely this kind of thinking that makes us a fan of his work.

Learn more about Veazey and follow his work here.

Words by Stephanie Smith-Strickland
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