Q&A with Jason Jones

While in college you interned at the New York Times. Can you talk a bit about the value of that experience?
The New York Times experience was invaluable because it taught me how to be a true professional and how important my role was as a designer in such a visual society. Since I had the opportunity to work with some amazing designers, I was able to see first hand the level of commitment that they had to their craft and the skills it took to be successful on that level. It really made me want to raise my game and continue to work at improving.

You began your career at the Orlando Sentinel and then made the switch to Orlando Magazine. What are the pros and cons of working as a designer in those different realms of print? (newsprint vs. magazines)
The con with newsprint is that it’s newsprint! Sometimes no matter how great the concept and execution was, the presentation was less than glorious. The pro was that everyday I had a chance to create something new. So if I designed something that I didn’t love, I didn’t have to live with it long — I could redeem myself the very next day. As for magazines, of course the print quality is superior and the deadlines are tight, but there is more time to plan. And in my particular situation, I was able to work more closely with editors and photographers, so there seemed to be more control over the creative process.

As a former Art Director, what were some of the things you would look for when hiring?
1. Creativity: Can they solve problems visually and in emergency situations. I would view their portfolio, but also ask questions regarding how they would handle certain situations. 2. Communication skills: I try to gauge how a candidate would fit-in with the team internally as well as be able to communicate with clients. 3. Experience: A candidate didn’t necessarily need to have a ton of experience; they just needed the right kind of experiences as it pertained to the position I was hiring for. 4. Technical expertise: Is the person software savvy and able to execute ideas without a lot of handholding. 5. Organization skills — based on how they presented themselves and their work, I would try to determine how organized they were since our industry is deadline driven and it’s a must that a designer be able to gather information and process the details in order to make decisions quickly.

Today you have your own company, StudioJones. What made you strike out on your own? Any advice to designers out there thinking about making a similar move?
The flexibility of self-employment has always been alluring. And having seen many of my friends and coworkers get laid-off, I wanted to put myself in a position to where I had more control over my income. I started doing lots of freelance after hours and more opportunities came my way which allowed me to leave my job. My advice would be to learn as much about the business side as possible. I’d also say to find a good accountant and other professionals that can assist you in areas that you’re not as strong at. Build your network so that potential clients find you via referrals and personal relationships. Also, while you’re employed, look for contracted work that will pay you guaranteed money so that the risk of leaping will be more calculated. And lastly, continue to grow and learn while employed with the end goal of self-employment in mind.