One of Many: New Orleans Designer Justin Shiels
One of Many is a project by Wesley Verhoeve, in which he captures creative communities across the United States in portrait and writing. For more about the creative community of New Orleans, LA and 11 others, visit oneofmany.co and follow along on Instagram at @wesleyverhoeve.
Justin Shiels is a creative director, graphic designer and marketing strategist whose greatest joy is making things happen. He helps build brands through his boutique design and marketing studio This Creative Lab. We met when I was in New Orleans to capture the local creative community and I recently followed up with a few questions about his artistic process.
How would you describe your ideal balance between craft and raw talent in your process and work?
I think I was born with a natural propensity to be creative. Mom always sang in the church choir, my sister taught me to draw, and my brother was always tinkering and building things. But I think the development of my talent came from the hours of practice. I was the youngest in the family and had to entertain myself, so I drew and read and built imaginary worlds. My family supported that by investing in classes, computers, and frequent trips to the library.
I think my process is informed by that upbringing–taking time to explore and be inspired, balanced by the nitty gritty of doing the work.
For so much of my career, I saw myself exclusively as a graphic designer, but that’s changing. Recently, I’ve invested in writing, illustrating, and general marketing strategies as a means of personal development. I’ve found that the more time I spend learning for learning’s sake, the more interesting I find my work.
Regardless though, I have to put in the hours to make something I love.
What has been a particularly impactful lesson you’ve learned from a mentor, with regards to the technical aspect of your work?
While critiquing our first assignments for the year, my favorite design teacher, Tom Varisco looked at my piece and said, “This part is interesting, but the entire thing isn’t working. You should start over.”
The creative process is really about doing something and then doing it over and over again until it’s good. Realizing that nothing is precious is the true key to growth.
Pixels are infinite. There’s always another piece of paper.
Do you have a particular audience in mind when creating new work?
Like most creatives, I have multiple audiences: Corporate clients, small business, direct to consumer, and of course other creatives.
For all of my work, I always try to think about my ideal user and think about how far I can push them. What’s something they’ve never seen that is meaningful, thoughtful, and aesthetically pleasing? Then I ask: How can I do something I’ve never done before?
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