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My Career, Part One

Recently, I had lunch with a lifelong graphic designer that was about twice my age. Somehow, as it always seems to, my background became the subject of conversation.

I tend to breeze through my design experience in fifty words or less, but in this instance, I gave it a bit more time. Maybe it’s because I had a bit more time to fill, considering the wealth of experience across the table. Maybe it was the coffee. At any rate, what I said to him seemed to make a serious impact. As a result, I decided to sit down and type it out in the event that someone else may enjoy it.

About two hundred years ago, back in July of 1986, I was in Ohio for my family reunion. Every time I go to our family reunion, which has been twice, we would stay with my uncle, Bill Jones, and his wife Sandy. The Joneses were an incredible anomaly, in that they could perpetuate a great mood – no matter the circumstances – even with a house full of guests (when I say ‘full’, I mean 15-20 guests).

To give some background, I had a propensity for trouble as a child. As a result, I spent a lot of time in my bedroom, coloring in my coloring books. But as long as I had my coloring books, I almost felt like I wasn’t punished.

Unfortunately, the ratio of punishment to coloring books was not working in my favor, and I had a lot more time to spend in my room. That’s when I grabbed a pencil and notebook and starting to make my own. My family noticed that there was some talent in what I was sketching, which brings my story back to Ohio and the reunion.

My brother and I, then 10 and 9, respectively, were running through the house, jumping on furniture, when I kicked over their umbrella stand and sent a loud ”CRASH” throughout the house. As loud as we were, we were no match for the large tin can slapping the brick foyer. In its wake, I saw the first and only time that Bill showed a lack of patience. Not mad, just impatient.

“So, you can draw, huh?”, he asked with curiosity and, perhaps, an effort to move past the incident. I nodded and he crouched down to my level.

“You know, I’d like for you to draw me a logo”.

“Sure,” I answered, “what’s that?”

Bill led me to the kitchen where I sat at the dining room table. He stood by the kitchen counter and, once he had my full attention, he continued by pulling a box of Fruity Pebbles out of the cabinet. Pointing to the Post trademark, he asked, “Ya see this?”

I nodded and he explained. “This is a logo, along with the Nabisco on those crackers, and the Dawn on the dish soap. A logo is just a pretty form of a word that makes you think good of a company”.  It seemed simple enough, so with a little more explanation, I was ready to go.

My art supplies consisted of a spiral-bound notebook and four colored pencils, black, red, brown, and green. The black pencil broke immediately.

I spent about two hours just coming up with ways to make “Jones Realty” catchy and fun. After six or seven ideas, I settled on one logo, tore my page out, and walked out to the backyard, where the adults had migrated in the early evening. I got Bill’s attention and we walked back inside the house; he to check out my work, and me to present what has adorned his letterhead for over twenty years.


The Jones Realty logo.

So that’s how it started. From that point on, I would spend countless weekends and evenings through my early teens, drawing ideas for the entrepreneurs in the family: my uncle that ran the family Feed & Seed store would want signs, his music promoter brother would want posters, VHS sleeves, business cards, as would assorted relatives and their friends.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.


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