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.
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.