Exponent Q&A profile: Jon Bradie

NYPDIn an effort to introduce the Exponent cadre to our clients and the world, we thought it would be fun, and insightful, to interview each other. Jon Bradie is a talented, Atlanta-based designer who has worked on Exponent projects for several years now. In Jon, I have found someone with enormous talent—and a true teammate.

When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
I knew early on that I would pursue the visual arts in some form, be it architecture, photography or design. As far back as high school art classes, I instinctively had a very linear, organized design sensibility. I didn’t become a “designer” until I became a one-person agency for a legal publication, mostly out of necessity. Collaborating with multiple department heads (advertising, editorial, circulation and new product development) on an ever-expanding range of projects, design took on a larger role and all concerned liked the results.

What’s the hardest work-related challenge you face, and how do you solve it?
Often, it’s a matter of communication. One of the most important roles of a designer is that of educator. The client is relying on you for design, for sure, but he or she is hiring you for your expertise. If you can’t justify–with confidence–the purpose of a particular design element, either for aesthetics or user functionality, lose it. Every element must have a reason for its existence, all in service of the client’s goals. You must be able to concisely explain these choices.

What does a typical workday look like for Jon?
Well, coffee usually plays a critical role… First off, ‘typical’ doesn’t exist. It’s like defining ‘normal.’ There are design days, administrative days, selling days, research days, etc., and days when a project is stuck in a holding pattern. Some days start earlier than others or end later than still others, and communications/social media has to be addressed consistently while limiting the time spent on it as best you can.

What are the best lessons (self-taught or learned) that impact your work or approach?
1) You can’t wait for inspiration to come; you have to sit down and create, to push through. Your odds of hitting on that aha! moment improve exponentially by trying things and allowing yourself to fail. 2) Observe what’s around you. Design is everywhere–good, bad and otherwise. Take it all in. Learn from it: what works, what doesn’t and why, and pay particular attention to things that “aren’t my taste.” It will stretch your limits and understanding.

What is the best design work (other than your own) that you’ve seen recently?
This is a particularly exciting time for design in Atlanta. I’ve been enjoying the development of the Beltline (www.beltline.org), which will eventually encircle the city, combining architecture, landscape, art and sculpture with outdoor exhibits, events and the rebirth of long-ago dismissed neighborhoods. Some great things are happening here.

But your real favorite project is the Exponent Collaborative logo, right?
It was great fun to create this icon! This wasn’t a typical refresh, in that we weren’t replacing an old logo. Yet trying to capture the essence of a firm with an existing identity in a new and fresh way isn’t easy. Two thoughts came to mind right away: Scrabble, focusing on words and writing, and the periodic table of elements. They share visual cues, and that’s when the ideas really began to crystallize. The existing Futura typeface of the wordmark is classic yet contemporary, so I fine tuned it for case and weight, and then set about creating an icon that would work cohesively with it, could stand on its own, and would be flexible enough to succeed across both print and digital placements. I’m extremely happy with the end result!

Me too! So other than our logo…what’s your dream project?
My dream job was always to play first base for my beloved SF Giants, but I guess that ship has sailed. Related, I would love to create the visual identity system for a major sports team: logos, word marks, uniforms…the whole package. It’s a very public stage, overly subject to the social media trolls, but I think I’m up to the task.

And finally, what’s the story behind the ‘transportation’ in the photo above?
No comment. Gotta run.

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