Words with Jeremy Prasatik of JP33.com

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I discovered Jeremy Prasatik’s portfolio a long time back. Since then I have been a big fan of his work. I always found his style unique in its color palettes and use of organic elements. With a few of Jeremy’s prints framed up and on the wall, his style is one that seems to find its place almost anywhere it is applied.

So, I hit him up to see what’s going on with the freelancer and Interactive Art Director for Neiman Marcus known as JP33. Keep reading.

Let’s start with the typical introduction question. How did you get started in design? Did you go to school? Self-taught? What areas of design have been a focal point for you through the years? Have they changed over time? Was it something that came naturally? (ok, that started out typical…)

I was always into design as a young child but got into sports early on and that kind of dominated what I did with my time. Although I was one of those kids that would draw patterns and designs on my Nike’s and was even known to tag a few pairs of Jordan’s in my time. My friends and I were WAY into whatever the hot kicks were, the big baggy shorts, black socks and dope basketball tees. You could say the Fab 5 was a big influence early on.

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Things have changed quite a bit as far as style and the type of design/style I am into now – but that hip-hop culture will always be in me a little…it’s just a little further down now. Working for a high-fashion retailer like Neiman Marcus has opened my world up to so many great designers, both fashion as well as media design. One of my biggest influences over the past few years is Kate Spade and the wonderful pattern designers that work for the brand. That’s a huge change from the sports industry and the design it entails.

You currently are working full time as Interactive Art Director for Neiman Marcus. What’s it like balancing work, freelance and family? What do you do to keep your sanity?

Working at Neiman’s has been great and being able to balance life with work has gone fairly smooth. There are times it gets stressful (Fashion Week, Holiday Season) but all in all our CD’s and VP’s understand and are great about life outside of the office.

My freelance work has become much more selective over the years. Being a family man is my top priority but I still enjoy working on projects outside of my everyday design world. So far I have been able to balance things fairly well…I’ve learned to concept and plan better…and I don’t sleep as much.

What are the key differences between designing for a company 40 hours a week and freelancing the rest of the time? Have you ever thought of going full time with your freelancing?

I’ve thought long and hard a number of times about going full-time freelance, but for whatever reason it just never worked out. Currently, I see freelance as an outlet, a chance to take on projects I wouldn’t get to work on at Neiman Marcus.

Freelancing vs full-time work is a night and day difference. Everything from starting a project, the planning and design process, etc is different for me.

At Neiman’s I work with buyers, merchants, marketers, copywriters, front/backend developers on a daily basis. On a freelance project, it’s myself and the client. Big difference. The full-time job can leave you with a boxed-in feeling and sometimes a fairly watered down end-product. That’s not always the case, but it happens. The project I work on at home might have all the creative freedom in the world to do my thing and create something different/fun. But, you may also be hindered, in the end, without all the support from working within a group. That’s just ONE of the differences off the top of my head too.

How long have you been freelancing? Do you feel the market for freelancers has changed across the various industries over the last few years?

I’ve been freelancing for about 8 years now. I think it’s easier now more than ever to market yourself as an artist or designer. If you work at it, you can get your work seen by almost anyone.

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Do you feel like there is a difference between students graduating in some form of design or art vs. those that are self-taught?

I really think it boils down to the individual. Success ultimately comes from within. School or no school you figure things out and grow from your mistakes…or, you don’t. Obviously this could be expounded upon a great deal more but I feel like hard work and perseverance wins in the end.

On your site you have a link were people can purchase the WordPress theme you created for your portfolio. I know you do web development along with design. What got you started in web development? How much time do you spend writing code vs designing? Do you feel that web development is something designers should incorporate into their skill sets?

At this point, code is a means to an end. I have to do it, and from time to time get some enjoyment out of it, but find myself sourcing it quite a bit. I still try and keep up with the latest/greatest so I wont lose touch with what can and cant be done. I also need that knowledge to properly manage projects. Knowing if something can be done, how long it will take and the resources needed to make it happen are huge. So, I see myself always having a hand in the code department.

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A lot of your work seems to have a consistent organic style and color palettes? How would you describe your style? How has it changed over the years? How have you carried over your style from print to apparel to web? Your photography even seems to have a similar feel to it.

I wish I lived in Colorado (or somewhere cold with beautiful mountains) so I try and create designs and photograph things that have a similar vibe. It’s just something over the years that has really blossomed…a love for the outdoors, the mountains, trees, lakes…anything earthy and peaceful. The mountains are a favorite place of my wife and I…that whole vibe carries over in my personal work.

I’m also a big pattern fan (the Kate Spade influence), so I attempt to mix the nature theme with big, bold patterns from time to time. Just experimenting and having fun.

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One thing interesting is that your style has blended well in your daily work as well as freelance. I know that sometimes designer’s freelance portfolios do not match the work they do during that 40 hour week. How were you able to pull that off?

There are times I am able to really put a personal twist into my freelance projects. Most of the freelance I take on is going to have that vibe…I think people reaching out to me are, a lot of the times, interested in the same aesthetic feel as myself.

As far as working a personal influence into a project at Neiman Marcus…I do my best to attempt it, but, obviously, it wont always workout. But it’s great working with a completely different style and pushing concepts/designs in other directions…I think I’ve grown because of it.

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What/who are some of your biggest influences in regards to your work?

Again, working in fashion has opened me up to so many new styles, designers and really an overall way of viewing design itself. As mentioned a few times Kate Spade and the pattern makers there are a huge influence. I work with/for some amazingly talented people and am blown away at their knowledge of design, type and fashion.

Here’s a running list of different brands, bands, items and just an overall way of life that influences me on a day to day basis. The Black Keys. Billy Reid. Old Jazz. The Blues (music). Woodford Reserve. 50′s haircuts. J.Crew. Jason Wu. Isabella Fiore. Nick Wooster. Mountains. Trees. Military watches. Chukka boots. Retro Jordan’s. Cold weather. Mixing old and new. I could go on and on.

What is it about design and art that you like the most in regards to freelancing and your career? … what things do you like the least?

I have some weird internal itch to create things. I don’t know how to build stuff so design seems to do the trick as far as scratching that itch.

What do I like least? I don’t seem to be able to get rid of that itch…at times it can turn into an obsession if I don’t watch myself.

What defines art and what defines design is a gray area for some designers.  Would you consider your work more art or design?  Artist or designer?

I’m a designer. I work on projects that ultimately are to sell something. An idea, a process, an item…that’s 95 percent of my work. I come up with an idea, take 5 shots of models on gray backgrounds, a word doc with copy and a blank Photoshop canvas and do my best to create a compelling story. And I have to do it in 2 hours. That’s design…nothing artistic about it.

Artists make beautiful things and they make them from scratch. I suppose one could argue I do that from time to time…but I don’t feel like an artist.
I am (greatly) over-simplifying this, btw. 

What is your position on spec work, creative crowdsourcing and design contests?  How do you think that affects freelancers like yourself?

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Somewhat torn. I remember doing spec T-shirt work. It helped fill up a portfolio at the time which was much needed. Some of those designs lead to me getting real freelance projects…so there was some benefit. But, it’s pretty terrible knowing huge companies sit back and take advantage of that very fact – young designers trying to build a portfolio knowing they’ll do anything for a shot at working with ‘insert big skater/surfer brand name here’.

I’ve never done the contest thing…it just never interested me.

Can you tell us about your best and worst experiences with clients?

You learn from the worst so sometimes that ends up being the best, right?

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In regards to having a lucrative career, doing what you love, what are some things that have worked well for you in helping you move forward? 

Always wanting to learn and trying to improve. Being honest with yourself is the key, I think. I’m not great with type. I have SO much room for improvement in that regards. I often struggle with scale (I tend to have too many big/bold elements on a page – not enough push/pull). I have to watch myself with that. Those are just two of the many examples I could think of.

Self-evaluation is huge…it’s almost like that saying ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’…knowing my weaknesses (enemies) and being able to point them out (honesty with yourself), or taking criticism helps me in the long run.

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What are some of the things you have accomplished with design that have been most fulfilling?

Providing a good home and life for my family. And being able to scratch that itch some.

Do you think there are any unwritten rules regarding design and freelancing that beginning designers should be aware of?  What are some of the dos and don’ts of jp33?

Doing work for an acquaintance normally doesn’t turn out well. I stray from those projects. Starting work on a project without proper planning and supporting copy is a big no-no at this point as well.

What do you do in your spare time when not behind a computer? Hobbies, interests, etc.

Hanging with the family. Watching sports with friends. I’m a huge NBA and NFL fan. Love Dirk…love Peyton. My wife and I have had Mavs (Dallas Mavericks) season tickets for 10 years now. It’s a big part of our life. I could talk/argue sports for days on end. Clicking my camera every now and again. Grilling seafood. Trying new beer/whiskey. Shopping.

If I came to you and told you I wanted to do what you do, what would I have to go through to get there?  What advice would you give me?

Lots of late nights in Photoshop. Reading anything design related. Learning from all the design around us in our daily lives.

Advice…learn to look at design as problem solving. It will simplify things for you.

Will there be any more jp33 prints for sell in 2011?

I plan on getting a few done at some point just not sure about the timing yet, unfortunately. 

What does 2011 hold for jp33.com? 

I just put a new site up and am in the middle of tweaking it now. So, that will take some time to get it just right. Nothing else major in the pipeline at this point.

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Links you should check out:

Jp33.com
JP33 on twitter
Jp33 iphone and laptop skins
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