Shawn Young

Design Background

My interest in graphic design began in the late 1980s, when I was exposed to Andy Jenkins' art direction and illustration in the magazines Freestylin', Home Boy and Dirt, as well as a contemporaneous 'zine titled Loft, which he collaborated on with Spike Jonze and Mark Lewman. Andy's illustration work in those years drew greatly from Bob Haro's style, which was popularized through the latter's bike company, Haro Bikes. I can trace my earliest inspiration and excitement in design directly to the work of these artists.

A second level of interest in design was found in the graphic layouts of the music records that I was listening to at that time, which were, for the most part, published on the Dischord, Revelation and Schism labels out of Washington, DC, New Haven, CT and New York City, respectively. It was in these companies' products that I realized that design could not only raise excitement and build connection with a brand and subject of interest, but also actually enhance the aesthetic of non-tangible things, like music. In the case of the youth subculture of American hardcore in the late 1980s, the stripped-down, aggressive and impactful sound was perfectly complemented by modernist layouts in a cut-and-paste DIY style. The production materials, graphic design and photography was a big part of the record listening experience in these cases, and it was in some of these instances that I created my earliest memories of being strongly impressed by the convergence of such themes.

I made my first 'zine in 1987 at the age of 15. At age 16, I took my first photography and darkroom methods class, and then took an advanced class in the following year. I also took my first video production class. In the summer after my junior year of high school, at age 17, my father helped me to get a job with a local sign company. I spent the next year making silk screens, doing truck lettering, metal leafing signs, painting, and asking a lot of questions. On one occasion, I also speared a fly onto a wall with an X‑ACTO knife—a feat which, by all accounts, most certainly confirmed my early promise in the field.

In the years that followed, I remained interested in design and continued to create, but pursued a wide range of interests that included art history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. In 1995, after traveling outside of the country for several years, I began learning HTML. In 2000, I took web development and graphic design classes as a foil to the abstract and technical nature of the undergraduate degree in chemistry that I was pursuing. Apart from my studies, I created logos and brand collateral for a rowing club that I started, and also developed websites for businesses and organizations that I was involved in. While in graduate school in Oxford, England, I worked at a local company and created logos and graphic materials for the University's rowing teams and other sports clubs.

cebu philippines temple construction
Cebu, Philippines. January 2010.

In 2008, I left a full-time job and spent some time traveling around the southwestern United States before settling for a short time in California. It was at this time that a sort of nomadic, economically-independent lifestyle was really becoming possible on a wider level with wi-fi Internet access at public libraries and coffee shops, and I began to develop my freelance design practice full-time as a way to have complete ownership and autonomy with my work schedule. I spent several months living in a van in Ventura and Cardiff, CA, adventuring and taking occasional trips into Baja California. Shortly before Barak Obama's inauguration to his first term in office, I took a trip to Hawaii to work on a special project, and then took my work back to Washington, DC, using that location as a sort of home base ever since.

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of small business clients. My favorite projects have been active lifestyle brands that have been able to significantly increase revenues by improved online presence and brand alignment. For the most part, this work has taken the form of website development, but I've also provided photography, videography, and consulting services in the mix. I've found that this type of coherent, wholistic approach gives the best results for small companies in the end.

To discuss how your business can raise its bottom line through more intentional presentation, better brand alignment, and a more fulfilling customer experience, contact me and we can set up a time to talk.