Mixing music and design

Mixing music and design


One of the best things you’ll find in a creative agency is the people. Many writers, artists, designers, and marketers choose to work in agencies because of the variety and freedom there can be with projects. We think this is very true for our own agency and enjoy how creativity is part of every piece of work we do.

To give you a “behind the scenes” look at where some of this creativity comes from, we interviewed one our designers to get his take on art, music, creativity, and marketing.

Josh is a senior graphic designer who can be found doing all sorts of things outside of work. He likes to spend his free time writing songs and performing with his band, taking pictures of strange marine life on beach walks in Seattle, and even exploring China with his wife and son.

Here are some of the questions we had for Josh.

Were you a musician or an artist first?

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember, but I have always hated coloring. I used to get in trouble in elementary school for coloring everything the same color. I started playing guitar when I was 11. I took a class with my Dad at a community center. I stuck with it, my Dad didn’t. And I have been playing ever since. In high school I started playing in bands, mostly as a guitar player. I didn’t really start singing and writing songs until college.

I always drew and did well in art class, but I never pursued it as a possible career until I took a Communication Arts class my senior year. A friend of mine was taking the class, and I had room in my schedule, so I took it too. Turns out I was really good at designing, and I took the class two times the next semester and did a bunch of work for the school district. After graduation I went to art school to become a designer. A similar thing happened with painting. My housemate in college was a TA for a painting class, so I decided to take it. I really got into it and eventually started showing paintings and sculptures in galleries.

How did you get started working in graphic design?

Well, I did go to school for it, but I had a few other jobs I tried out before I got back into design. I was an elementary school teacher, and I managed an art store and curated a gallery. Then I got a job in marketing. I worked there for about a week before they figured out I could design, then they had me working on design full time after that. I have been working as a graphic designer ever since. That was about 12 years ago.

What do you do to stay up on the latest trends in graphic design?

I just soak in what I see on posters, products, and everything around me. And then I also read blogs and magazines about design and try to incorporate those trends into my work.

There are different types of graphic design, and styles can vary by industry. What have you found to be important skills for designing for marketing? Marketing is all about knowing your audience and speaking to them. I think it is extremely important to know who you are designing for and how it will be used so you can create the most effective materials. It will affect your choices with colors, fonts, images, everything.

Tell us about your creative process. What inspires you in art and music?

I tend to be inspired by others. For design, I love to utilize Pinterest to find inspiration for things I want to work on or processes I want to try out. I collect posters and packaging that I find inspiring. I love to go to gallery openings and museums and get new ideas for things I could do.

For music it is all about listening and working with others. Music is a way for me to get out things that may be hard for me to say in person. I love playing in bands because I get to share the experience of creating with others. I write about things I am going through, or friends of mine, or things I see in the news.

I think your environment is very important for being creative. Having the tools you need around you and set up is key to capturing your idea at that moment of inspiration. I like to listen to classical music while I am designing because I like the noise, and it is not distracting like music with lyrics. Sometimes I just need a change of scene, so I will head down to a coffee shop just to have that busy noise all around me. Many of the songs I write these days I come up with in the car by myself, because I can sing and sound terrible and no one can hear me while I work out the kinks.

You say that having tools set up for working is important to capture ideas at the moment of inspiration, and as we all know, technology is changing the way a lot of people work. How is it benefiting or hindering your work or creativity?

As a musician, especially a songwriter, I can use my phone or computer to capture my ideas and keep them stored for when I have time or inspiration to revisit them. I am also able to write music for instruments I can’t play and have it converted to sheet music to give to people, like the horn players in my band who can play them.

As a designer/illustrator, technology allows me to create more malleable images that I can change if needed. I can then scale them up or down for different projects, or break them into pieces. I have access to fonts that can inspire me to create designs. I can put together a very clean illustration very quickly. I do think that it becomes a crutch though, and I find my illustrative skills diminish if I spend too much time on the computer. Sometimes it is nice just to get back to using a paper and pencil.

Tell us a little about your band and your current side project.

My main band is called Modern Relics. We are a mix of soul music and country, reminiscent of Van Morrison or Bill Withers. I wanted to have a big, fun band, and I do! We have a horn section and a pedal steel player, keyboard, bass, drums, backup singers—the whole shebang. I write the songs and sing and play guitar, and it is a blast.

We have one EP out, and we are working on the next one now. But I write a lot of songs, and not always in the same genre, so I have other projects floating around. One of them is called Harbor Island, which is more of a folky band, and the other is a collaboration with one of my backup singers, a singer/musician/producer in her own right, Sarah McGuinn. Her producer name is Fairy Robot, so as of right now we are Joshua Schramm Feat. Fairy Robot. Both my side projects are being featured on an upcoming compilation album called Ball Of Wax, “If I Needed Someone” from Harbor Island and “Drink Until You’re Dry Again” from JS Feat. FR.

You can follow Josh and his band on Facebook. You may recognize his music, as he has appeared on several of our holiday CDs, including our most recent one where his song, “The Feeling’s Taking Over,” was the first track.

Keep an eye on our blog for more “behind the scenes” posts!