Dreaming, Scheming and Disrupting

ADC Member Jon Newman on the birth of his studio and an SVA class

It’s Education Month here at ADC, and we are featuring all things related to learning and teaching within the creative field. From portfolio schools to self-teaching methods, from students to professors and everything in between, we are looking to share our community’s knowledge with all of our friends and fans.

Today we are highlighting ADC Member and designer Jon Newman, whose studio work has led him to teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.


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Art school is an extraordinary time in a young designer’s career. Everyday you’re growing by leaps and bounds compared to what you knew just the week before. It’s unlike any other time in our careers because we’re able to experiment freely without the restraint that comes with designing for a client. It was this nostalgic feeling of experimentation that motivated me to challenge myself by creating one project per week for 52 weeks straight.

I felt like the only way for me to permanently transcend my current skill level was to push myself outside the limits of where I had previously, designed with comfort. However, I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford a year off while I experimented so this project was completed while working a full-time Design job. As a result, I had meaningful obstacles since there are only 24 hours in a day. Therefore, I reduced the amount I slept by two hours a day, thus allowing me more time to work on personal projects each night. This ultimately meant that for one full year I never went to bed before 2am and I had to reduce my social life since weekends would now be used for further development of the projects. As a result I titled the yearlong project as Daydreams & Nightschemes because I would daydream about projects during the day, and then go home and “scheme” them late into the night.

“I reduced the amount I slept by two hours a day, thus allowing me more time to work on personal projects each night.”

Keeping myself motivated was crucial to the success of the project. Therefore I chose to make it a real time journey where each Monday I would post the work on various social media outlets. This “outside” pressure helped me to remain focused since it felt as though I wasn’t just letting myself down if I failed. I also was able to secure a solo gallery show at the Type Directors Club in New York. I knew that this was more than enough motivation because in a year’s time I would need to have enough work to fill the gallery space, or risk looking like a complete idiot in front of the entire design community. (This was serious pressure.)

As I started I quickly realized that I had to use new methods for concepting ideas, otherwise the work would feel boring and dull. As a result I migrated away from looking at other peoples’ work, design blogs and flipping through annuals for inspiration. Instead, I developed a process called “disruptive thinking” which is getting the person (me) to stop their normal creative process by using a foreign material or self imposed limitation in the beginning of their sketching and then incorporating the variable’s results into creating the final piece.

“I migrated away from looking at other peoples’ work, design blogs and flipping through annuals for inspiration. Instead, I developed a process called “disruptive thinking” which is getting the person (me) to stop their normal creative process by using a foreign material or self imposed limitation in the beginning of their sketching and then incorporating the variable’s results into creating the final piece.”

There were so many unexpected outcomes which resulted from the project. First, I grew as a designer — the pressure of creating that much work allowed me to concept and realize projects quicker. I basically had compressed five years of working into one. Second, I had this robust amount of new work that allowed me to pursue the kind of work I really wanted. Similarly, I received a lot of publicity and was selected to be in a few books by Steven Heller and I won an award from the Type Directors Club for Typographic Excellence. In addition, I was asked by friends Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman to submit work to the 40 Days of Dating project. But most importantly, the yearlong project lead me to pursue my own design studio named after the project, Daydreams & Nightschemes.

After I successfully finished the project and had my gallery show, I approached Richard Wilde at the School of Visual Arts in New York about teaching. I was offered a Continuing Education Class that I’ll be teaching this upcoming fall semester. In the class we’ll be incorporating the “disruptive thinking” methods to create projects and I’m really interested in helping the students grow. I feel whether they are a seasoned practitioner or relatively new to design, they will benefit from taking my class. It’s open to everyone and the course’s title is Break Out: Creative Solutions for Thinking Differently. 

I’m extremely excited to pass along what I’ve learned from my yearlong design journey and I feel that from my experiences, the students will hopefully reap the benefits of my experimentation. Rather than a class where the professor teaches about other people’s experiences from a book, the students in my class at least know that they’ll be learning from someone who went through everything they’ll be going through.