ADC Young Guns March 2, 2015
March is ADC Young Guns Month here on the ADC Blog! Well to be perfectly honest, the ADC Blog gives Young Guns some love every month, but this month is extra special! As we head towards the deadline for Young Guns 13 entries, we will be featuring the works and thoughts of Young Guns 12, the latest class to join the exclusive club of young creative professionals. We will also be sharing the thoughts of the judges who voted them in. This way, you’ll have some idea of what it takes to become a Young Gun — and the answers just might surprise you.
Our first YG12 winner of the month is also the first artist whose skills fall primarily under the title of “graffiti artist” to ever be selected… and as you will learn from one judge, he almost didn’t make the cut.
How did you first hear about Young Guns?
I didn’t go to school for design. I don’t really work in advertising. So I hadn’t heard about Young Guns until recently. It wasn’t until Jessica Walsh (YG8) and Timothy Goodman’s (YG7) 40 Days of Dating had captivated the city, Dana Tanamachi (YG9) was in SquareSpace ads all over the subway system, and I realized that everytime I read the bio for a young designer that was influencing culture today it was this thing that kept coming up. I clicked the link in Dana’s bio to the Young Guns site, and serendipitously it was the day of the call for submissions party at the ADC.
What were your impressions of the competition before entering?
Looking at the list of previous winners was clearly impressive. And I like that the name, Young Guns, sounds pretty badass. But when I went to the event at the ADC, I didn’t know a single person in the room. I was a total outsider. I thought maybe I’m in the wrong place and this isn’t for me. But that’s not the case anymore.
Did that leave you with any pangs of doubt before entering, thinking you maybe weren’t good enough to join them?
I did have my doubts. I believed in myself, my talent, my work, but I questioned if it was what the judges were looking for. What I do isn’t really like any of the previous winners. Which could either be really good or really bad. Even when I filled out the application I wasn’t quite sure which box to check off; am I supposed to say that I’m a “designer”? “Typographer”? “Illustrator”? “Art director”? None of the above? But I believe in always putting oneself in the position to succeed, and it’s better to apply and not get it than to live with the regret of never trying.
How did you decide which pieces to submit? Was it a no-brainer or did you have to really think about your entry?
I wanted to show my own unique voice, style, and point of view. And I also wanted to show a breadth of projects and exploration of mediums. So the work I submitted ranged from a 3-story tall public mural to a tattoo design and a Fabergé egg encrusted in 5000 Swarovski crystals. Half of the pieces in anyone’s entry have to be “professional” work, but I only take on projects that I believe in and would do for myself, so it all felt like personal work to me.
“I was a total outsider. I thought maybe I’m in the wrong place and this isn’t for me. But that’s not the case anymore.”
Tell us what it was like when you found out you won.
It’s definitely a point of pride. Especially being asked to represent my year for the YG13 campaign and being featured among Stefan Sagmeister (YG1), Jessica Hische (YG7), Jon Contino (YG9), basically the biggest names in Design.
Which past Young Guns winners do you admire most?
I’ve been very fortunate to be welcomed with open arms into the Young Guns community. There’s a great camaraderie amongst Young Guns. Previous winners Rich Tu (YG8), Juan Carlos Pagan (YG11), and Shane Griffin (YGX) have become good friends of mine, sharing advice and celebrating each others successes. I’ve had great conversations with Justin Gignac (YG5) that have gone on till the morning on more than one occasion, and he’s someone who’s shifted his focus from his own career to promoting others’ by creating Working Not Working. I admire each of these individuals and value them as friends and colleagues.
What have you been up to since winning?
Everybody measures success differently. I think it’s safe to say that it’s a combination of persistence and timing and I feel like I’m really hitting my stride. Over the past year I’ve been fortunate enough to work with major brands like Nike and Samsung. I’ve continued to focus on public art and even painted an abandoned police precinct, where I got to throw my 30th birthday. I’ve been profiled in publications around the world, even included on a list of Ten Designers to Watch in 2015. I’ve collaborated with the legendary photographer Janette Beckman on a piece that’s going to be featured in the Museum of the City of New York’s Hip-Hop Revolution show opening April 1st. Even this brutal NYC winter has been good to me when some tags I caught in the snow went viral, being featured on Bored Panda, the Gothamist, even The Weather Channel! I feel like every day presents new opportunities. I couldn’t be more excited about the projects I have on the horizon. I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy in my life.
What would you tell someone who was deciding whether or not to enter Young Guns 13?
Fuck it, what have you got to lose?
“I’ve always made it a habit of jotting down work that strikes me as exceptional and unique. I do this of course for selfish reasons. I want to try and collaborate with people whose work I admire. In my first round of judging the work of Faust popped up on my screen. I went through his entry and the work was wonderful. He managed to merge a graffiti hand style with a calligraphic technique in a beautifully interesting way. I enjoyed the scale and simplicity of the work. It allowed me to really focus on the letterforms and word-shapes themselves. Each entry was superb, and demonstrated rare individuality which I found brave. I voted him in.”
“Fast forward to the last day of Judging. We’ve just selected the coveted Young Guns 12 class. Right before we all left to drink beers and apologize to each other. The post judging ritual meant to help mend now compromised friendships. Brendan stood in front of us and asks if we should review any portfolios we may have missed, along the way. I immediately thought of Faust, and brought his portfolio up since he clearly hadn’t made it to the third round. There was an immediate awe in the room, and we almost unanimously voted him in. Just like that, someone who completely deserves to win, and didn’t make it to the third round for one reason or another became a Young Gun.”
“I like telling this story because it’s a privilege to judge, but with this privilege comes a responsibility. It’s an obligation to take note of work that stands out, especially in a competition like Young Guns, where the judges are charged with selecting the best talent in the world under the age of thirty. Some exceptionally talented people can, and often times do get overlooked, and it’s the juror’s job to bring them up for discussion. Overall I really enjoyed judging. I had a small hand in selecting the YG12 class, and I was exposed to some truly outstanding work.”
Juan Carlos Pagan
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