"You don't have to sort of enhance reality.
There is nothing stranger than truth."

-Annie Leibovitz

Jason Jones is an incredible graphic designer here in Nashville. I met him at a party thrown by a mutual friend for the premiere of the final season of LOST. If you’re going to meet a person who you are sure to get a long with, it’ll be at a LOST party.

Not only is he a fantastic guy, but I am willing to bet that you’d be hard pressed to find a person that he didn’t get along with right away and then bend over backwards to try and help them having just met them.

You can check out Jason’s work at www.otterball.com. He is not only the man behind Otterball, but helps run Musician’s Corner (a beloved Nashville event bringing free concerts to Centennial Park) and is a partner at the e-commerce development firm Tyemill in Seattle, WA.

Earlier in October, Jason invited me over to his office to talk about and photograph what he does, how he does it, and why he loves it.


1. How did you discover/decide that design is what you wanted to do?

Part of the discovery came honestly and part was by accident.  My dad is a fine artist (williamcareyjones.com) so I grew up surrounded by art.  While other kids were going hunting and fishing, I was visiting art galleries and building sculptures out of junk in the garage.  I resisted my artistic leanings as I entered adulthood, for fear of becoming another “starving artist”.  I went to school for Mass Media / Speech Communications and got into Sales / Business Development shortly out of college for a start-up interactive firm.  While working for that company, a friend of mine and I ramped up a small web design firm called Otterball as a way to work on fun, low budget side-projects.  One day it dawned on me that I enjoyed, as was fulfilled by the tiny Otterball projects exponentially more than my sales-oriented day job.  So when the opportunity presented itself, I took the plunge and started to do the design thing full-time.

2. What do you think is different about you as a designer from other designers?

I hope that my business / sales background allows me to not only design for merely design’s sake, but also provides a intitioniality that directly impacts my clients.  The purpose of interactive design, in which I spend most of my time producing, is ultimately to engage the end user or customer.  My hope is that I can provide stunning graphical experiences while maintaining a clear understanding of the client’s overall goals.

3. What are some of your biggest influences?

Fellow Designers - the Nashville community is rich with talent, and I try to stay as connected as possible in hopes that some of that talent will rub off on me.

Various Mentors - Throughout my career I have had a few business leaders in my life… all non-designers… that have helped me along the way.  I have always found that inspiration, technique and relevancy will come, but the sound logical foundation that mentors bring are the foundation for all of it.

My Wife, Rebecca - I know, cheesy… but she is a constant reminder of what I am working for.

4. What are 3 essential “tools of the trade”?

My Herman Miller Desk Chair - Proven: If your back hurts your work will suck.

My Bose QC3 Headphones - Underneath those I am in my own little design world.

Dribbble - Seeing other designer’s work in real-time is a game-changer for me.

5. If there were a fire in your office and you could only take what you can carry with you, what do you save?

My Charles Schultz signed drawing of Snoopy

6. What is your favorite part of design?

For me the fun of designing is problem-solving.  When a client comes to me or my firm, it is because they feel they do not have the meaningful online presence to accurately represent their brand or product.  My job is to take the passion of their work and display that online.

7. What one piece of advice would you give to someone that wants to do what you do?

Never give your work away for free.  Many people will tell you that you have to do only pro-bono / low paying work in order to “make a name for yourself” or “build your portfolio”.  What you are really telling people by doing that is that your work is not good enough to pay for.  Instead find ways to barter with your clients.  That way they are still giving you something of value for your hard work.  Over the course of my career I have bartered for some amazing things - vacations, luggage, services, dog grooming, etc.  For the client’s with modest budgets, bartering with a designer is often a win-win scenario.

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