From harsh critiques to crippling education costs, Christopher Knowles understands firsthand how difficult it is to make a name for yourself as a designer. The right combination of perseverance and adaptability, however, helped Knowles build his portfolio and land his current gig as an in-house freelance designer for Sony Music (Columbia Records).
“When I was in school, I was encouraged to select pieces to show range of thought, variety of mediums and diversity of solutions,” Knowles says. “More important, I choose pieces that excite me and show where my heart is at a given time. I try to avoid thinking about how marketable the book is.
“I feel showing a portfolio built on passion and exploration is miles more attractive than trying to craft a book that says, ‘I have the solution for you.’ By building from the former, you show the world what’s possible, not what’s already been done.”
Judge Scott Stowell agrees, and selected Knowles’ portfolio because of its energetic pieces. “Christopher’s work is of-the-moment but definitely of-a-person with an enthusiastic and original point of view,” he says.
Knowles credits his branding project Hostel with helping him grow as a designer. “The project taught me how to be explorative while remaining restrained. The idea blossomed into a graphic design playground,” he says. “I was able to codify so much, from color palettes to patterning to iconography, while thinking about the bigger picture of human interaction.”
Knowles also believes projects like Hostel help clients understand his method. “These pieces show there is real thought behind the work, and it isn’t visual masturbation,” he says. “Most people want to hire you for your mind and what it can contribute—not to provide sameness.”