Designer of the Week: Jay Schwartz

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Meet Designer of the Week Jay Schwartz—web design extraordinaire, self-proclaimed typography nerd, and founder and chief creative officer of IdeaWork Studios, which focuses on branding and digital for luxury and hospitality. Read on to find out what inspires him, what challenges him, and what he recommends for today’s designers.

Name: Jay Schwartz

Name of Studio: IdeaWork Studios

Locations: Santa Barbara, New York City, Austin, and Las Vegas

Design school attended: UCSB and Art Center

How would you describe your work?I like to think that the work I do is clean, classic and to the point.

Where do you find inspiration?I travel a lot and find inspiration in all of the destinations I travel to. I spend half my time in New York City and feel the inspiration the minute I land. New York is always buzzing with new experiences, and I find myself energized creatively instantly. The other half of my time is spent in Santa Barbara, and I find inspiration in the natural beauty of SB. The ocean grounds me and allows me to focus on my work.

Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?I have so many favorite artists … I’m a big fan of WPA artists, especially Thomas Hart Benton, but I also really enjoy a lot of the modern realists. Being an artist, many of my friends are accomplished artists in various media, and I admire all of them and their work. As far as designers, I’m a huge fan of Paula Scher’s work and I love the guys at Foreign Policy. I’m a typography nerd, and Jean François Porchez continues to impress.

Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?I can’t say that I have a specific favorite project … there are several projects that I’m lucky to have been trusted to work on. I love the website I designed for Jean-Georges, I love the website I designed for Le Bernardin, I love the brand work and website we recently completed for a new hotel in Long Island City called BORO … I’m working on some great projects right now that I’ll get to talk about soon … I’m extremely fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love to do.


Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?Every project has its own unique challenges. Working with high-profile clients like Ian Schrager, Jean-Georges, Eric Ripert, and Daniel Boulud … these guys all have such high aesthetic standards and are at the top of their crafts. Working on branding or web design for them is always challenging because of the pressure to perform at the same level they do.

There have been some failures because of challenges related to clients not knowing what they want (only knowing what they don’t want when they see it) but I can’t show those.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?I love being where I’m at right now in terms of our agency size, locations, and the type of work we’re getting to do. I hope to be able to continue in this capacity for quite some time.

What’s your best advice for designers today?Being a designer today is very different from when I was starting out, largely because of the pressure to do so many different things—design, web design, video/motion graphics, programming. … My advice would be to learn about the different facets of what we do as visual communicators, but don’t try to do all of them. Choose the area you enjoy most and that you excel at, establish your voice, and work with a team that compliments your skill set. Also, get a contract. And don’t do any free work.


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