Just call me Indiana Jones, ’cause last week, I unearthed a true hidden treasure: my old high school yearbooks. Okay, that’s a tad dramatic, because let’s be real — I was the layout editor on my high school yearbok staff; I treasure those fossils. Where my fellow yerds at?
This week’s Talking Shop post is a really special one. I’m taking you back to meet 17-year-old Kasee, who was deeply entrenched in her high school niche: school publications. When I wasn’t designing spreads and debating kerning on The Journey yearbook staff, I was slinging a reporters notebook and editing copy as Editor-in-Chief of The Paw Print newspaper staff. So, yeah. I wasn’t cozying up to the popular lunch tables, or standing out as the Ivy-League-bound scholars. But that publication lab was my safe space, a place of learning, growth, and beginnings — a start that led me to the fulfilling work I am involved with today. So I get almost misty-eyed thinking about all that those years gave me: a passion for writing and creating, the strength to lead, and the chance to learn from inspiring people.
One of those truly amazing individuals I came to know and deeply respect is the subject of this week’s Talking Shop: Jordan Greene. Jordan was the photographer on our yearbook staff, and while he has an intimidating level of talent and an incredible eye for art and design, he is genuinely kind, warm, and friendly. Being around him truly made me feel inspired and uplifted. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Another friend and yearbook alum shared this about Jordan:
Now, Jordan owns Skane Design, a creative studio based in Richmond, Virginia that offers two-, three-, and four-dimensional design services, and is driven by the desire to design and create things that transform the world around us. In this week’s Talking Shop, Jordan chats with us about the principles that guide his business (and his life), the “in the seat” experience designers need, and his epic van remodel project. I desperately want all of you to have the opportunity to know him. Without further ado: everyone, meet Jordan!
How did your journey to design start?
I’ve been artistic my entire life, but the leaning towards design started when I was young, probably 12 or so, when I would design and draw products and floor plans of buildings for fun. It became pretty clear to me that I wanted to pursue some form of design as a profession. At first, I was leaning heavily into studying industrial design, but I was still drawing buildings whenever I had a spare moment. I realized that my true passion was in built environments, so I focused on that, which directed me to VCU to study interior design. That’s not literally a path to a degree in architecture, but the design skills as they relate to buildings are arguably exactly the same. That pushed me into the universe of formal design thinking, and I’ve been exploring it ever since.
What inspires you?
I’m super inspired by the non-glamorous and utilitarian, especially as you’ll find in vehicles and transportation. Freight trains, for example, are designed to work, and really not much else. They still manage to have an aura of romance around them which I find fascinating. The same goes for highway signage, probably with less associated romance, but they work, and someone (a designer) had to be the one to make it happen. I also just really love lettering, signs, labels, and packaging, especially from the 50’s throughout the 80’s. There’s the stuff that cuts through the visual noise on the shelves in a store or in your house that really gets me. I always try and introduce an aspect of pure utilitarianism to any project I’m working on.
What are your goals for Skane Design in the coming years?
The immediate goal is to find a dedicated studio space for Skane that I can grow into, and hopefully look at bringing in other designers to start growing a team. A lot of my work extends into production, which I’m at a limited capacity for right now. I don’t like relying on passing on projects to a printer/fabricator if I know I have the capability to do it myself. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the hands-on interaction with a product is where I love to work, it’s educational, and lets the client know that every aspect of their job was handled in-house with the same vision.
Tell us about your van remodel project.
I purchased a 2003 Dodge Sprinter van and I’ve been slowly converting it into a van I can take on weekend adventures, road trips, etc. Technically speaking, it’s not a camper based on how I’ve been doing the work (insurance and how things are legally classified is a headache), but it wouldn’t be wrong to think of it that way. I wanted to do a cross-country road trip to see nearly every corner this massive country has, and to do some thinking about what I want out of a career in design, specifically, how that relates to Skane. The design-build process is a chance for me to formally “put my money where my mouth is” on my own design opinions. Since I’m the one doing all the designing and building, there’s zero opportunity to pass off a decisions someone else’s problem, or on someone else’s dollar! The plan right now involves 45 states, is 3 months long, and includes zero hotels or AirBnbs. Lots of camping and hanging out with friends and family, collecting photos, postcards, menus, junk from roadside stands, and stories.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in starting your studio and running your own business?
I’ve come to realize just how much your work actually speaks for itself. All the “marketing” I do is just posting on Instagram what I’m up to. I’ve only been running Skane full time since January, but in that time I’ve never had to actually go out and seek work, most of it comes to me. I’m blessed to be in this position. This isn’t for a second trying to undermine the importance of looking for work, marketing, and working really hard to make sure are getting work, but the lesson here is in how focusing on your craft, your clients, and your work will pay off, and to be quite honest, it’s been a surprise.
What advice do you have for aspiring designers?
Go wide, and then go deep. Work on or at least experiment with lots of different types of projects, clients, styles, etc. Learn what you love, learn what you hate. Learn what you’re good at, learn what you’re not good at. Once you’re armed with that knowledge, it’s time to work, or get the “time in the seat” as my uncle says. He told me a story about an instructor he had when he was training to get his CDL. The guy was an old, sun-battered, no-nonsense kind of guy. When they were out in the trucks learning how to back up without jackknifing, the students kept messing up, clearly new at this. The instructor would, without changing his position in the passenger seat, direct the students to do things like back up, inch forward, turn slightly to the right, stop. When stopped, again without moving, he would ask things like “That tree is dead center in your left mirror, isn’t it?” or “You’ve got another 10 feet before hitting that sign back there don’t you?” He was always right, whatever the observation was. The only way he was able to drive this truck, from the passenger seat, practically with his eyes closed, was from the time he had spent in the seat. No designer, no matter how talented, can fake experience, and it’s important to spend the early stages of their journey into design learning and doing, getting that time in the seat.
What principles guide your work and your life?
I’m so glad to finally be asked this because it’s been baked in Skane’s identity since day one. The 7 pointed star in the Skane logo represents the following: Style, art, design, culture, virtue, passion, and innovation. There are eight more things that I focus on in my life, which spill over into my work is from Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” These are how I try to live my life; often the work I do is an extension of who I am as a person. Also, there’s got to be a degree of humor or fun to a project, whenever possible. You’ve got to have fun, otherwise, life is a drag.
What does a normal day look like for you?
My days will usually start with the gym, the coffee shop right around the corner from my apartment, and then the rest of the morning is spent working on digital design stuff on the computer. I work at home so I don’t have to mess with a commute or anything. I’ll have the radio going since I’m a big NPR junkie, or music of some sort (my playlist collection is a little ridiculous). I make time to step away from my work for a few hours in the afternoon to go out for lunch, run some errands, relax for a bit. After that, I will try and squeeze in a few more hours of work which usually will take me to dinner time. Depending on the projects I’m working on, I may jump back in to work mode in the late evening for a bit, or I’ll spend that time “working” on practice projects, for me to make something for myself or just to hone a skill. Working for myself has allowed me to discover this late-night spurt of design energy and I’m able to capitalize on it without overworking myself.
The Fun Qs:
Your favorite Richmond spots?
Food: City Diner. Drinks: En Su Boca. Outdoors: Texas Beach. Culture: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA).
What is your desert island meal?
Kuba Kuba’s Kuban Roast Pork, for sure. It’s a bow piled high with slow-roasted mojo-marinated pork, black beans and rice, smashed plantains. I usually have leftovers and will top them with a soft fried egg. It’s the best.
What song is the soundtrack to your life?
I’m going to have to go with “People Everywhere (Still Alive)” by Khruangbin. This is a really tough question since I listen to so many different types of music, but also an easy one because if I were to choose more than one song they would all be by Khruangbin. They’re my absolute favorite band.
Your latest Netflix/Hulu binge?
I’m currently bouncing between 30Rock and Atlanta.
If you could dine with anyone — living or dead — who would it be?
Dinner with CS Lewis and Frank Lloyd Wright would be an incredible evening.
*GIVEAWAY! I’m giving away some amazing Skane Design goodies! To be entered to win, simply follow me and @skanedesign on Instagram, and comment on this post. Giveaway ends 9/17.
(US residents only. Giveaway is not endorsed or sponsored by Skane Design. Giveaway will be closed at 11:59 pm CT 9/17. Winner announced 9/18. Good luck!)