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My name is Joe Blend (yes, that’s my real name) and I’m a fine art photographer and graphic designer based in the DC Metro area. For a long time, I disliked my name but recently I learned to appreciate it for what it was…a perfect description of who I am. Aside from merging my passion for photography and design into an independent career, I merge my ideas/ perspectives/ experiences/ observations/ strengths/ weaknesses and instinct into a solid knowledge base from which I draw material to tell jokes, choose music, have discussions, learn, adapt to various environments, experience new things, and basically live. “Blend” isn’t just my last name, it’s my way of life…and yes, I love coffee too!

When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/photographer? Was there a pivotal moment?
Pivotal moment? Not really. I got a minor in graphic design from Virginia Tech but that didn’t really do much for me. I mean, I was young and somewhat arrogant so my ability to absorb as much as possible was significantly limited….not to mention it was only a minor. For years after I left Virginia Tech, I couldn’t get a job in the industry. I looked at my on-the-side interest of “doing websites” as maybe having some potential so I played around with the idea of eventually starting my own business. When I moved to Florida three years later, I started watching shows like “Trading Spaces” and for some reason that had an impact on me. It basically spelled out what design was and how much potential it truly had. I was hooked.

I started buying HOW magazine and getting up extremely early on my days off to work on my own stuff…a combination of my own logo and website and a few fictitious projects that I gave myself in order to build up a body of work. Eventually, my two day a week focus turned into an intense self study that placed me in Borders almost six days a week after work, reading anything I could get my hands on that dealt with graphic design. My passion for photography grew from my need for visuals in my design work. Photography clicked with me MUCH faster than design did and when it did, I found myself once again with a new found passion and no limits in sight!

Who or what inspires you?
Creativity inspires me. I love books like SPECK because they look at the everyday from a totally different perspective and open up your mind to new ways of looking at your environment.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I am mostly self-taught. And when I say self-taught, I mean years of long hours reading/studying/designing. I started my BFA in Graphic Design in 2004 but had to withdraw after three quarters because I moved to Washington State. After moving back to Virginia, I re-enrolled and am now in my second year with only another year or so left. I guess you could say my education is becoming a balance of self-study and formal instruction.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I don’t get too involved with what others are doing. Don’t get me wrong…I love looking at other designers/studios work, I just don’t like to get too involved with it because I want to keep my mind and creativity as open as possible.

When I do find myself browsing through some great work and suddenly want to flip back a couple of pages because something caught my eye…and I can just barely remember what it was…I don’t flip back. I allow that speck of curiosity to simmer and develop into something unique, something that’s all mine.

What are some of your current projects?
Well, along with my own wedding invitations, I’m working on a very exciting identity system. A cowboy from the Pacific Northwest, based on a ranch in Montana, will be riding a horse across the country in a few years. No, you didn’t read that wrong…it’s exactly what you think it is! I don’t want to give away too much but I will leave it at this: the trip is to commemorate the dying breed and way of life of the cowboy and the great outdoors.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
Honestly, I’m most proud of my own identity system. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant. The reason I say my own id is because it’s taken me three years to complete. I’ve struggled, had success, followed by failure, followed by more struggle. Also, I’ve learned a LOT throughout this process and have grown tremendously as a designer and photographer because of it. If I hadn’t struggled so much, I’m not sure if I’d be exactly where I am today.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
Yes. I’d like to experiment with fine art videography. I have a few ideas about where to go with it in terms of a service to offer clients and have a solid idea for a videography piece that I need to storyboard. Designing my own hand bound books is another discipline that I’d like to try. That might actually happen sooner than later.

Any advice to the novice designer/photographer?
Yes, always move forward. When you keep moving forward, you’re not necessarily moving straight forward…sometimes you are heading north/northeast or south/southwest…the point is you’re still moving forward. Progress doesn’t have to occur quickly or in large amounts to exist.

Another piece of advice would be don’t obsess about the problem but rather focus on the solution. A former graphic design department head at my school talked to us about how to handle creative frustration and roadblocks. He stood at the front of the room and stared at the spot in which he was standing. Pointing down at it, he said “Man, this is horrible…this really sucks”. His point was if you focus on the problem and on how hard things are at this moment, you’ll never get out of that spot. You need to constantly look forward and move forward and when you begin to struggle (which you will) don’t concentrate on the problem…focus on the solution.

What makes a designed piece or photograph successful?
If it functions, conveys a message or idea, and has an interesting and appropriate aesthetic it’s successful.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
I take a break. It can be for 10 minutes or a few days but I need a break from my work in order to keep my passion for it.

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
At the time of this writing, I have two shows that without a doubt live up to the title “best thing on prime-time TV”…”24” and “Will & Grace”. Those two shows are extremely well written and well directed, not to mention their concepts allow for a lot of variation throughout the seasons.

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1 comment:

Todd DeWolf said...

First of all-great name. I have to confess that I did think of coffee when I read it. I loved the advice for the novice designer/photographer. The part about getting out that "spot" rang true. I also love "barista of creativity". That is quite a slogan. Cheers!

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