The Creative Unconscious: What's your name, age, and professional title? Where are you currently employed?
Jonny McConnell: Jonny McConnell, 27, Multi-Disciplinary Designer, The Internet
TCU: What hobbies do you have outside of your professional field that keep you inspired and motivated to generate personal work? How do they inspire you?
JM: I try to let my personal life influence my professional life and vice versa, with the subconscious goal that I am never not learning and that the parallels found between two entirely different topics will prove invaluable at some point in my life. I'm always reading about architecture, cooking, biographies of artists, scientific journals of current studies. I'm the guy that pencils in notes on as many pages as possible so that I'm processing as I read and calling out passages that resonate or that I disagree with. On the other hand: biking and sailing and gardening have given me an understanding of what it is to let your mind be blank. Just learning how to breath and finding beauty in the imperfect and everyday.
This mindset is how I shoot photography: both incredibly technical on 35mm film and incredibly unplanned. Not having instant digital feedback of an image captured, allows me to slow down and focus on composition and the way light is playing in my environment. I don't care about what others want to see in the images I create, my photography is my eye at a certain time and place. It's rather cathartic to not know what the camera captured and requires you to be okay with it and to use that knowledge during the act of the creative process in an effort to create an image, not allowing the camera to be in control.
TCU: Do you have a hard time balancing being a creative professional and generating personal work that you're proud of?
JM: It can be exhausting. Professional work has numerous people going in different directions while personal work can develop on the fly with no external influence, for better or worse in both situations. What I've found is that if I am able to "be formless, shapeless, like water" (Bruce Lee) then I find that I am able to work through whatever is thrown at me. To not be bound by a specific preconception of what the work should end up being, but to enjoy the process of it.
Granted, water can flow or it can crash, but sometimes I'm the director and sometimes I'm just an actor that must let the creative energy of someone else flow in and flow out to complete a project. If it's lacking in salt, I try to add that little umph to imbue greatness, but that action cannot be forced and often it's better for me to keep it to myself for later use in scrappy homegrown work.
TCU: What time of day do you feel the most creative? What about the most productive?
JM: I am the most creative in the evening, however most productive in the early morning. So while the two may not align, I often spend my mornings producing what I was chewing on the night before.
TCU: What are your creative goals for the future?
JM: My first design job was for an Italian named Massimo and he taught me about creative balance. It's not something you can just check off a box. But if it's a beautiful morning, go for a bike ride. If you're proud of your team, break bread with them. It's a daily creative goal, to be able to be self aware and in a simple harmony with those around me.
On the other hand I am always trying to push myself and do work that I haven't before. Finding plateaus in my own career and asking myself, is this my own blue period, what's next? I am not the type of creative person that sits in the corner and draws logos all day for years. I'm the guy that's drawing all over the whiteboard and starting loud conversations about what is honestly interesting and how can we make that.
TCU: Are you working on any personal projects right now? If so, can you share a little bit about your inspiration and your creative process?
JM: My photo blog is a visual diary. It pushes me to go try new experiences with new people, it makes me travel alone to foreign countries. Which is beautiful, because when I started I was terribly uncomfortable and was able to hide behind a lens. Though now the whole process has made me develop a level of comfort in being a fly on the wall and increased my ability to truly listen. Shooting on old, big (normal sized SLR) cameras is also a fun conversation starter because it seems everyone just forgot about film.
In the digital realm, I've had this side project simmering in the back of my mind that deals with data science and social cartography. I haven't figured out if it's a product or an art project yet, but I find it fascinating to slowly build momentum and a team of friends around simple ideas with great impact.
TCU: Anything else you want to add?
JM: I like to draw parallels of the Design world and the Culinary world, in that the work you are able to do is tied to the ingredients at hand. So if you want to make great food, you're always looking for fresh ingredients that have flavor and character. As a designer, that leads me into writing and photography and code and printing and product design and business plans. In the right environment where this idea of collaborative flatness prevails, you have a room of people with different specialties but a shared understanding of each other's work. It's beautiful to be a part of because it shows in what you are able to create together.
More often however, people don't like it when designers stop complaining about kerning and start doing someone else's job. Apparently its annoying or intimidating. I call it having fun, because it's all just a language of craft & opinion. To truly say something that matters then, it requires broader knowledge than a single medium to eloquently and outwardly express it.
"Have an opinion. Make work that matters. And love something other than yourself." -James Victore