BGBS 041: Jay Ferracane | Angry Bovine | Design Is Not About the Designer
Jay Ferracane is a former skateboard punk, current gentleman rancher, and most importantly, a gifted graphic designer. Jay launched the design consultancy, Angry Bovine, with an honor for placing brand authenticity at the forefront of design and decision making. As you may be able to tell so far, Jay is a multi-talented man. He taught design for over 8 years at the University of Colorado’s grad program formerly known as BDW and founded the creative speaking series, “Caffeinated Mornings”, which ran for almost 7 years.
Here you’ll hear Jay’s beginnings with design, from watching his mother paint in fascination for hours to piecing together DIY coordinated BMX outfits with the neighborhood kids. Jay emphasizes how diving into a variety of industries and always being aware of the processes around him have influenced his style and creativity. He opens our eyes to the beauty of designing based on what is unique to you rather than what the norm “allows”, inspiring us to ask ourselves, how can we all be more fearlessly authentic?
In this episode, you’ll learn…
- Growing up as a military kid living in Hawaii and Japan, Jay learned that the world was much bigger than he thought
- Jay discovered the name for Angry Bovine while watching the Mad Cow disease in a breakroom of a small ad shop
- Design is rarely about the person who designed it, whereas art is mostly about the person who made that art
- As a teenager, Jay would cut out every table of contents of Transworld Skateboard Magazine and wallpaper his room with them. This experience was one of his earliest design influences
- During art school, Jay kept adding typography to his paintings, which led him to stray from traditional art towards design
- Jay was fortunate enough to start his career designing annual reports for Yahoo and Motorola by applying to a job that no one else would
- Design is simply making communication in a creative form
- A company that makes manufacturing software is no less sexy than Nike because of their value and the connection they have with a group of people
- Jay currently lives on a ranch with his family for his wife’s nonprofit to save horses (and they even have cows now. Full circle, right?)
- Although design is meant to be objective, at some point creatively your work can become subjective because of the attachment to your ideas
- When designing for a brand, it is important to ask what is unique to you rather than following the mold of what is “compulsory” in the industry
- Jay thinks that the coolest thing about being a designer is seeing the lasting impact in what you do
[43:31] I design every day, that’s my problem solving methodology.
[1:03:27] I am proud of the fact that I get to work in lots and lots of industries, because again, back to that point of objectivity, and every brand is its own thing, even if it’s in the same industry it’s really important to kind of start to look at and go, “How are we going to solve this problem? What’s unique to you guys? And let’s just take it from that standpoint.” Right? Versus “Here’s what everybody is doing in this industry, can you make us just like them?”
[1:06:32] Brands should be about how you run your company. Logos are the signals that bring people to the company.
Jay Ferracane 0:02
We were always taught that art creates visual problems and design solves visual problems. And I think that’s a bit of an inaccuracy or simple oversimplification. But art is usually about how you feel about something. Whereas design really does force you to be super objective, take into account your research and information and display that back to somebody in an engaging and useful kind of way. And I think that’s the biggest difference is design, in most cases, and you can never say never, the design in most cases is rarely about the person who designed it. Art. Most of the time is about the person who made that art.
Marc Gutman 0:48
Podcasting from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Backstory Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, and on today’s episode of Baby Got Backstory.
We are talking to Jay Ferracane from angry bovine. Jay is a designer and creative and as you’ll hear in today’s episode, he has some very strong ideas about design, its purpose and place in business, and perhaps some advice to up-and-coming designers. And if you want to know how I feel about Jay’s work well, when it was time to do the visual identity for the Wildstory rebrand. I called up Jay and begged him to do our identity.
That’s all you really need to know. And since then, we’ve worked together on several projects, and I consider him a good friend. his bio tells us that he’s a graphic designer and creative director with over 25 years of experience. In his work and his approach been recognized with many awards and accolades and most recently, his mobile design studio was featured in designboom, outside magazine and the book, the new nomads, in addition to teaching design for over eight years at sea use grad program that is Colorado University, formerly known as BDW.
He also founded the creative speaking series, caffeinated mornings, which ran for almost seven years. If you ask him what he does for a living, he says, I draw pictures and share. But deep within those pictures, letter forms, compositions and stories, his reasoning based and critical thinking in business needs, turning ideas into defendable, objective designs and belief systems that people can rely on. Sounds pretty cool. Our conversation waters from Jays upbringing as a military kid, his youth as a skateboard punk, current day gentlemen, rancher and the difference between art and design and the current trends in design today. I had an awesome time, and I think you will, too. And this is his story.
I am so excited for today’s podcast because I am here with the one and only Jay Ferracane both my friend and colleague, we I someone I like tremendously yet we also do work together, which isn’t always a good combination. But in our case, it is. Jay, welcome to the show.
Jay Ferracane 3:35
Well, thank you for having me, Marc. And you once told me, you love me more than pancakes. And I don’t know what that means. But I believe it is the highest praise I’ve ever gotten from anybody. So thank you for loving me more than pancakes.
Marc Gutman 3:50
In my world that is very, very high praise. So you are welcome. And thanks for coming on the show. I’m so excited to talk about all things design and just creative space in general. But before we get into that, why don’t you just give us a quick sense of who you are. Go ahead and just introduce yourself, what you’re up to these days and what your business is.
Jay Ferracane 4:13
Yep, I’m Jay Ferracane. I formally trained graphic designer. My my background is a little bit of an interesting one, I think and is I started out in the rough and tumble world of annual report design coming right out of design school I worked in I was really fortunate to work in an area of California in Palo Alto back in the 90s. When that creative scene there was just fantastic and open and actually reminds me a lot of what we see here in the Front Range today. cut my teeth in print, then went to work for probably if not the first one of the first five maybe digital agencies only in the Bay Area studio called baby grand and we were building websites for companies and my background in AI Reports I started taking that those experiences and putting them on those little CDs that started coming with annual reports.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had the displeasure of checking one of those out. And then fast forward, I became a creative director at a few software companies in the Bay Area, which gave me a really interesting lens on what the client is really looking for from design, and how we can help them do their jobs better. That was a big turning point for me and my thinking around design. And then I returned to the agency world for a little bit.
We went into a big recession, I made a move, I started my firm, which is Angry Bovine, which I refer to as a design guide, I guess, Co-Op, where I partner with lots of great people like you yourself, what developers, filmmakers, all that kind of stuff, to help my clients tell their stories and build the best communication we can for them. And I’ve been doing that for the past 12 years now.
Marc Gutman 5:57
So where did the name Angry Bovine come from?
Jay Ferracane 6:02
Um, I don’t want you to be disappointed, but it’s not going to be nearly as cool as you think angry bovine started out, I was working at a small ad shop in the Bay Area. And this was one of the first.com boom arrows. And this agency I was working at, worked on a really diverse client base. And it was also the first place I worked at where we didn’t have secretaries.
We had office administrators, and we were working on a used car account, and that used car count. We weren’t allowed to call it a use car. So we had to have the previously owned automobiles. And I don’t know, I was angsty and whatever a younger designer at that time, and I had been building portfolios around my name. And that wasn’t really a cool thing yet. And so again, my me being a designer, my striving for objectivity all the time is I felt like whenever I build a portfolio around my name, the work that was in it became more about me.
So in one of my angsty periods at complaining about what I was working on, probably at the agency, I was in the break room, and mad cow was breaking out of the UK. And I, I said to somebody, can you imagine here with all the political sensitivity around words and things like that, that in the very near future, we might not be able to say Mad Cow at a cocktail party without offending somebody? And I said, Yeah, you would probably have to say something like, have you heard about that Angry Bovine disease, it’s terrible.
And then a light bulb went off in my head, because it was just enough of a non sequitur, paired with a recent, at that time, a recent special I had seen on prison prisons, where they were putting inmates in pink rooms, to calm them down. And I just thought the contrast between magenta as a corporate color pink, and, and this name, Angry Bovine would be the perfect non sequitur to provide basically a plate to put all of my work on. Because it didn’t really mean anything. Now, it is funny, because once I tell that story, you’re like, Oh, you just made the name up. And that’s what most naming is. But in the punk rock skateboard kid in me does have a twinge of pride when I go into a physical meeting. And somebody says, A Jay from angry brain is here.
It’s just a funny thing for people to recite. And remember, so it as non sequitur, as it would, as it was, it has kind of paid off in at least memory for a lot of people. So that’s how the name came about. And I know you were wishing you asked that question. No,
Marc Gutman 8:33
No, I’m thrilled that I asked that question. And, you know, it doesn’t surprise me at all, that you’re walking around as a younger designer with a bunch of angst about mad cow disease and how it was being portrayed. So you know, that that makes me wonder. I mean, did you grow up wanting to be a designer was that always you know, on your radar, like what was like eight-year-old j, like,
Jay Ferracane 8:54
Oh, eight-year-old Jay was kind of a, I wouldn’t I don’t want to say nightmare. But I definitely want to say like, I was a super, this is gonna shock you add completely, like diagnosed? Yeah, I was one of the kids. I had to take Ritalin for a long time. But my mom did art. And math was really hard for me the concentration on that, but my mom did art and her uncle or her brother, my uncle, built models and the combination I think of those two things, people with a DD have these periods of hyper focus as much as we are completely distracted. So if there was something that wasn’t genuinely interested in an eight-year-old Jay sitting in an English class, would hear somebody break a pencil and I would get up and run over to give them a new pencil, not caring that there was maybe a test going on or something like that.
But I could also come home and watch my mom paint for three hours and be totally interested in that or work on a model. And, you know, comparing it to reference pages of my thought my dad was a marine aviator and so In my life growing up I my reference materials, if you will, things that were around my house and stuff were a lot of books on war, a lot of book books on aircraft. And it fascinated me the insignias and paint schemes.
So I think somewhere in there, the DNA for me to become a designer was being set up really early, I never had the hand to be a really fine artist. So I think painting early on for me, it was also messy, and not fast enough. And there was something as I progressed, even I went to art school to be a painter, because that’s kind of I was always the guy in my, my cliques and crews growing up, that was the guy that was doing air quotes, art, because it was just how I was expressing myself that way. But I didn’t know there was trades. Were kind of stuff. I Well, you know, skateboarding for one, you know, your board would become a canvas, the first thing I do, you know, especially once it got scraped up is, you’d re-spray paint it, or you start writing on your grip tape, and you put band names on there.
And then all of a sudden, you cross into the music, you start listening to particularly the music I was into, you know, starting out around the time, I was like, you know, 13 or so I had Well, growing up in a military family is a little bit of an interesting thing, because you are somewhat transient, so you don’t have lots of stuff. But the stuff you have you sit with it in such great detail that you really absorb all of it. And so we moved to this one location. And it was it’s a kind of a fascinating thing to think about military neighborhoods, because you you may reconnect with somebody that you live near three years ago, but then all of a sudden, new influences would come. So I was living in Hawaii at the time. And kids from Washington DC started showing up. And this is like 80s. Like, punk rock is big time in. In Washington, DC bands like minor threat and youth brigade. And these kinds of bands are making music and we don’t have access to it. So we’re looking at our friends who are bringing these new vinyls and things like that.
So you’d go home and make a T shirt or something like that. So I think my creativity started in all of that kind of exposure, if you will, my mom kind of made it accessible because she was doing art in our house all the time. So I’m like, Oh, that’s just what you do. Her brother, like I said, who frequently visited us was always kind of, he would like help me draw, you know, cooler airplanes. And then he would talk we would talk about model building. And then like I said, that kind of stretched its way into my skateboarding life. You know, I had these tools, I had paints, I had mark-making tools, if you will, and I just started to ride on my shoes, and you’d ride on your jeans.
And like I said, you’d make your own t-shirts. And it was a very DIY kind of life for me, because like, I even remember, we got into BMX for a little bit, and we’d look at magazines, and you know, you’d have these guys in these, like cool, you know, coordinated outfits and stuff. And me and the neighbor, kid, I remember us trying to sew our own. Like, you remember the movie rad. Like we tried to make our own BMX outfits, and sewing and iron on and that kind of stuff. And we were just making our world and you know, the coolest thing was is we weren’t asking anybody’s permission, can we go buy this thing we just kind of like, didn’t know any better. So we go do it.
Marc Gutman 13:13
And so we’re kind of artists was your mother,
Jay Ferracane 13:15
My mom painted a lot in oil. And I remember her trying her to him this to do portraiture and stuff like that. She was always trying to paint pictures of me and my sister. Gosh, I know she has this there’s an unfinished painting somewhere in my attic that is of me and my sister that are literally that they’re probably I don’t wanna say the canvas, it was Canvas boards.
And that, you know, they’re probably half an inch thick, because he just kept trying to like, fix stuff and navia in just telling you that I think that probably is another trait that I’ve learned and it’s been one of my successes in InDesign is is that adequately talented probably is how I would describe myself but I’ll generally Outlast most people through the most enduring times and events. And I’ll just keep trying. And my mom was a lot like that, too.
Marc Gutman 14:00
So and So where do you say that you’re actually from you mentioned you moved around a lot. I mean, is there a place where you actually feel like you were from? Are you a bit of a nomad?
Jay Ferracane 14:10
I think I’m a bit of a nomad. But I would say a lot of my respect, and well a lot of my respect and ethics around how people should behave and stuff was kind of really formed in in Hawaii growing up in Hawaii because I was a minority there. And and it’s in its in its tribal in the sense of you go to surf at a spot, you’ve got to show respect to locals and get in skateboarding was the same way you go to a local skate spot. And you can’t just be this loud mouth jerk that shows up and pushes everybody out of the way. You’ve got to, you know, you’ve got to be somewhat complimentary and respectful. And I think that that’s one thing that you know, I really took with me and after living in Hawaii, I moved I moved at 16 years old, I moved from Hawaii to Japan. All places. And that was a really interesting experience because in some way, you’re in a foreign land, right? Like, literally you can go off base on bases like, it’s like living, you know, where you live today, you’ve got your supermarket, you’ve got a convenience store, you can go get sodas, there’s usually like, you know, hamburgers and whatever.
But going off base, literally, we jumped the fence, and you’d have your skateboard and some money in your pocket to ride the bus wherever. And it was kind of the coolest license as a kid. So I would say I was probably my most formative years were spent in Hawaii. But I think moving to Asia made me really realize that like, oh, the world’s a lot bigger than just where we live. And then I came back to California at a fairly young age to start going to school and stuff like that. And really just started to learn how to like, take care of myself, too. So I think all three of those areas in combination have made me who, who I am today, a lot of people like look at me, meet me and they’re like, dude, you’re California through and through. But I really think a lot of my background comes from what I learned about in Hawaii and
Marc Gutman 16:06
So you’re like a Hawaii Asia Cali kind of?
Jay Ferracane 16:10
Yeah, definitely Pacific. Maybe that’s how I describe myself.
Marc Gutman 16:15
At that time when you’re when you’re growing up, but you know, you’re you mentioned that you’re, you know, expressing yourself through skate culture, and rad with the greatest bike race Park feature of all time, the series that you a ride through them off the diving board spoon, but we’ll leave that for another podcast, the AI? Are you getting in any formal art training? Are you taking art classes in school? Like, what do you have any role models to say, Hey, I can make a career out of this?
Jay Ferracane 16:46
Oh, yeah, well, role models, probably less so. But man, there was a lot of signals pointing at my path. And I recently had this discussion with the guy who runs an agency out in New York. And we were kind of both talking about being a DD and growing up and the things we were interested in. And the add on that probably the thing that I’ve learned that add the way the Add mind is, is that we have, we are able to process stuff a lot faster than most people. The problem is, is it gets kind of archived, it comes in and gets archived in like what they call midterm storage. So it’s kind of hard to access.
So that’s why a lot of people add aren’t graded like things like math, they can do it just takes a little bit more work. But back to your question, the things that were I was absorbing so much digesting every single skateboarding magazine, I could get my hands on every single surfing magazine. I was in terms of influences. When I went to I think my parents maybe even realized that like, hey, at least he can draw, what are what are trades that he could do. And so when I lived in Hawaii, there was a fantastic drafting program in our school, which I think points to some of the technical work that I do today. And I remember the the guy who was tough that ran the drafting program, and literally the idea was, you could leave school there and maybe go to a junior college for a year or two and just be a draftsperson. Right? Like, that was a big industry.
While he was going through a building boom, they needed people to draw plans. So this guy just basically it was like almost like a trade school. And so I think my first experience with like, art as a trade was probably be my path to becoming a draftsman. Now I quickly realized I didn’t necessarily have the attention to detail that was required for that job. And so then I probably moved on to art. But before I ever knew about design, at this time living in Hawaii, I would get Transworld skateboarding. And every Transworld skateboarding magazine, I got the first thing I did was like, cut out the table of contents.
And I actually had to talk about this at a Colorado ad day or something like that, they said was in the early influences in your design career. And I, I kind of thought back to this moment of like, whatever it was that grabbed my attention on these table of contents. And I found out later, there’s no internet this time, right? I can’t Google, who designs table of contents for trade. Transworld. Again, back to my ATD brain, I probably could have looked in there and read, oh, creative director, David Carson, because it’s probably in the masthead or you know, the publishing information in the front cover.
But anyway, I cut these all these out. And I realized that they were the super expressive forms of information design when you really think about it. And it was funny because I had the opportunity to meet David Carson, and I told him about this experience being, you know, time I was like 13 to 16 years old. I cut out literally almost every table of contents out of tree at Transworld and was progressively wallpapering my room with them. And I told him that at a book signing once and literally, he pulled a beer out from under the table and we shot the shit for about five minutes until his handler had to like drag me off. But we started talking about surfing and all sorts of stuff because he served.
But I think my earliest influences was drafting and then those experiences with Transworld skateboarding magazine. Now the problem is, is like, and I think this is the coolest thing that designers today is if they get excited or inspired by someone, they have this ability to find out who that is, and they in through social media, there’s a good chance they can talk to those people. You know, if I ever found out who David Carson was, at that time, you know, the act of getting in touch with him would have been vastly different. So I was inspired by his work for sure. I just didn’t know what category it came from, or where it was headed. And then, you know, here I am, 25 years later. And I’m, like, still talking about it, because it literally made a huge impact on me. And, you know,
Marc Gutman 20:45
I was gonna ask you a little bit more about where you went next, and kind of your first job, but you keep using this term design design designers like what is design? Like? Like, like, how do you define that? And what is a designer?
Jay Ferracane 20:58
Hmm? Well, maybe this will help me do a definition for you. When I went to art school, I had this kind of, I’m gonna call it a three step, making air gestures here that you can’t see. But I had this three steps experience in school, I went to art school. And then at some point in art school, I’ve always been a guy that just likes to go to work. And at some point in art school, I said, When do I get to go to work?
Meaning like, when do I stop coming to classes? When do I stop dicking around, when do I start to do some real stuff. And then, after enough conversations, they realize like most art students just go back to school, like, you get to maybe get a grant and you become a graduate student, or you apply for a doctorate, and you do some sort of thesis in art. And that wasn’t for me, like I really didn’t like school. And the irony is I teach today, and I think that’s probably some sort of cosmic punishment for the way that I acted in school. And that’s, that is another podcast. Um, but then I went, somebody said, Hey, I kept putting messages in my painting, like, I paint words and stuff in there. And my art teachers kind of get on my case, because they were like, Hey, you need to let your viewers you know, paint the light, fill out the story. And I’m like, but I, this is the message I want to I want to tell. And so then they’re like, have you ever taken any typography courses?
And I’m like, I don’t I only think I can even spell that. But what is that? And so then I went and did a typography course. And then somebody had told me, hey, by the way, if you kind of like, don’t want to do fine art, have you ever thought about illustration, we had a really good illustration program at the at San Jose State. So I’m in illustration, I’m doing a little bit of typographic a little bit of illustration. And then it dawns on me, I’m like, okay, here I am. In this situation, again, I want to go to work every day. I’m like, who tells an illustrator to make work?
And they’re like, Oh, that’s usually a creative director, art director, designer guy. And I’m like, Okay, cool. Where’s that department. And so then I went to design in the design department, and the design department is sales, a state at that time was really impacted, it was one of the, you know, they would take like a student of, I’m gonna say, at least a couple hundred students, maybe 150 200 students, and then from that, one class would be admitted every year. And that was somewhere between 30 and 45 students, and it was all done through a portfolio review, compulsory portfolio review, basically, everybody was putting up the same amount of work, it was really kind of like a hard deal to get into. And then once you got in there, it was this very international, Swiss kind of design style, international style of design being taught.
So now coming to the definition of design, is really it was about making communication, that could that it was really about making communication. That was that’s what it really what it simply came down to, and there was an art aspect to it. But there was also some creativity in the side of making it not being cliched creating engagement, working to the grid. You know, we were only using like, you know, three fonts at that time. really early computer days, by the way, when I’m doing all this stuff. So Gosh, in in the way that I would define design is, you know, for me, it’s it’s a objective visual communication.
Marc Gutman 24:12
And how is that different than art? Like how does that differ from art?
Jay Ferracane 24:16
Well, it actually at this school, there was kind of, I wouldn’t say there was like a rivalry. It’s not like cats. And you know, we’re like snapping at each other down the hallway, you know, we’re gonna fight or anything. But there was this division between the art students and the design students. And we were always taught that art creates visual problems and design solves visual problems. And I think that’s a bit of an inaccuracy or a simple oversimplification. But art is usually about how you feel about something. Whereas design really does force you to be super objective, take into account your research and information and display that back to somebody in an engaging and useful kind of way. And I think that’s the biggest difference is Is design in most cases, and I can, you can never say never. The design in most cases is rarely about the person who designs it art most of the time is about the person who made that art.
Marc Gutman 25:11
Well, that’s a good definition that I can understand and easily differentiate between the two. And so you discover this, shall I say, utilitarian way of using design to make a career to communicate the things you want to. Now that all sounds really cool and hip, and you and you’re kind of coming out of the skate kind of culture? Like, how do you get into annual report design,
Jay Ferracane 25:38
The entire report job was really funny. And it was, um, so the era of when you got a job. And when I was in college, you’d go down to the lower floor and outside the counselor’s office, there’d be a board full of, you know, eight and a half by 11 sheets with the tabs off the bottom, and you have a job description in there, and you’d pull the tab off and you’d go find a payphone. And you’d call a place and say, Hey, I’d like to apply or do an interview, or you drive over there and drop off a little sample portfolio.
So anyway, I go downstairs, and this wall of all these job postings, there is one that is completely untouched. And so I pulled the entire thing off the wall, and take the entire thing with me and go and call this number. So thinking like, oh, no one else is going to call this. What I didn’t know is the word on the street. Within the design parliament, everybody knew how hostile this agency was this really small boutique agency in Palo Alto was, and that’s why nobody was applying for internships there. And so my dumb ass goes and grabs, it makes a call. They’re like, Yeah, come in next Wednesday, blah, blah, blah, I show them my portfolio, which at this time is primarily illustration, and fine art stuff.
But the sheer fact that I had been painting words and stuff in there kind of got me into a little bit of a design category. And it had some type of graphic work in there. And so I go start there. And literally the second day at the studio working for this really small, like, she was maybe five foot tall, it was into couture clothing, she was just a presence. And she was not nice at all, at but I learned how to keep growing up in the military, you just learned how to keep your head down. And you just go and if people are terse with you, you just kind of move on. And it’s no big deal. I was pretty used to it. So I go there. And I’m like, gosh, this isn’t, you know, that fun, but I’m learning quite a bit.
Well, day two, I show up and the entire staff of the agency quits. And so I’m in design school getting ready to get out of design school, and at this time, everybody, there’d be this Exodus every year from the design school, and everyone would go out into the market. And you all have the same portfolio. And as a guy who just wanted to go to work.
I’m like, Well, if I stick it out here, I’ll have like a couple pieces that will be like my own, it will be real world work, which will make me stand out in the marketplace. So that year, I literally day one, I go and sit with three designers over the course of the day day. And they tell me someone was working on like the Yahoo annual report. So that’s their IPO that tells you how long ago this was.
We were doing a project for Motorola. And we were doing a project for food irradiation, brands. Now my career gets into a lot of industries like that, that I end up in most people meet me and they go, Oh, you’re from California. And you work in the either the record or like motocross industry month, I work on a lot of enterprise software, or a lot of intangible product kind of things. So anyway, I immediately am given three projects that I have to take to print from my second day on the job because there’s nobody else left to do it. So talk about your secret to success is when opportunity presents itself and you take advantage of it. And over the course of like the next month or so working at this place.
I did take these in I got to finish out these reports. I got to put them in my portfolio. My illustration background helped. Because I was able to, particularly for the food irradiation brand that we were working on. I had to do these like really kind of like abstract vector drawings, that kind of communicated elements that they were doing with their science, their quote, science. And I don’t know it was just that that’s kind of how my career got started. Now mind you, this little studio sat in the middle of what was a really creative hotspot at that time.
I was working next door to IDEO. So I would bump into people at you know the coffee line and shoot the breeze with them about what they were working on. It was really open kind of awesome community there. But that formative experience of my first job working at an annual reports taught me a lot about design because the debt the information density was off the charts. A lot of times you were if an if a company was publishing a report, they didn’t have a great year you were actually really doing one of the most elegant apology letters you possibly could, um, or if they did do a great year, you were trying to show like, you know, you had some real opportunity to make them, you know, superstars and the people that were investing in them who got these books feel really validated.
So it was kind of a cool tool that any reports also sitting and we’re a part of brand that I’m really excited about that, like, they mean a lot to the people who are connected to that business, much more than like a consumer would be, or something like that. So anyway, I learned a lot there. And then, like I said, from there, I did gun work, I went right into a much more digital job after that, but it was very early on. So
Marc Gutman 30:36
You talked about it a little bit, but what was it like in the Bay Area at that time? Like what’s going on? Like, what’s the general scene? Oh, you know, how’s it how’s it changed?
Jay Ferracane 30:46
Yeah, so I would say, you know, I still have clients in the Bay Area. So I have a, at least a somewhat of a lens, you know, I live here in Colorado now. But, you know, prior to COVID times, I was, I was flying back and forth, and my wife’s family’s from there. So we visit quite a bit. But I would say the early 90s, through the 2000s was like a golden age of, particularly technology. And then that design that came off of that was it was just an amazing place to be in and around really liberal thinking, a lot of openness about ideas. And I think like any, you know, location or industry, for that matter.
You know, in the years I’ve seen it, you know, things have gotten a little bit more conservative, and that might be the scale of business and, and, frankly, the wealth that some of these organizations have, but I think it really, you know, some of the, that period in the 90s 2000s, that’s a couple.com booms in there. And there was just this optimism and hope around like, Hey, you have an idea, you can bring that to bear. And there’s just so much like, work to be had, and so many things that we got to explain, really for the first time to people so that they could understand the value of these businesses. And that was a really fun thing to me, you know, where I have friends who went and worked at Nike and all that kind of stuff.
And I look at the work they do. And it’s beautiful. And it’s, you know, it’s it’s something that like every man can connect to, but because of the clients that I just happened to start working in the industries that I started getting a lot of exposure to or experience in, I realized they were no less sexy than a Nike, you know, a company that makes manufacturing software, someone needs that thing, they have a value. And if you can convince somebody, and particularly in the enterprise space, the funny thing about that is, is a lot of times, there’s a lot of choices, or at least a few choices for a decision-maker to make. And so my stance on whatever plans I got involved with was way before, you know, making b2b stuff feel like consumer, that was always my bet.
I’m like, hey, if someone’s going to come here and learn about this particular software that you know, most of the Fortune 500 runs on, but my mom and dad have never heard of, I’m going to try and explain it in a way that feels more like, I don’t know, Bang and Olufsen or some other, you know, high-level consumer brand that has a technical background, but still makes a really rad product. I don’t see any difference between the two and that was received really well, at that time. And it was such a fun part to be. It was such a, I don’t know, it was very formative to be around that time. I think that optimism and connectedness that also this idea that anything is possible, really was like a resonant there at that time. And it was a cool part a cool thing to be a part of.
Marc Gutman 33:45
Yeah, I think it’s so cool that that was like your training ground that that golden age of tack. And it’s interesting, you know, we’ve had Marty neumeier, who is on on the podcast and considered kind of the godfather of brand, at least brand theory and in articulating a lot of stuff here. And he cut his teeth, designing software boxes, you know, that’s his thing. Like it was same idea
Jay Ferracane 34:05
Podcast was great. By the way, I really enjoyed his talk and where he took that because Marty and I bet Well, obviously he’s working at a galactically higher level than I was at that time. Um, but it was funny to hear him talking about things because I remember those spheres of influence cut rippling through the area. And that was another really cool thing that was happening in the Bay Area at that time is the connections between people I knew of Marty and there were some other great agencies, you know, sapient, at the time was doing some really awesome work. But we actually had a couple of really interesting opportunities to meet guys that went on to do things like salesforce.com and stuff like that, and just hear that because they were advisors at companies.
I was working on their brands, and you hear just these little nuggets of things that like, Hey, why don’t we try this like, I remember the I’m trying to think of his name that it was he was the email@example.com, like in the very beginning. And I remember him walking through me through the value of long scroll homepages. And I was like, it was just a fascinating thing, because that wasn’t a thing at that time. And when he walked me through the reasoning coming back to, hey, what’s design should always have purpose or reason. And when he kind of communicated Well, it depends on the goals of your company.
But if one of your goals your company, is is to basically, you know, increase time on your website and do this kind of thing, you give them more content, though, like that. That’s, we weren’t even thinking like that. And then when Marty started talking about like, thinking through software boxes, and things like that, I even had a really similar experience where I started talking to the people that were using the product.
So again, I had some really interesting experiences, not only from people who were doing really great thinking and work, but then I learned to go and ask to put my ego aside and go ask people, how do you use this, you know, empathy, I don’t even think was really being talked too much about InDesign at that time. But going and talking to people and like finding out how do you use the software? How does it get shipped?
What’s that do to the bottom line of a product costs? And we’re, you know, Marty’s job was to make software more appealing on the Fry’s shelf. And I think most software companies after that followed that suit, even though they weren’t selling software to consumers, so like, I worked on an enterprise level, install software, like we’re guys, we were making PCs, we’re installing software. And so you don’t need this big $23 box or whatever it was, and you know, what, how cool would it be if you could just mail it a FedEx envelope?
So we really thought through some of those problems. And I think because, again, some of the things that we were just starting to listen to and learn and then challenge, just again, kind of goes back to the world of DIY and making, you know, minor threat t-shirts for myself. For my own frickin BMX outfits. I don’t see my job today, as much different as that I rarely will ask for permission to go do something I think my job a lot of times is to bring options like that to clients and really help them rethink, hey, this might be I know you want to do it this way. But I will always try and show them like, Hey, we should. What if we thought a little bit differently. And we did something like this. And then a lot of times that’s the path we go down. But I wouldn’t have learned that how to not been in areas like you know, the bay area that’s on
Marc Gutman 37:29
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And so, you know one of the things that I think is really interesting about you is the non well some of the non-professional stuff, right well you’re you’re real you’re real avid cyclist you you live in North boulder on what is effectively a ranch, right? So that goes really well with the Angry Bovine moniker in my work and you work out of a cool you know, retrofitted trailer out on that ranch and so walk me through a little bit like how did you get to Boulder like like, when it’s cycling under the picture? Like Like, when did you become this like, cool design rancher dude?
Jay Ferracane 39:09
Well, I laughed in the beginning when you said, your non-professional stuff, because I don’t, I think that the second you can start being more about the things that you really enjoy and love and how that affects your work. It does kind of turn you into a better professional, but in some ways, it’s non-professional. I thought that’s where you’re gonna go with this. But I think that I’ve always been interested in I started racing bikes long before I got to Colorado, and I was doing that in college and I’ve again, hyperactive add I have energy to burn. And so, you know, I got my first mountain bike because my girlfriend at the time who’s now my wife was into mountain biking and she’s like, you should get a bike and, you know, three months later, I’m like, Well, I need to go race.
I’m gonna go enter a contest and you know, see how I do and I did okay, I survived, but then I was addicted. Start Riding competitively. And the one thing that bugged me about cycling, which was kind of funny, was, you know, coming out of 90 skateboard 80s and 90s skateboard culture where you had these, like, you know, big pants, I don’t know if you remember that that phase, you know, big pants and baggy shirts, and, and that kind of stuff. And then I go to start racing bikes, and you’re in lycra, and I was like, Oh, my gosh, I can’t have my friends, you know, see me like this. And I think one of my goals down the road. And now that I designed cycling kits and stuff, I try and make them. It’s still like, right, you can’t make it that cool.
But I try and make it feel more like either, you know, surfer skate apparel, in some way or another, the long story on the getting from the Bay Area to here. I think at a certain point, a lot of creative people just have to ask themselves, how they work best. And then you need to make the decision to live up to that decision. And so I was running an agency in Palo Alto, the economy’s doing pretty good. I was actually run an agency, we had two offices, one in San Francisco, and one in Palo Alto. And it was weird because I came back in 10 or 15 years, what after that original working in Anna report shop in the town had changed quite a bit. We had Facebook there now. And it was, you know, Palo Alto wasn’t this little sleepy town that supported Stanford anymore. It was kind of a hotbed for venture capitalism. And technology was really going off there. And so it was a great place to run an agency San Francisco, us too.
So I returned to that town to run this agency after my stint on the client side. And I ran the agency for about two years, the economy, like I said, was doing really well. But I had two kids now. And I started to realize I was spending more time in my car, I drive seven miles to work. And it would take almost 45 minutes. And I just thought with parking and then walking to your office. And all of a sudden, something in me just wasn’t connecting, my neighbors weren’t of my same, you know, brain, we had a lot of, there’s a lot of opportunity in the Bay Area. So who can fault them for it, we had a lot of people moving in, that become our neighbors, and they really weren’t there for the long haul. They came to run a company and go back to wherever they were originally from.
My wife had grown up there. So we had a lot of roots in the Bay Area. And we started to say to ourselves, like, hey, how can we spend more time with our kids and raise them in an area where they can still be kids? Because there’s a lot of pressure on those on our we felt on kids at that time to be the next tech CEO, and why aren’t your kids going to math camp and stuff. And my wife is a very creative individual as well. She does interior design, and she did real estate for years and a lot of staging and that kind of stuff. And now she runs a nonprofit, hence, the ranch story, saving Mustangs, the horse, not the car. And so we made a decision to move to Colorado, though. So we could see our kids more and personally with me, I knew I was doing a level of work where I’m like, I will find work, let’s let’s move, I really want to see these my kids, as long as they still think I’m cool. And we made the move out here.
My agency was like, hey, go there and start a boutique for us. And that was the ultimate plan, I started looking for property and you know, building and that kind of stuff and was going to start hiring talent because they knew that this there was great creative talent out here. And the economy started to kind of shift, we started to go into a little bit of a recession. And because I’m kind of a player-manager in the way that I creative directed I design every day, that’s my problem solving methodology. And I would fly back to the Bay Area and fire a couple people and then come back and pick up their work and still present it to clients and ran jobs and but then it just got to be at a certain point.
I’m like, This isn’t good for my soul anymore. And you know, before we started the call you and I have been chatting about, you know, what comes out of COVID is their opportunity here. And I know some friends in the space that are that are doing some cool things and, and preparing for when it gets good again. But I think the opportunity that I saw was I had a lot of clients who were looking for service, but they couldn’t afford agencies anymore.
So I had this really interesting opportunity to start my own business and rebuilding where I got to interface directly with clients and then manifest our discussions into the designs I was doing. And so I literally got to start my business in almost the safest way I’ve ever possible. I moved to Colorado, did my agency thing with the company back in the Bay Area for a little bit and then slowly started up my other business as the other one wound down. even helped them do some jobs for a while. Didn’t want to burn any bridges there. And some of the clients that I worked on at the agency are now my clients today 12 years later. So, you know, thinking I’m doing something right but at the end of the day, it’s also you’re building relationships.
You know, I think the work not to be self-effacing but I think I do adequate work. But I’m also there, like I said, and I won’t quit on people, and I try and be dependable. And you know, and that’s how I got here was literally a decision on, I’m okay at what I do, I should be able to go do it anywhere, let’s go so we could spend time with the kids. And then the ranch thing was a funny deal because as my wife’s nonprofit started, we realized we couldn’t have horses or burros in our backyard in a suburban setting in Boulder, Colorado. So we did move north of town, we found a rundown old little property. And the past five and a half years, we’ve been literally refinancing building bones, just making a better habitat for the animals we’re trying to help.
So and that’s my family’s work. Now, it really gave us like a sense of identity, I think in some way that, you know, my older son works with horses today, my younger son is just conflicts, anything that’s mechanical and broken, and you know, my wife everyday goes out and, you know, works the land, and then I have to go build fences. So that’s, that’s fine. How we ended up here. And so it’s very nice of you to say that that’s a cool thing. Maybe the name was somewhat self-fulfilling at some point, because we did recently get cows too. So I was destined for it. At some point, I think there are no accidents or mistakes.
Marc Gutman 46:17
So you know, before we started recording, you and I were chatting and talking a little bit about this idea of objectivity, and in the creative space today. And what I’d like to do is like shift gears a little bit and change the conversation to that. And I think the prompt was like, Where has it gone? You know, where has subjectivity gone? and creativity today?
Jay Ferracane 46:41
Well, and what are the phenomenons that are, are making it harder and harder to find. And I think I saw a film recently that kind of turned on a few light bulbs. For me, I don’t know if you’ve seen the social dilemma yet. But it is an interesting film to check out. But one of the things that’s fascinating, if you kind of step away from it, I have, it was it’s funny for me, I really do like to believe that design is best served when it’s objective.
Now, you get to know these slippery slopes, because mark, you present creative all the time. And there might be an idea that’s really rooted in research and findings. And you present it to that client and you really believe in it. And then they go Yeah, we just don’t like it. And that’s the weird thing about our craft, right. For all the objectivity and information and support we have, we might be have behind an idea. At the end of the day, some part of creative particularly when you start putting form, or imagery, or words with it, you get into subjectivity, right? Because if somebody doesn’t like that photograph, or if somebody doesn’t like that layout, or somebody doesn’t like that word, all of a sudden, things get upset. But objectivity, the thing that’s kind of fascinating gets kind of called out in this film, and has made me think about it ever since. And even I’ve had a couple conversations before seeing the film. That’s the one thing that a lot of hat while I pitch a lot of work. And I don’t always win all the work.
But one of the things I like to do is I go back, and I check when things launch. And I like to go and just see Wow, I wonder what came together to make that thing what it was. Because if you go look at something like a website, or even a brochure, or something like that, or campaign, those are organisms, right? It’s not just a simple, clear idea that comes out and launches, there’s a lot of influences and pressures and things that shape it to be the thing that it is. But it the objectivity is usually my go to tool because I can say, hey, this isn’t about me, coming back to empathy. And this is design. objectivity is really about like, hey, let’s let’s help you, the person that’s very close to it, usually the business owner, make some decisions based on being rational in research versus emotional kinds of stuff, which can sometimes be dangerous. And so I guess the things that have come up is like I see a lot of agencies go out and build work, where that idea seems a lot like the way that they serviced a previous client. So were they really being objective? Or were they really just trying to get work out the door?
I think that the fascinating byproduct of the media will you digest and social stuff, and that kind of thing is, is, um, our objectivity might be being eroded and a little bit because if we all of a sudden don’t hear things we agree with and say I present a creative idea to you that you might not like it. It’s, it’s usually more divisionary than it is conversation starting. And it’s just an interesting phenomenon that I’ve seen lately, where I really have to do a lot of setup so that I can be Hey, I’m not presenting you this because I feel like this morning. I’m presenting this idea to you because objectivity is pointing us in the direction of these things filled with Goals you’ve told us to fulfill? And I don’t know, are you seeing any of this in your work, you know, where you start to present ideas and it gets biased or something like that in some way or another? Because I know this is this objectivity thing goes far beyond the creative circle. But are you seeing any of it too? It’s a fascinating topic to me.
Marc Gutman 50:20
Well, I do see it. But I think for me, like when I think about it, and I heard you talking, it’s like, you know, before for someone to have a conversation around creative, they had to be in the creative space, or at the very least, you had to go talk to a creative professor, or you had to go to the library right now you can Google. You know, how do I critique a logo, what makes a great logo, what? What is great, create whatever you want, right? And what that does is that makes everybody feeling like that they have some sort of expertise in the in the conversation. Now, I do think it’s really interesting that, like, I do think there’s a misnomer. And I think this is like not not a current thing. I think this is like, maybe something that happened way back in the days of branding of designers, right?
Where there was this idea that a designer would go off in a madman style way and, you know, bang their head against the wall and come up with an amazing idea. And then create as if they were a mad scientist, and a blur of paint and scrap paper, maybe, you know, Warhol or something like that comes to mind. And then or even a Jackson Pollock, but like, you would then take that, that output and tada, you have a, you know, a campaign or a logo or an identity and that it wasn’t always rooted in this the sense of objectivity, at least from the client-side, right?
That it right, that it was a you know, that’s that might be the way that designers approach it. But from the client side, I think that’s long been the viewpoint. And so maybe you’re just experiencing it more, in today’s kind of world where things are coming, maybe a little unfiltered, or in a different way. But I don’t know, I feel like you know, the brand of a designer, at least publicly facing is, is, as I described, and less about solving real problems about being objective, and less about removing themselves from the process. Yep. where, you know, it’s like, oh, who’s this famous designer Who’s this and we are living in this age of famous graphic designers, right. And that’s also a weird thing that you and I have talked about where, you know, there really shouldn’t be famous designers that it’s not about the designers but here we are.
Jay Ferracane 52:44
When it is funny of John Violin Berg, I don’t know if you know him, but fascinating individual, he runs up a thing called Project m, at a number of other things. He was doing an interview once, and he he was introduced as being a famous designer. And then he kind of shrugged it off and was like, well, being a famous designer is is a is like being a famous plumber, only other plumbers know you. And so, uh, but I do think famous designers are known outside of certain circles. And I think the danger in it is a no, no danger is probably a like too prescriptive is a little too serious. It’s not dangerous, right. But it is an interesting phenomena, I really look at myself as I’m a capitalist.
That’s my design shtick. And what I’ve had to realize too, is a lot of designers need to have their things so that when people are out there in their selection process, looking for creative help, they find the one that works best with them, I happen to work in a really a capitalistic kind of way where I want to interface with clients, I believe they know so much more about their business, then I could ever and I want those nuggets and pieces of information that I want to go do my research and I want to interview their customers, and I want to really talk to them about how the design we’re about to do whatever it may be, also helps them at the end of the day, like you know, if you’ve got to if we’re going to do a brand and we end up doing a website in that brand, and you know, they only have to marketing people on the marketing staff. Do you want to go build a website that requires like a team from MIT to update it every day?
Probably not. Like, like, stick them on WordPress and, you know, maybe think through before you ever design the brand is you know, you think through like, how easy will this thing be to update if that’s a part of their business premise. So coming back to this idea of objectivity. I think one of the things that I get concerned about is is that if people go to an agency for a specific look, or the request and I’ve gotten this request before is like we’ll just do for us what you did for x, right. I think that’s a really hard place to be as a designer because Eyes, if we’re being objective about their business and who they are as a brand, you need to kind of re-inventory all their parts and in some weird way, maybe you’ll get the crazy math that works out and says, Yeah, I guess we could do exactly what we did for this other brand for you guys. But more often than not the little point oh, 1% shift that makes them a different business. Maybe it’s just the fact that they’re doing exactly what business a is doing on the west coast, they just happen to be in Cleveland, Ohio, that might be enough of a difference to change their whole brand persona.
So anyway, I just think this idea of objectivity as a bigger concept, meaning like, Hey, how are we really looking at things through an honest, authentic kind of lens in some of my recent experiences, and again, I’m not an absolute type of person. But I’ve seen a lot of hints of like, hey, that’s not as important as you may think it is. And that’s just my kind of view on design these days.
Marc Gutman 56:03
So then, and thanks for that, Jan. And I appreciate that. And so like, in addition to that, like, what’s hard about design, What don’t we see? Like, what What don’t we get to the person who’s, who’s not living at every day?
Jay Ferracane 56:17
Well, design is funny, because like, it’s, um, I have met some guys that that can literally they go and they clock in, and then they’re designing, I think, for me, what’s hard about design is, it’s never really done. And then in my mind, in some way, I’m, I don’t want to say a member, just I’m dissatisfied. But I always think like, how could it be optimized? How and, you know, from an hourly standpoint, designers make a pretty good living doing, you know, doing what we’re doing, I don’t think it’s as hard as like, as a guy who’s, who’s run a ton of fence and built sheds and done construction and his life. I don’t go home with that kind of tired every day. But there’s a cerebral kind of like, wearing that is it’s consuming.
I think that’s one of the things that that’s hard about design is is that a year you’re at dinner with your wife, and she’s like, You’re not listening to me right now. And your brain is off trying to like write a headline or figure out why a layout isn’t working. And then you have to like re-enter and you have to apologize, you know, you’re driving down the road, and someone goes, did you see that Billboard and you’re like, nope, but it was set and Gill Sans, like, it’s just, it’s, it’s it, I think there’s a periphery that designers exist in that we’re, I feel like, at least as a designer, I’m always on, like, meaning like, I’m always trying to process whatever work I have in front of me, in some way or another. And so from an hourly standpoint, that’s one thing that’s hard about is it’s just constant.
And, and I’ve never even in cycling, or skateboarding, I was never a guide, it was good. Like, Hey, I’m going to stop for two weeks or a month, and then I’ll just come back and hope I’m exactly the same. design has a hand It has a movement to it. And I recently just started doing a bunch of writing for a brand. And I luckily, I had to fill out some paperwork prior to doing that. And I realized how, like, I just wasn’t great at typing, because I hadn’t been like, writing prose for a little bit. And, and so like, I think that’s one of the things that’s hard about it. Um, I think that if you pair that with genuinely wanting to do good work, it puts a lot of anxiety on the designer. And I think that’s one of those things.
I remember when you know, I drop a proposal to a client job might not start for two weeks, I’d start worrying about will I have good ideas? And I still do that today, will I be able to solve those problems when it’s time to start? And I now well, knowing enough what I know about myself as a designer, I just know that that is a thing. And I have to acknowledge it and you go, Hey, I know you’re there little weird anxiety. And this is going to be how you feel until you really get your hands into it.
In fact, to this writing example that I’m, I’m really working on right now like I did this thing where you kind of like, constantly check email, or go look at results of you know, sports results, and you do anything but work on the thing because you’re fearful of like getting started and so I think my process as a designer to eliminate air quotes, some of the hard stuff is actually just fucking getting to work and start hammering it out. And even if some of the work is throw away that I had to paint a painting teacher A long time ago, just tell me, I would sit there in front of like a blank canvas or big sheet of paper or whatever. And so what he would do is he would he told me like pick up your brush or piece of charcoal and he would take my hand and just run it on the paper.
He goes making the first marks the hardest thing and then he would just walk off. And I’m like, Oh, so sometimes just getting started is one of the things that makes design hard. I think genuinely coming back to that idea is like you want to do a good job. most creative people care for a couple of Reasons a, you want to do a good job because someone’s paying you good money to help them communicate their thing. The you get into the I’m going to call it the Andre 5000. World, he wasn’t an outcast reference, it’s an outcast reference, you’re only as funky as your last cut you and I’ll tell you one thing that I’ve really learned it, or at least been re-exposed to it is just because I guess most creatives should never ever really get comfortable that they have to no longer prove themselves, because that’s a really dangerous place to be.
Because I think as creatives we’re always proving ourselves, that’s really our job, hey, we’ve given you this problem, show us how you’re going to solve it. That’s proof, right? And so that that second feature in there that you’re only funky as your last cut, comes back to caring about the work you do. But you also want to do really great work, because you know that that work that you’re doing at that moment ensures more work comes down the road, because this is such a referral kind of world to so yeah, it is funny to say it’s hard because it isn’t like ditch digging, but it is there’s an anxiety that comes with it that requires a lot of management and it can you can kind of get in your head and but you know, if you have the sensibility to just acknowledge like, that’s, this is the way it goes and press on. You’ll get it done. And, you know, it’s just, it’s just a part of what you sign up for.
Marc Gutman 1:01:31
So what’s next, for Jay Ferracane, an Angry Bovine?
Jay Ferracane 1:01:37
Well, you know, this year, I’ve been fortunate, I think about every year I kind of just, I’ve worked on lots of lots of industries, I get pulled back into certain industries, like, there’s so much work in high tech and software to do. But I also really, you know, back to my other things I enjoy. I’ve worked in bike a lot. But every year I try and pick in an industry that would be kind of cool to work in. And this year, I was fortunate enough, I wanted to do something, maybe it’s because of where I live, being on a ranch, etc. I wanted to work in some ag brands, and I actually got to do a little bit of work in ag, I’d love to do something, maybe more on the outdoor or hunt side of things. I just think those are fascinating industries that, you know, I love some of the stuff that’s going on there. But I also love cross-pollinating.
So, you know, my background and skateboarding and punk rock and the subversiveness and coming back to this idea of objectivity, a lot of stuff that I end up working on takes on some of those behaviors. And so it’s just cool to see that to get exposure in those industries and learn how they work and stuff like that. So what’s next, I would say, you know, I’m always looking to work in industries I’ve never had experience in because I don’t, this comes back to the objectivity thing I did. I’ve done one car brand in my entire life. And I remember working with the client at the car brand. And there was so much a lot of her argument when we would present work was this didn’t fit the mold of what was compulsory in the space.
But yet our directive was, let’s stand out, let’s be different, you know, all of these things that were kind of contrary to what she was kind of coming back to like, it’s not done this way. And so to me, as somebody who I am proud of the fact that I get to work in lots and lots of industries, because again, back to that point of objectivity, and every brand is its own thing, even if it’s in the same industry is really important to kind of start to look at and go, how are we going to solve this problem? What’s unique to you guys? And let’s just take it from that standpoint, right? versus here’s what everybody is doing in this industry? Can you make us just like them? So what’s next is, you know, just continuing to do new stuff as
Marc Gutman 1:03:53
Well, as we come to a close here. J. It makes me you know, instead of kind of our normal closing question, I got a different one. Do you have a project or something you’ve worked on? Minus anything you’ve done with me that you would earmark or point out is your favorite something that you think of real finally of something that you’re particularly proud of? What is it and what does it look like?
Jay Ferracane 1:04:17
Yeah, you know, I have a couple soft spots, you know, to come to mind. One because I love bikes. So we got to do some work for Cannondale, where they were really shifting big thinking in their brand. And I still see effects of that today. And I don’t think that’s the coolest thing as a designer is to see lasting impact in what you do. I think one brand that I’m really, really proud to have worked on was some of the very formative stuff for Strava.
If you know the running and cycling platform, you know, did the original identity for them and I tell that to people sometimes and they go Wow, that’s so cool and blah, blah. But you know, when I did that original identity that was literally like eight people in a room. office space on sandhill in California. It wasn’t what we know it as today with TV commercials during the Tour de France. But the premise is that we set in place from a visual design perspective, color palette, strong logos.
I remember I was racing Leadville. And out there in the middle of nowhere is the bright orange Strava van that, you know, we had done really loose concepts of, and this icon that we had built-in Now coming back to reason this icon was a, if you look at the logo type of Strava, it has all these up and down arrows. And if you know anything about Strava, it’s about performance. And so one of the things that we wanted to build into this idea of Strava was is can you log into Strava every day and see how you’re trending? Are you doing great today? Are you doing a little less than that? You know, you did yesterday, and I came around the corner and the back end of van was there. And that little icon was on the back of the van. And we designed these two superimposed arrows one pointing up, one pointing down, slightly off-center from one another. And I came around the corner and I hadn’t worked on that brand and maybe four or five years. And there it was still there still present.
So physical and communicating from very early on. And that’s the thing I get the most excited about, with the brands I get to build is and you as a brand strategist, you know this too, that like I think a lot of times the misconception of brands, or brand being particular is, hey, when you write a brand, it tells us how to use our logo. Nope. Brands should be about how you run your company. logos are the signals that bring people to the company. And their branding is the signals that bring people to your company. But I’m I’m always really pleased when I get to talk to decision-makers at a brand I’ve worked on. And you know, they use the brand to make business decisions. They use it to still manage like their branding, you know, what are we using the right color palette? We’re using the right fonts, etc.
But more importantly, are they using the brand as like a decision-making tool Hey, if we said we’re the most trustworthy company or the most human company, and then they all of a sudden, you know, note to save a buck, they automate their entire, you know, customer service platform or something like that. That might not be the best decision for that brand. So I think that’s my, my sweetest thing that comes out of what I do on a daily basis is, you know, the impact it has on the business. The longevity, you know, seeing it out there in space is really rewarding for me and Strava is probably one of the best examples of that.
Marc Gutman 1:07:39
And that is Jay Ferracane. Brand is how you should run your company. His words, not mine, but I couldn’t agree more. We’ll be sure to link to all of Jays socials and contacts in the show notes. Go ahead and give him a follow. He could use some more followers. Just kidding. Not kidding, Jay. Thank you again to Jay Ferracane an Angry Bovine. Well that’s the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstory.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you’ll never miss an episode. A lot big stories and I cannot lie you other storytellers can’t deny