In this interview, he discusses his design philosophy, family life, personal creative pursuits, and love-hate relationship with a certain 1970s band.
So let's start with a softball question, Jimi. Where are you from and what brought you to Joplin?
I grew up in Riverton, Kansas, and currently live in Baxter Springs. As is the case with many Southeast Kansas folks, working in Joplin is pretty standard. There are more career opportunities for graphic designers in Joplin than in my small hometown.
As a Kansas native, how do you feel about your state band, Kansas?
Uh, I think “Carry On My Wayward Son” is the only Kansas song I know...and “Dust in the Wind.” Is that Kansas?
Yes, but given the fact that you and, presumably, many other Kansans aren’t familiar with their music, do you think it’s presumptuous for them to co-opt your state name? Groups like Boston or Chicago assumed city names, but Kansas took a whole state. Do you think they really represent you?
*Laughing and shaking head* Maybe if I was from the 70s?
True, they're so 40 years ago. Let’s leave them there and get back to you. What brought you to Ramsey MediaWorks and what do you enjoy about working here?
I started working here in 2013. After getting my BA in Graphic Design from MSSU in 2011, I worked in graphic design positions at a couple different companies before ending up at Ramsey. I’ve always wanted to work in marketing and advertising, and Ramsey had just the spot for me. I enjoy taking problems that a customer has and finding ways to solve those through strategic and purposeful design.
What's something most people don’t know about you?
I’m a pretty open book, so there aren’t many things I keep to myself. I guess one of the more oddball things, is that I play guitar in a bluegrass trio.
Jimi's bluegrass trio, Tragic Prelude. Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee, rhrphoto.com.
As a musician, would you consider Kansas to be more of an influence or a competitor with your own body of work? And how does your list of no. 1 singles stack up to theirs?
*Shaking head* Oh, my gosh...
I get it. It’s a sensitive subject, but while we’re discussing uncomfortable things, what’s your most embarrassing or funniest memory at RMW?
When we moved into our new building, Matt was walking through the hallway carrying boxes. The floor registers hadn’t been installed yet, and he stepped right into the air vent. He dropped the box, got stuck, and in typical Matt fashion, started shouting in his Southern-Missourah accent, “I’m stuu-uuck! I’m stuuu-uuck!” I recall that he was hobbling around telling the story for the next couple months.
What do you do when you’re not working or pulling Matt out of registers?
My wife and I have two young boys, so the majority of my time is spent with them. I enjoy barbecuing, playing music, watching Royals baseball, and working on design projects for my friends and family.
Jimi and Hannah with their boys, Oliver and Teddy.
Do you ever sing “Carry On My Wayward Son” to your boys?
I understand. It’s a very personal question...Well, it sounds like your plate is very full—good, but full. If you need to clear some space, feel free to bring that barbeque to work. Speaking of that, let’s discuss your work. As a professional designer, what do you think makes design great?
I think the real question is what makes great design? Inherently, design itself isn’t always great. What makes great design is purposeful design. Anyone with an artistic eye can put something attractive together on a page. But if the work doesn’t have a purpose, then it isn’t truly great.
Would you consider the cover design of Kansas’ Leftoverture album to be truly great, or does it fall short?
Uh...but seriously, tell us more about your approach to design.
A designer has to take a client’s goals and problems and work up a solution—one that ties in copy with intent, images that visually represent the copy, and a call-to-action. The goals can range widely. You could be asking a consumer to buy a box of cereal or asking a job seeker to apply for an opening.
A great designer has to look at each client with fresh eyes and take the initiative to understand what their work has to accomplish for the client. In the end, the questions we ask, the goals we strive for, and the execution of a campaign is what makes great design.
When taking on a new project, Jimi goes into problem-solving mode, studying up and making sure to design a solution that fits the business and its needs.
In that process, what do you enjoy most? And personally, what’s your favorite type of design work?
In agency work, I really enjoy the problem-solving process: understanding goals and solutions for the client. As for personal design, I love creating things like stickers, buttons, and concert posters because people have been making them for decades. Pulling from the past and finding new ways to represent modern day graphics is a cool way to connect with designers who came before me.
Some of Jimi's personal designs: a family poster, Kansas sticker, and illustration of "The Bus", his Honda Element.
How does design tie into branding?
Your brand is your identity. It’s who you are as a company. You want to find the most effective way to tell your story in your branding—to let people know who you are, where your values lie, and what your mission is. Branding a company is a lot more than creating a cool logo. You have to craft the story.
Design works hand-in-hand with that story. Every piece you put out needs to tie into that narrative you’ve created. That could be as small as similar color schemes, consistent typefaces, and layout patterns. And it could be as big as how you speak to your customers. The essential part to branding is that your messaging and design must be tight and consistent.
Those are great insights. Thanks for sharing and being such a good sport.