Ally Spotlight: John Conley
We at Creative Allies have been fans of John Conley (known on CA as jc_conley) since he submitted the winning poster design for Ben Sollee’s Bicycle Tour shortly after joining Creative Allies last summer. Since then, John’s work has been a welcome staple on the site, with striking submissions for Feist, Bell X1, Bassnectar, Counting Crows and many others.
We contacted John to learn more about his background and how he developed the elements of his signature style of geometric arrangements, rich textures and smart use of color. It’s not surprising that, like many Allies, he’s also a musician and thrives in the overlap of music and art. Read on to get to know one of Creative Allies’ star contributors.
Creative Allies: How did you come up with your winning Ben Sollee poster design?
John Conley: I wanted the Ben Sollee poster to be simple and clean. I started out sketching bicycle parts and came up with the idea to make letter forms with the bike chain. This lead to the “S” bike chain in the final version of the poster.
CA: What’s your design process, in a nutshell?
JC: Even though most of my work is finished on computer, I always begins with my sketchbook or by going out and taking pictures for reference. I’ll start by writing down ideas and making quick sketches. Then I’ll make a few thumbnail sketches and block out where the type will be and set up a grid.
After I have a good idea about the design, I’ll open up Adobe Illustrator. I usually set all the type and create the graphics and shapes in Illustrator first. Then I import the vectors into Photoshop. That’s where I add texture and other photographic elements. I make all my own texture from scanned drawings, papers and photos.
I take a lot of pics using my iPhone. I use the Hipstamatic and pro HDR apps. I’ve found so many great texture just walking around.
CA: What is your background in art and design?
JC: I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a kid. Four years ago, a friend was taking a beginning Adobe Illustrator class
at Sacramento City College over the Summer. She asked me if I want to take the class too. I loved the class! I started buying design
books and signed up for more classes the following semester. I had some amazing teachers at SCC. One of my teachers, Missy Anapolsky
owns a studio called Circle Design. A couple years ago I had the opportunity to intern there over the Summer. It was a great experience, and I also took first place in the student design show in my last semester.
In 2011 I started working freelance doing design and illustration. I’m slowly starting to get work by word of mouth and through friends. I do a lot of gig poster for bands in Sacramento and for friends putting on shows. Last year I designed a new logo for the San Francisco Indie Pop Fest. I recently started my own business in 2012 working under the name “blkbrix”.
Most recently, I designed the logo for a new Sacramento based record label Test Pattern. I’ve designed the covers for their first four releases including my band Desario’s new CD “Mixer”. I’ve also illustrated the cover of recording magazine Tape Op. Through the magazine editor I was introduced to the band Girls & Boys. I designed their CD cover, logo and website. Plus a few posters, a sticker and business card.
Other recent work includes a logo and poster for Bacon Fest Sacramento and two Sacramento Beer Week events. I found out a few weeks ago that I will have 3 pieces in the Feb issue of CMYK magazine. I’m super excited about that! My latest project will be doing the design work for the Sacramento Electronic Music Festival.
JC: I live in the downtown/midtown area of Sacramento, California. My design style is very geometric and pattern based. I’m inspired by building and lines and shapes. I spend a lot of time walking around the city, so I guess I’m subconsciously influenced by my location.
CA: What are your favorite types of creative projects to work on? What other hobbies, interests or specialties do you have?
JC: My favorite creative/design projects are music related. This is what lead me to Creative Allies. I’m also a musician. My current band is called Desario. I’ve also been in the groups Holiday Flyer and California Oranges, who’ve released four albums each on Darla Records.
CA: Who are some of your favorite visual artists and musicians?
JC: My favorite record labels would have to be 4AD, Factory, Sub Pop, Teenbeat, Creation, Blue Note and Verve, both for musical output and design aesthetic. Artists/designers I like: Peter Seville (Factory), Vaughn Oliver (4AD) Mark Robinson (Teenbeat).
As for as favorite bands go: The Feelies, New Order, Unrest, The National rank really high, 90′s Brit Pop and of course shoegaze! I love Ride, Lush, My Bloody Valentine and Moose.
CA: Are you active in any other competitive or non-competitive art/design communities online or offline? What magazines, web sites, blogs, etc. do you look to for inspiration?
JC: Some magazines I like are Communication Arts, Print, CMYK, IDN, Computer Arts (UK), Slanted and 3×3. Websites I like for inspiration are Gig Posters, Lost Type, Swiss Miss, Grain Edit, Dribbble.
I recently set up a Society 6 account and I’ll have prints available there soon.
CA: Any feedback from your experience with Creative Allies?
JC: Creative Allies has been a great learning tool for me. It’s really made my design work stronger. Learning how to read a creative brief and work within guidelines
is an invaluable skill that every designer should have. I’ve also used it to learn to manage my time. Lately I’ve been giving myself a time limit for the CA projects and trying to stick to it.
I’m really excited about the latest contest to design a poster for The Shins. When I was in Holiday Flyer, we opened for them in Seattle. James Mercer complimented us on our vocal harmonies and song writing. That meant a lot to us.