Focus: Jimmy Carroll Interview

Focus: Jimmy Carroll Interview

Focus explores the creative talent within the climbing community.

Californian based climber and designer Jimmy Carroll has a unique, modern style. After growing up in Washington DC, he developed a style featuring bold colors and striking graphic design and has since worked for some of the world's best creative agencies including Anomaly and BBH. In the multi-platform age Carroll takes a modular approach to his work, creating designs that work whether on a billboard, T-shirt or social post. 

How did you first get into design?

I first got into design helping my mom with interior design projects growing up. I would pick out fabrics and help lay out rooms at her clients' homes. The first real design project of my own, though, was after I quit my finance job. A family friend was told that I was artistic and they asked me to help on a branding project. Back then, I didn't know how to use any of the Adobe Suite, so I drew almost everything by hand. I knew at that moment that I really loved what I was doing and wanted to devote my time towards improving my craft as a designer. 

How did you develop your style from there?

I had this teacher who told me, 'expose yourself to great work'. I thought it was a pretty ambiguous thing to say, but I immediately went to Rizzoli's in NYC after school let out and bought every book on design that I could find. I read about Louis Kahn, Mirko Borsche, Massimo Vignelli, Mies Van Der Rohe, Susan Szenasy and many more. That period of exploration to helped me find what appealed to me and what I wanted to emulate in my work.

How do you go about undertaking a design project from conception to completion? 

Great question. I have to say I place highest value on the concept phase. If you do your research, find out the client's needs and desires early on, the project always seems to fall into place quite nicely. The executional phase is the toughest for me because this is when you truly find out whether or not your ideas will solve the problem at hand. Every time I think something looks good on paper or in my head, it always tends to look a bit different once I bring it into the computer. So I have to wrestle with the computer until something comes out that the client and I will be happy with in the end. But that's why I think so many people are attracted to design. We get to solve problems for a living and make the world a more beautiful place.

Social coloring book for March For Our Lives 

Social coloring book for March For Our Lives 

Amongst your work the Color For Our Lives campaign really stands our as something different. How did it come about and what was your approach to it?

Color For Our Lives is probably be the most important work I have done, so far, in my career. We were approached by March For Our Lives with an open brief and had around two to three weeks to turn something around. We could have done posters, like some other agencies did, but it felt more powerful to just give these kids the tools the need to go out and make a difference. That's why we created the first Instagram coloring book. We made a number of protest templates so that anyone could screenshot them, color and then post them on their Instagram story. We didn't want it to be about us and I think we succeeded in that regard.

How do you approach designing in an age where branding in particular can appear across multiple platforms and products?

The first thing I focus on is modularity. In an era where, like you said, branding appears across an array of platforms, you need to make sure what you're working on is flexible. Beyond that, each iteration of what your working on needs to stay consistent throughout. It's sort of a bend, but don't break approach. Consistency is so important because it is easy to see a lot of brands get diluted these days. Either by big brands having multiple agencies working on the same stuff and not cross referencing each other or by small brands not having the foresight to see what they will need to account for in the future.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into design?

Take everyone's feedback with a grain of salt.

I had so many teachers, classmates, mentors telling me what my portfolio should look like and what sort of job I had to get out of school, but in the end you are the only one that's going to have to pull yourself out of bed and go to work every morning. Nobody is going to design your career for you. We're in a job landscape where you can live in a small ski town out of a van and have a flourishing design studio if you reach the right audience. You don't have to be in NYC or LA any more and that's really exciting from a creative point of view. 

You can follow Jimmy on Instagram here