We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeff Rogers and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeff, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I had been working as a designer and art director in various design studios and ad agencies for about 8 or 9 years and had been in NYC for about 3 years when I decided to jump off the cozy cruise ship of “regular” employment into the frightening and uncertain waters of self-employment. I had learned years before that my success was entirely in my own hands and that the perfect job wasn’t the thing that was going to make me get to where I wanted to be, which was just to be really really good. It took a LONG time to learn that lesson but when I did, what that meant for me was to always be working on personal projects that interested me outside of whatever job I was working. In those first several years, there were a couple projects that I got excited about at my job but I was WAY more excited about the self initiated projects I was doing after work hours. Once I understood that my growth and success were totally up to me and not the perfect job, I started to make some progress with my work. My wife and I decided to move to NYC and we drove in a few days after 2008 began. About 6 week later I landed a dream job at SpotCo creating posters for Broadway theatre, but I kept making work on the side. I was more fulfilled at work that I ever had been but I kept working on those side projects, and putting the work out on social media (back then it was Flickr… pre Instagram) until big clients like Nike, The New York Times and others started calling me to do work in my style for “actual money”! I realized after several years of working at SpotCo, that I needed a change in order to keep moving forward. I believe it is important to take risks, follow my gut and jump into situations that are new because those are the situations with the most potential for growth, tho they are usually uncomfortable! So I took all the experience I had gained over the years, working with amazing people and also knowing what kind of work I wanted to do, and started my own studio in 2011 (which, at first, was a desk in the corner of my tiny apartment) and I haven’t looked back!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work as it is today has come from a really wide range of experiences and just combining a bunch of things that really interest me. I use a lot of experiences I’ve had over the years like music, painting, typography, graphic design, etc. and eventually those things kinda naturally combine to form a specific voice/style/process. I think it is important to have many experiences in life so that you can learn who you are and what your specific language of making is. For example, I feel like if I had only spent all my time drawing and painting when I was in high school and not spent hours and hours in the practice room improving my skill as a musician, I would not have tapped into some very important lessons that have helped and guided me as a designer. I may have moved up in the ranks of the design industry much faster if I had only focused on design, but then what? I’m glad I took the meandering route because now I think I can go much farther that I could have if I just focused on one discipline. Same goes for other experiences and things I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on, like trying to be a good husband and father, rock climbing and being outside in nature, digging deep into the history and practice of typography… everything is connected and will shape your creative “voice”. Creativity is all about finding relationships between things that seem totally unrelated. The ways we combine those things is what makes our voice unique. Now I will say that there is a difference between trying things and giving up when it gets hard and finding joy and fulfilment from pushing past discomfort and/or barriers and really moving forward in a certain discipline or activity.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Coming back to Dallas after being in NYC for the last decade was a huge and wonderful change (for the most part). I have had several friends from NYC come and visit and it’s fun to show them around. Obviously, people from NYC think it is the best and nothing can touch their city but I have to say most people that visit are seriously considering moving here on the plane ride home. HA. Just the contrast of being able to drive around and actually find a parking spot is like SUPER amazing. So specifically for visitors from NYC, I like to do things like hang out at my house (which is always a nice change for NYCers since we live like KINGS now and have certain luxuries like a back yard and more than one bathroom, and pay less for our mortgage than our little tiny Queens apartment), eat Tex-Mex and BBQ for every meal, and show them my studio in Bishop Arts which is maybe my favorite area of Dallas. Some fave restaurants around are Mi Dia from Scratch in Grapevine (near my house) and Lockhart BBQ in Bishop Arts among other great places to eat down here. My family has a lake house down near Corsicana so being out on the lake, cooking great food on the grill and sipping on homemade margaritas is my favorite. (We had a few NYC friends visit the lake recently and they didn’t ever want to go back home.) So I am still very much in that NYC to Texas transition and it’s kinda the simple things that make life awesome these days.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The first person that comes to mind is my old boss and friend, Gail Anderson. She was the creative director at SpotCo while I was there working as a designer and probably my first and only real mentor in my career. She is a legend in our field and I will always feel very lucky to have gotten to work with her. I really would not be doing what I am doing without that experience.
Portrait photo by Skyler Fike