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Joanne O’Neill / Illustrator, September 2011 Vhcle Magazine Issue 7, design

We appreciate your simple aesthetics. Can you tell us a bit about your design process? 

First and foremost, I close my laptop and find a pencil and paper! I don't keep many sketchbooks. I obsess over keeping them neat and tidy, but it's important to communicate your ideas before you start getting fancy on the computer. Usually the tighter my sketches are, the better the end result. And I always start out in black and white. Colour is great, but black and white is greater still.

Sometimes it's difficult to get started on a project, and brainstorm design ideas. How do you get inspired and stay motivated?
My biggest motivation is definitely other designers, whether it's my peers, someone I work with, or someone I admire from afar. I definitely have a competitive streak (friendly, but competitive) and envy is a great motivator! I've always tried to surround myself with people that are older and wiser, people that I look up to and who I can learn from - that really helps me to focus. And design is simply what I love. I take pleasure in it all and I know that the harder I push the better I will become. I have a long way to go, but I'm enjoying the journey. 

What's been your main source of inspiration recently as a designer? 
Recently, I've started going back to Jasper Johns' work. When I was younger and doing Fine Art in secondary school, I was hugely into anyone and anything that incorporated letterforms without really understanding why I liked it. There's an air of innocence about it - about the shapes of letters and what they mean or don't mean, regardless of whether or not you can read them. Lettering is my one true love, so people like Herb Lubalin, Doyald Young and Alison Carmichael will forever be inspirational to me. Anything concerning wood type or that looks like it came out of the American Old West is a huge weakness of mine, too. 

Although you're originally from Oxford in the UK, what made you want to live in New York? Does each city have an impact on your work when you're there? 
I often get asked this question and I wish I had a better answer than 'I just did', but that's really all there is to it. I moved around a lot growing up, so it seemed natural to pick and move to start the next chapter in my life and this is where I wanted to be. The UK is my home and the attachment I have to it is unlike any other, but not a day goes by that I don't remind myself of how lucky I am to be here. I definitely work harder when here in NYC. Going to school here means there's always that feeling of "I should be working!" And the whole city moves at such an extreme pace, it's hard not to get caught up in it all. 

You've recently started working as a freelance designer. What piece of work are you most proud of / enjoyed working on the most creatively so far? 
I recently created an illustrated book based on a song by the band Young Knives. It was the hardest I have ever worked, but the project brief was so open ended that it was also the most fun I've ever had. 

When you are not blogging, designing or otherwise behind the computer, what do you enjoy doing to step away for a while? 
Anything that doesn't involve looking at a screen is a welcome change! I love wandering around the city and exploring new parts of it with friends, and I'll always go along to any talk or exhibition that the Type Directors Club ( puts on. Or, sometimes it's nice to do nothing at all. 
What's your favorite drink? 
Nothing beats a tall Blue Moon.
2011: Joanne O’Neill / Illustrator
vhcle issue 7
Joanne (Jo) O'Neill is a designer living in New York City. Originally from the UK, she is currently a Communication Design student at Parsons The New School for Design and has previously interned within the department of Creative Services at MTV Networks. She enjoys hand lettering, wood type, iced tea, tattoos, winter months and Morrissey.
See Joanne O’Neill’s featured work in Vhcle Magazine Issue 7