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Interview with Adam Jarvis of Vectorvault

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Read Time: 12 min

Today we chat with Adam Jarvis. For all you vector fans you're likley familiar with Vectorvault, which hosts a whole lot of vector resources and inspiration. Learn more about that site, as well as Adam's design experience, how he works with creative agencies, and how running a design blog has helped him make connections and advance his carreer - all while sharing a love for vector graphics with a robust and diverse web audience.

QHello Adam, please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what training do you have, and how did you get started in the field?

My name is Adam Jarvis. I'm from Toronto, Canada, where I currently work as a Creative Director. I went to The Ontario College of Art and Design and paid my way, working as a waiter and graphic designer. Both of which I was mediocre at.

I always knew that I wanted to be in a creative field. I just wasn't quite sure about how to get there. So I just continued to work "twice as hard for half as much" until the jobs started to find me.

Today, I am happily married with two kids. Life is pretty terrific. It's hectic, but I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm happy.


QHow long did it take you to get a foothold in the industry and establish some regular clients? Did you get experience working at agencies before going freelance? What percentage of your work still comes through working with ad agencies?

Over the course of about 16 years, I worked my way up from one advertising agency to the next. I put in some long hours and made some tremendous mistakes. At some point, I ended up as an Associate Creative Director at The Hive, for Miller Genuine Draft.

This position really opened my eyes in terms of what it would take to build a brand. Working on MGD was an education. But it was also a platform for me to elevate my portfolio and try my hand at new things like television, radio and interactive. All of which I enjoyed in one way or another.

When I finally branched off into freelance work, my confidence level was up. Even if I had never tried something before, I felt that I had earned the right to try.

Today, about 50% of my work comes from agencies who are either overloaded with work or just need a new perspective. Every assignment is new and interesting.


QYou have such a versatile portfolio, where do vector graphics fit into what you offer clients? What are your favorite aspects of working with vectors?

Thanks. Vector art has played a major role in my life. And not just because of my involvement with Vectorvault. It goes back even further than that.

I once worked with a Creative Director named Patrick Weir, who insisted I design poster layouts using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop together. I resisted as long as I could out of fear. I wasn't very comfortable with the application and did not see the benefit.

But it turns out that he was right (don't tell him that). Photoshop and Illustrator work like peanut butter and jelly. And as my familiarity with the two rose, so did my speed. I began to fall in love with Illustrator and the marvelous things that it could do with vector art.

I have come to depend on the precision and accuracy that vector art provides. It makes things move faster in my world and ultimately easier to get to the finish line. There is a certain joy that I get from working with the vector file format that pixels just can't seem to fulfill. What can I say? - I love working with vectors. And from the work I've done with Vectorvault, I can confidently say "I'm not alone".


QOf the various design services you offer, which are you most drawn to? Or are you more excited when you work on campaigns that cross over disciplines?

I love conceptual work. When the phone rings and the the client on the other end of the line wants something that has never been seen before - I get excited. I guess that's what defines most artists. The task of creating something for the first time.

I love presentations, and creative illustration assignments as well. Any chance to challenge my own creativity is what I live for.


QHow often do you collaborate on your client projects and in your professional work? What do you find interesting about collaborating with other artists and designers?

Part of working in an industry based on communication, is the need to work with others. I love teaming up with clever individuals. It brings added texture to an assignment, but it also makes it more enjoyable for me. I love working with teams.

Anyone can work alone. But there is a certain satisfaction I get from allowing other perspectives to influence the final project.

Letting go is not as easy as it may sound. You need to pick your battles and combine all of the ingredients in just the right amounts in order to make it delicious. In the end, sharing the credit is far more satisfying. You'll also find that those same team members remember you and call you again. Isn't that more important than self-serving the expansion of your portfolio? I think so.


QTo what extent do design and formal principles impact your work? How much is guided by playful creativity, experimentation, and discovery? Is there anything off the computer that you find essential to your artistic process?

I love art in general. Painting, drawing, advertising, animation - all of it. I guess it's safe to say that a little bit each finds their way into my work. I feed my appetite for beautiful visuals constantly. But I also try and keep my technical skills in step with that hunger. Somewhere in the middle it all seems to melt into my own style.

I love music. It also plays a big part in my creative process. Depending on my mood, and the kind of work I am tackling, I choose music that compliments the moment. That goes double for videos. I eat through movies and television seasons like potato chips.

It's more about the right amount of stimuli. I can't afford to get pulled into a 6 hour marathon of Mad Men if it will cost me a deadline.


QWhere do you search for inspiration for your creativity, do you have any creative blocks. If yes, how do you get over them?

That's where I am lucky. The Vectorvault Community is a bottomless well of talent and creativity. Everyday, creative individuals from around the world interact with the brand in one form or another. It gives me an energized perspective on my day. One that I try my best to transfer back into the work that I do.

Whenever I am stuck on an idea, I simply roll through the blog, run a couple of searches on the marketplace or just spend some time adding comments on any number of beautiful images in our social media network.

I find when I get involved, three things happen. Other people get "activated", I get inspired and Vectorvault seems to grow in some fashion. It's like having my own library of design books to flip through.


QCould you tell us about the video projects you did for Miller Genuine Draft?

In total, I worked on 5 Internationally-aired television spots. All within a 5 and a half year period. I'm not going to lie - it was really great. But it also gave me some insight into just how challenging it is to bring a concept to broadcast. Especially for multiple markets.

I learned a lot about teamwork and the experience humbled me. You really come to understand your limitations and strengths when you are put into a position that not only requires creativity, but compromise.

The one that I am the most proud of, is an animated spot called Olivia (named after my daughter) for The Miller Music Tour. I had a chance to illustrate, and then ultimately team up with an animation group (Topix, Toronto) to bring this concept to life. I really enjoyed it, and I'm very happy that I had a chance to work on it. I have a whole new respect for animators.


QWhat are the four important business lessons you've learned that beginning designer's should take to heart?

  • Be on time: Even if everyone else is late. Punctuality separates you from those with boring conversations about traffic and excuses. Time is money. Never waste either. Especially when it belongs to someone else.
  • Be dependable: Do exactly what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. Be the person that people can count on and they will do exactly that.
  • Be kind: Never mistake politeness for weakness. Manners are always in style. It shows class and defines you as an individual who is easy to work with and enjoyable to have around. Never be afraid to stand up for yourself or your ideas. Just do it with a smile and always make friendly eye contact.
  • Be generous with your knowledge: Don't be afraid to share your "tricks" with other designers. Some are under the false impression that doing so gives the competition the upper hand and ultimately makes you less special. That's false.

Sharing your knowledge is your responsibility. You don't own it. Pass it on, and you will earn a sense of loyalty from those you share it with. Just make sure that when you do teach something, the condition is that they pass it on freely as well. Sounds corny, I know. But after 16 years, I can honestly say - it works.


QCould you tell us about Vectorvault? What are the main highlights of the site? How has it grown and where do you see it in five years?

That's a hard one to completely define for me. Partly because it has changed so much over 7 years. I can tell you that it is a major part of my life, and along with over 22,000 members worldwide, I'm excited to see where it is heading.

At its core, Vectorvault has always strived to be the ultimate resource for vector art. It's not a role that I take lightly either. In the beginning, vector art was an interest of mine. Over time, that interest swelled into a passion. It seemed the more I put into it, the more creativity seemed to magnify from it. I guess you could say, I was taken along for the ride.

Vectorvault is made up of a blog, newsletter, glossary, extensive link directory, free vector resource listing, daily vector download, and a vector marketplace where we sell Vectorvault vectors, art prints and vector packs.

Today, our social media network has swelled. Vectorvault has grown into a brand that really stands for something. Something that cannot entirely be expressed by statistics or revenue. Individuals just like me, around the world, have channeled their own passions back into our community. It has become my responsibility to keep in step with the needs of this digital art movement. And, I'm not going to lie - it's not easy.

But every day, I get up, turn on the computer and see what the "little elves" have made over night and left for me to see. Then, I do whatever I can to tell the world about it.

So, what's in it for me? I guess you could say, I get the same kind of satisfaction that a gardener gets when he looks out on blooming flowers. I did not make them grow. I just made sure that they were looked after. Watching them grow is in itself its own reward.


QHow has running a popular vector blog and interacting with artists improved your design career? Have you made any key connections through this?

My own design career has certainly advanced from Vectorvault. It's given me a forum to showcase my own work, but also allowed me to rub "virtual shoulders" with some amazing people. 15 years ago, this was impossible for me. Today, I feel tapped into a stream of energetic individuals who are deciding the trends for tomorrow in their own areas of interest. It's a resource that I happily share. It's "open source inspiration" for anyone inclined enough to pay attention to it.


QWhat are your plans for the future? Any creative work coming up, or that you're currently working on, that you're excited about?

I'm just wrapping up a branding project for a feature film called "RasTa - A Soul's Journey". It's a documentary about RasTafari, starring Donisha Prendergast, Grand daughter of Bob Marley.

Vectorvault has connected me with a talented team of film makers who have allowed me to bring the vision of this film to life. I feel very honored to work on it and it challenged me to put my skills to the test. When the film debuts at The Toronto Film Festival this year, it will mark the launch of an international festival tour that will take my design with it. What could be more exciting?


QThanks for the interview Adam! Is there any parting advice that you'd like to give aspiring illustrators and designer who are working hard to grow professionally?

Thank you. As far as advice goes, I feel strange giving it. Especially because I could certainly use a good dose myself. So instead, I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

"Never before in History, has information been so abundant. Yet wisdom, so illusive."

I hope that you find creativity and inspiration in the small things that surround you in your life.


Adam on the Web

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