Interview with Joe Valenzuela, Senior Graphic Designer at Hickory Farms

Interview with Joe Valenzuela, Senior Graphic Designer at Hickory Farms
Last Updated: August 06, 2017

"Good designers borrow, great designers steal."

It's always the season for Hickory Farms -- and Joe Valenzuela is one of the designers who brings the beloved charcuterie brand to life. He sat down with DesignRush to share why he pursued design, how he approaches the creative process with new clients, and his top advice for other graphic designers hoping to grow in their career.

DesignRush: What inspired you to become a designer?

Joe Valenzuela: I was that kid that was constantly drawing, coloring, painting, etc. Needless to say, I've always been a creative individual. I knew when I grew up I wanted to do something that allowed me to use my creativity and make a living. I love all things design and technology. Graphic design just seemed to be the perfect marriage of the two. It also requires absolutely no math. No math!

DR: Take us through your creative process.

JV: I love meeting with clients and getting to know them. Every project is different, as is every client. Understand how they think, and what it is they are ultimately looking to accomplish. It's also a great opportunity to see if you are the right fit for one another. It's almost like a date. When I start a new project, I almost always go to Pinterest and create a board. It's a great tool for keeping my random ideas all in one place. I lost count of how many secret boards I've created over the last few years.

DR: What are some projects of your own that you are particularly proud of and why?

JV: As a kid, my idol was pop singer Martika. As an adult, I got to redesign her official website last year. If you would have told my 12-year-old self that, I would have fainted. At my previous job, I had the privilege of working on our annual conference. Everything from the logo, microsite, social media, and overall branding. It was a lot of hard work, but something that I am very proud of. Another fun project I got to do was for a tribute party for the late Mexican singer/songwriter Juan Gabriel. The National Museum of Mexican Art threw a tribute party last fall and I was asked to design the flyer, and do the overall branding. It was a fun night had by all in attendance.

DR: Where do you find inspiration in your day-to-day life?

JV: Everywhere from the grocery store to pop culture to my fellow commuters on the subway. You never know what is going to inspire you. I have random notes and photos on my phone that I eventually go back and reference.

DR: What designers or brands speak to you?

JV: I'm obsessed with The Design Kids. It's a group of designers from all over the world (many are students) and this site showcases their work. I also tend to find lots of new brands and designers on Instagram. That's kind of become my go-to for discovering new work and inspiration.

DR: You have the day off. What can we find you doing?

JV: Catching up on sleep! I also love going to flea markets with my boyfriend. You'll probably find me exploring my neighborhood as I love trying new restaurants and supporting local businesses. But to be honest you'd probably find me on a dance floor. I love dancing! It's my favorite stress reliever.

DR: Is there anything that helps you beat “designer’s block”?

JV: Going for a walk. It helps me clear my mind. If that's not an option, I find talking to my fellow creatives always helps. Often you are so wrapped up in what you are working on, that you need that outside perspective. Whether it's to tell you that what you're working on looks like sh*t, is amazing, or offer up some suggestions that you would have never thought of! If all else fails a nice glass of wine.

DR: What motto motivates you in your work?

JV: I had this amazing professor my senior year at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design by the name of Michael Gibson. He told us "Good designers borrow, great designers steal." It has stuck with me all these years. At the end of the day, all creatives are inspired by one another whether you choose to realize it or not.

DR: Any final thoughts, comments, or words of wisdom you’d like to share with someone in the industry?

JV: Don't take yourself or your work too seriously all the time.

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