Meet Jason Conway – the winner of the #QXPContest and a passionate graphic designer with extensive experience in magazine publishing. With over two decades of creativity under his belt, Jason has seen the evolution of design tools and software first-hand.
In this Q&A article, the first in a new series featuring our wonderful QuarkXPress user community, we delve into Jason’s fascinating background from a successful content design career. We also gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that graphic designers face and how QuarkXPress can overcome them. Read on to learn from Jason’s wealth of knowledge and expertise in the field of graphic design.
How did you get started in the world of design and magazine publishing?
“My first design job was in 1997 as a graphic designer for an international kiln manufacturer. It took 3 years after graduating with a degree to gain a design role. I responded to a newspaper advert, and in the interview, I realised that the interviewer didn’t know what graphic design was, but I got the job and loved it. It involved Darwing exploded views of kilns and kiln burners, using traditional drawing boards, so my actual role was a draughtperson.
When I learned that an Apple Mac and printer were in storage in the warehouse for being faulty, I took the Mac apart and cleaned it and got it to work. This random opportunity was the day I became the graphic designer for the company.
I started out designing adverts in trade magazines and soon became a marketing assistant. I was given the responsibility of managing the photographic archive and also went onsite to photograph kiln installations. I even redesigned the reception area.
This was not the traditional route into design employment, by far, but it’s an indicator that taking opportunities when they appear can be hugely beneficial. Also, that creative thinking and self-direction are valuable traits.
During my freelance career, I have designed magazine adverts, magazines and a range of print materials for clients. In 2020, during the lockdown in the UK, I took the chance to start my own art magazine as a way to bring creative inspiration to people.
As a supporter of the arts and a published poet, I wanted to curate a magazine with a social and environmental impact that supports creative talent and encourages people to make a positive difference. Edition 10 is published digitally, and I am constantly inspired by the talents of others.”
What is it about graphic design that you enjoy the most?
“I’d say that it’s the experimentation I relish the most, as the creative process is most fluid when I am creating ‘in the moment’ and seeing what happens. Projects that involve creative flexibility, such as logo design, book covers or illustrations, allow me to explore as I go. Of course, I have the non-creative aspects of being a freelancer that are equally valid, but I love to play with ideas.”
I’d say that it’s the experimentation I relish the most, as the creative process is most fluid when I am creating ‘in the moment’ and seeing what happens.
What are some challenges you’ve found with graphic design, and how does QuarkXPress help you overcome them?
“One of the key challenges for me is changes in technology and the ever-widening skill set that graphic designers need to consider. Graphic design is now divided into a range of skills, but in essence, and for me, the graphic design process remains the same.
The benefit of being a loyal QuarkXPress user is that, even though a range of new features have been included, the experience remains the same. I also prefer to stick with one or two applications when working on a project, and when designing the magazine editions, I tend to stay with QuarkXPress, rather than switch over to Illustrator for vector elements. I like to push what is possible within the application from a creative viewpoint.”
Can you tell us why you love using QuarkXPress so much and how it differs from other apps?
“As in the previous question, being a loyal user means I have invested time into the application and learned how to get the most from it. QuarkXPress has become a good friend, so to speak, in that I feel at ease when using it, almost second nature, so the creative part comes naturally.
I have used InDesign in the past when working for agencies, but as that is quite different to QuarkXPress, I do not wish to invest much time with that application. The opposite is true of Photoshop, which remains my go-to image editing application. I see QuarkXPress as a reliable friend with flair, that’s become an integral part of my creativity and career.”
I see QuarkXPress as a reliable friend with flair, that’s become an integral part of my creativity and career.
Can you tell us about a design project you’ve worked on in the last 1-2 years that you are especially proud of?
“Sure, Steel Jackdaw magazine is a passion of mine, so I am sharing some images from one edition. The layout is intentionally clean and uncluttered for both clarity and readability. The cover image shared is a 3D visualisation of a front cover artwork I created for a previous edition.
Also, I have to include my winning illustration for the #QXPContest. I loved experimenting with the brief and interpreting how I love QuarkXPress and showing the possibilities of the application.”
I’d also be lost without the publishing layout tools I use to create each magazine edition.
As the winner of the QXP competition, we’d love to know what your inspiration was behind your contest entry?
“I wanted to create something different and visually striking, to illustrate what can be achieved within the application. I also wanted to go back to the essence of the application as a Desktop Publishing tool. So, elements in the design hint at text, crop marks, boxes, prepress, CMYK and the ‘X’ in the application name.
What I really enjoyed was playing around with filters to push the concept further. I also wanted there to be colour variations and not just to keep to a limited palette. The overlaid elements with filters applied, really give the illustration a punch and vibrancy. It also shows how I relate to the application as a tool that is much more than desktop publishing to me.”
Is there any feature or capability of QuarkXPress that you can’t live without? And why is that?
“Good question, and currently, it’s the filters that excite me. Those alone make me want to tackle projects differently and experiment with my visual artist and illustrator’s head on. I’d also be lost without the publishing layout tools I use to create each magazine edition. As I have mentioned before, QuarkXPress is more than desktop publishing to me, so in the most basic sense, I would be lost without QuarkXPress.”
And finally, what advice would you offer somebody who is very early in their design and digital publishing career?
“Experimentation is key, I feel. Learning how to get the most out of an application but also to push its boundaries, can only boost creative content and output. Equally important to remember is that applications are tools, and creativity lies within us and must be nurtured and refined.
So, seeing inspiration from other sources is essential. I’m a big advocate of the power of nature to provide endless inspiration and clarity, as one example. As designers, we must monitor culture and trends and adapt to them where necessary. For me, design can be influenced by fashion, film, music and the arts, all of which have a rich and diverse cultural history.
As someone that is a multidisciplinary creative, I recommend nurturing an artistic hobby. As graphic design is a digital process today, I feel that creative expression must be explored in physical application. That ‘hands-on’ creative flow, in my opinion, feeds perfectly into the creative soul and is another way for us to interpret the world around us.
I learned graphic design back when hand-drawn elements were created and scanned, light boxes were used to trace, and the cutting and pasting of content to create physical mockups. So, I recommend keeping the fine art tradition alive that links back to the artistic origin of graphic design.
To get the most from what we do, we have to learn the rules first, in order to break them effectively.
I would also say to early-stage creatives, to put their trust in their abilities and the creative process. Rather than being rigid, try to look at the project from a range of angles, not just the most obvious or traditional. I see experimentation as a key part of being a designer, so breaking the rules and challenging the narrative, can be incredibly rewarding.
However, to get the most from what we do, we have to learn the rules first, in order to break them effectively. And finally, embrace logic and artistry, by listening to both your head and your heart when designing and be willing to let the process guide you.”
Thanks for reading! You can find and connect with Jason on LinkedIn here. We’d love to hear from you, so let us know what you liked or what you would like to read more of in this series? And, if you would like to be featured in an upcoming post, get in touch! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org