Like most graphic design professionals working in the field of advertising, Jon Vernon draws inspiration from the world around him to inform the art that he creates for his clients. But nine years into his career in the industry, he felt as though he had hit a ceiling – and found a solution via Full Sail University’s online Media Design Master of Fine Arts degree program.
“I was working as a Senior Flash Designer/Design Lead at Expedia, and I felt like I just wanted to know more about the business side of things,” says Jon. “I had been on design teams that executed campaigns, but I never knew why they wanted to do it or how what we did was going to impact business. The MFA program helped me learn more about the reasoning behind things. You want to have killer creative work, but also justification about why you’re doing it in the first place.”
About four months into the degree program, Jon was tapped by AT&T to become the Art Director of their Interactive Design & Advertising Team. Working as part of the company’s huge infrastructure, Jon helps lead his team to create site campaigns like AT&T.com as well as external advertising efforts such as banners and YouTube pre-roll ads.
The IDeA team works closely with AT&T’s business owners, which gave Jon the perfect opportunity to apply even some of the earliest concepts that he learned in Full Sail’s Media Design program in his day-to-day interactions with his co-workers. Working for a company as huge as AT&T definitely comes with a unique set of challenges – not the least of which is maintaining the look and messaging of the brand.
“Obviously, anything we do needs to look like it came from the same designer. We have a huge website of brand standards that we need to adhere to. It is a bit of a balancing act,” Jon says. “You want to be creative and put things out there that are eye-catching and different, but at the same time, one of the realizations that I had early in my career is that the work I’m doing isn’t for me. It’s not Jon Vernon’s work, it’s AT&T’s work, so I need to make sure that whatever I do fits into their world.”
Never one to shy away from exploring other creative worlds, Jon also runs his own company, Shiny Owl Media. Catering to smaller companies in need of media design and brand/identity strategy was an idea that he developed while enrolled in the MFA program.
“There are way more companies than anyone could ever imagine. Smaller companies can’t afford to go to a gigantic agency and have a campaign made to get their names out there,” he says. “I saw a great opportunity to come in and help them develop some good creative and marketing.”
Although he does still pursue some art projects like photography and 3D modeling for fun on his own, Jon’s true passion is in helping companies connect with the rest of the world through that same kind of creative marketing. And when it comes to finding inspiration for that facet of the industry, the resources are abundant.
“The media landscape never ceases to amaze me. Through blogs and galleries I visit frequently, I’ve gotten more involved in typography and other areas I never really thought about as part of the greater creative universe. I make it a point to check those sites out regularly to see what people are doing out there and then try to implement or think about how I can incorporate it into what I do,” says Jon. “I may see a piece of art that I may not be able to incorporate into what I do for AT&T, but maybe I can take a concept or even how they arrange their lettering and use that as the foundation of a different element? I’m always trying to keep the creative juices flowing, whether it’s for work, my own business, or just for the sake of doing it.”