As the founding designer and co-creator of Kinfolk magazine, Amanda Jane Jones—just a couple years out of college—articulated a restrained, mature aesthetic that helped define a movement in creativity. Her deference to the inherent power of photography and type made us immediate fans, and her design symbolically bridged the final years of Hoefler & Frere-Jones and the rise of Instagram.
As we came to find out, Amanda is not only a sublime designer but also an adept photographer and now publisher, having released three issues of her new magazine Define. When we designed our new Madison laptop and camera bag, we did so in reverence and recognition of a new class of young renaissance storytellers like Amanda, who move fluidly between disciplines, from their sketchpad to their camera to their laptop and back. We spoke to her about her creative journey and process on the eve of a temporary move to Geneva, Switzerland with her family; below is our full Q&A, as well as photos from her time in Geneva and weekend trips to Iceland.
ONA: What inspired you to start strike out on your own as a graphic designer and art director?
AJJ: Before working freelance full-time, I worked at a small firm where I was only allowed to pick the music one day a week. Reggae day was a favorite of the boss’s and after a couple of those, I quickly learned that I wanted to be in complete control of my work environment and job list. It gave me the drive to work hard after hours building up my freelance business until it reached the point where I was able to support myself and my husband (full-time student). I’ve been freelancing for almost 6 years and I don’t think I could ever go back to a desk job. I love the flexibility it gives me and the opportunity to work wherever I want is priceless.
ONA: What new projects are you currently working on after leaving Kinfolk?
AJJ: Aside from my regular design and art directing work, I recently launched a new magazine called Define. Each issue focuses on one word defined by a unique set of artists through various mediums. We launched our third issue – the Home issue – the first week of June.
ONA: What is your approach to design?
AJJ: I love simple and smart and clever design, but I also love to experiment. I generally get a lot of clients that come to me for a very specific look – or the “Kinfolk look” – but I love it when someone comes to me looking for something new.
ONA: How has travel inspired your creativity?
AJJ: Everywhere we travel, I keep the little bits of ephemera we find. Postcards, train tickets, bookmarks, museum pamphlets – I love seeing the different styles and typography of the regions we visit. Flea markets are crawling with inspiration. The booths that have the old stamps and maps are always my favorite.
ONA: How will your move to Geneva inspire new projects and inspiration?
AJJ: We’ve taken our daughter to Amsterdam and South Africa, but this will be the first time actually living abroad with both kids. I’m really excited to share this experience with them and rediscover Geneva through their eyes. My husband and I lived there before (pre-kids) and so I’m excited to return and find all the best parks and swimming spots and walking trails. I’m also very excited to meet new artists for Define. We’re hoping to collaborate on some stories and essays with different people as we travel.
ONA: Where else do you draw inspiration from and who has been a big contributor to your inspiration?
AJJ: I get a lot of inspiration from my book collection at home – I have so many books, old and new, that always help me when I’m in a design rut. I also get a lot of ideas when I’m out in nature – We live next to Lake Michigan, and sometimes all I need is a walk along the lakeshore to think up a design solution. One of my favorite artists is Maira Kalman – her work has inspired me for many, many years. I love her honesty and her whimsy.
ONA: Do you have a dream project that you’d like to tackle in the next five years?
AJJ: Honestly, starting Define kind of has been my dream project. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so I’m excited to see it continue! I’d also love to work with a museum. In college I worked in exhibition design and loved it. I think it would be great fun to work on large scale projects again with some of Chicago’s local museums. And lastly, I’ve always thought it would be fun to design clothing – kidswear or womenwear – but that’s just dreaming.
ONA: What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
AJJ: Be a sponge! Even when you don’t love where you’re working, try to learn as much as you can from those you work from. Make the best of your situation. I was an intern three times and once even while I was working full-time. The things I learned about running a business while interning are invaluable. I also always tell people to make time to design for yourself. It’s so hard to figure out your personal style when it’s always filtered by a client. They always have the final say. But if you set aside time to develop your own style and just have fun – that’s when I find I do some of my best work.
ONA: What are the 3 things that you can’t go anywhere without?
AJJ: I always either have my iPhone or my camera…just in case. You never know when you need to take a photo! I also always have my water bottle and….well, my diaper bag. I’m always with the kids!