Design Your Story: Interview with Jake Rossilli


Earlier this year I embarked on a rebranding project with my pal and co-worker Jake Rossilli.  Jake is a filmmaker and designer and as anyone who knows him would say, one rad human.  Since last Jan, we met at coffee shops, our homes, and pubs at all hours we could find outside of our work days, personal lives, and side projects to try and bring this thing to life. It initially stemmed from a desire to make a coffee table book about coffee shops (fun, right?) and instead we thought what might make more sense for us both right now would be to actually look under the hood and do some brand work on ourselves.  So I poked and prodded and asked him every question under the sun about his love for brand identity, perspective on design, how he got started, and what kinds of projects he wanted to work on. To say that our conversations around our creative passions were intense would be an understatement. When Jake reacts, he’s very quiet, deep in thought and processing what to say next. I am a jump on it talk about it right this instant kind of person so it was kind of a hilarious back and forth sometimes (ahem, pastries, coffee, beer…always helpful for such things).  Then he did the same to me…except for my photography and omg, was that hard to have the brand focus on me for a change. Colors? Mmm hmm, I like pretty much all of them.  Design style? Minimal and geometric but yet lots of bold brush strokes and organic textures like botanicals.  You see the challenge.   What came out of it is a brand identity I am so over the moon about (you can check it out here if you like) and a direction we can both map to in terms of where we’re headed next.  Given that this has been an entire year’s space of time there is no better way for me to share about this process than by asking Jake some questions about his process & inspiration, and how to design your own brand story. My favorite takeaway from our time during this whole brand adventure: Great design does the job better. Amen my friend.

We just went through our own personal branding exercise together. What was the most challenging part of the process (you can be honest) and what was the best part?

It’s always my mission to take a wide range of things and simplify them as much as possible, to concentrate them into something powerful. We both have complex and multifaceted work. There’s a lot of experience we are trying to bring. It’s really challenging to create branding that encompasses all of that. I also had to design outside my comfort zone with less clean lines and more ink to page. Techniques I don’t normally use. Having confidence in that was difficult. Difficult but rewarding. Pushing yourself is never comfortable. Looking at my own work from a big picture perspective was super hard too. What’s the goal of all of this? It was tough to be honest and objective.

Let’s say a client comes to you for logo design. What would you want them to bring to the table at the start of the project?

I always feel like I need to get to know them. Can we sit and have coffee? Tell me the “why” of your work, your business. What are you and your company all about. What keeps you doing it? Why did you start? I need to find the story behind everything. That’s what fuels great design.

How do you know when it’s time for a refresh on a brand identity? Are there some telltale signs?

If an identity no longer represents the company behind it. We grow and change as people and there are these wake up call moments in life where who you used to be doesn’t match who you are now. The same thing happens with brands. Time and experience creates change and the company outgrows the identity. Now you find yourself wearing the same clothes you wore in high school but you’re not that person anymore. You need a new wardrobe that represents you properly.

I’ve been incredibly inspired by how you moved to a new city and found a creative community. How did you find people to connect with?

It was a lot like online dating. “Hey your work is cool. I’m trying to do cool work too. Wanna get coffee and talk about our favorite things?” I had to reach out ALOT. I tried to get a pulse on the creative work going on in the city through social and portfolio sites. Then I just leaped. Took the first step, messaged people, asked around. It worked. I made some incredible friends who inspire me creatively and are just all around good humans.

Your family is full of some of the most spirited women (big and small) I’ve ever met. How do you pass on your passion for creativity to your daughters? How does your wife inspire you?

It sort of goes the other way. They pass their passion on to me. Have you ever seen a little girl tell you a story about a drawing she made. There’s crazy passion and creativity in there. I just try to encourage them to let it all out. I make dumb jokes and make up poorly thought out stories. If I’m silly and weird then they sort of have unspoken permission to let all their weirdness out.

Where can people find you?

My never finished site – or Instagram – @jakerossilli


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