An interview with Jon Contino

By Ed Vinicombe on Aug 22nd, 2013

Hey Jon, for those who are unaware would you care to introduce yourself?

My name is Jon and I love baseball. I also design, hand-letter, illustrate, art direct, consult, and run a clothing company. But I love baseball.

Designers you would recommend checking out?

There's an endless amount of designers I'd recommend checking out, but to name some of my favorites — Erik Marinovich, Dan Cassaro, Gavin Potenza, Liz Meyer, Alex Eben Meyer, and my new friend Sean Gallagher who is an amazing sign painter and is making the transition into the design world. He's the hardest to find, but the rest of them have a pretty amazing presence on the internet, so a simple Google search pop them up pretty quickly.

How is the New York lifestyle for a designer? Are there many opportunities for an aspiring artist?

You cannot beat New York when it comes to developing a designer's lifestyle. Luckily for me, I grew up here. My family's from here, we've all been raised here, so I kind of take it for granted, but it all comes very naturally. Hustle and bustle and chaotic streets are really normal for me, so I need a super fast pace to operate.
Here in New York, if you can't keep up with the pace you'll never make it, so my life has almost felt like it's been building since the day I was born to prepare me for my work as a designer in the greatest city in the world. If you live outside of New York and think moving here will make you a star, you're wrong. It will eat you up and spit you out. I've seen it a thousand times. This place is built for people who can not only handle pressure, but crave it. It's for people who are already decidedly passionate and need a place to let out all that raw emotion. I don't think any other city could handle this amount of people with this much character.

What has been your favourite project you've worked on this year?

Man, that's a great question. I think my absolute favorite from this year has been the identity design of the VCXC event for Nike. It was a series of logos, icons, typesets, and a big mural for this year long cross-country event that Nike is holding in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The people I got to work with at Nike were amazing and I just love the Bronx. The whole project was so raw and awesome; definitely one of my favorites this year, if not my whole career.

When starting a new project what is the first thing you do?

I always start with really rough sketches. I like to layout the composition in a really rudimentary way with a few pencil strokes.
Those rough sketches are probably the hardest part of any project. Once they're done and make sense, it's just a matter of coloring inside the lines.

Where do you go for inspiration when starting a new piece of work?

It really depends on the project and client. I have a serious vault of inspiring material that I keep in the studio, but I love talking to my wife about ideas, or my parents, or just getting out in the wild. I'm a really lucky person and surrounded by amazing people with the craziest and most unique personalities — I couldn't really ask for better inspiration than that.

Design essentials? (e.g. hardware, software)

With technology getting better and better, things get smaller and smaller, so I'd normally start off by saying a MacPro or iMac, but my new MacBook Air is a total beast and handles my work like a pro. Then of course all Staedtler pencils and erasers, Micron pens, Canon scanner/printer combo, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and an iPhone. I do all my organizing, inspiration collecting, etc on that thing. I need it to live.

Thoughts on the current London design scene?

I actually don't know much about the London design scene anymore. I remember being really interested in it in the early 2000s, but lately I haven't really paid much attention to it. I guess my focus has changed a bit over the years. What I do love out of the UK though is the magnificent Garbstore. I'm constantly impressed with not only their products and sense of design, but the way they manage their business as well. Super nice people too, some of the nicest I've met in the past few years.

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