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Jack Anderson founded Hornall Anderson in 1982 with the belief that if you invest in people and clients, great work will flow from there. Twenty-nine years later, the company's eclectic brain trust boasts a client list that spans Fortune 100 giants like GE, HP, Microsoft, Kroger, Pepsi-Co, and other leading innovators in almost every industry, including Seattle's own Starbucks.

10.11.11

Passion and Absolute Commitment

If you have a degree in what field is it? Professional design from Montana State University, 1975. While I started out in engineering, architecture, industrial design, interior design, I ultimately graduated with a degree in “professional design,” which was an amalgamation of disciplines including graphic design, applied arts and photography.

Which designer (or design studio), other than yours, do you most admire? For different reasons, Pentagram and Wolff Olins.

What’s the strangest request you’ve received from a client? I was once asked to design a mark comprised of a client’s initials to be applied to a signet pinkie ring and the bottom of his swimming pool.

If you weren’t working as a designer, what would you be doing? I can’t imagine ever not being a designer, whether I’m working or not. To me it’s oxygen. But if I had to choose another profession, it would still be a version of design—as an architect.

What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? The US currency system, It’s not functional, all the paper is the same size and color; it’s also confusing and some of the least attractive currency in the world.

From where do your best ideas originate? Usually through shared conversation with other problem-solving people (whether it’s clients, designers or just sitting around a boardroom table). There’s a spontaneous combustion that can take place through idea- and thought-sharing and building on others’ insights, that generate sparks of new ideas.

How do you overcome a creative block? I go outside and walk around or ride my bike. For me, it’s not about isolation or sitting by myself somewhere, it’s about getting out and immersing myself in my surroundings and absorbing the energy of the people and the visual stimuli of being outdoors.

What’s your dream project (not client, but project) ? A 21st-century town square—a place where people gather to experience food, music, people, technology and environment— for the purpose of sharing experiences and the celebration of community, culture, culinary and cause, with content generated by the community. I envision a dynamic piece of architecture that moves and uses embedded digital to create an all encompassing experience of play, shop, work and live.

Do you have creative outlets other than design? I’m a collector of watches and trains; in a more conventional creative outlet, I enjoy architecture.

What’s your approach to balancing work and life? I’ve never mastered this, and I’m seldom, if ever, in balance, but I’m constantly, consciously working on being better at it. I view it as having three plates always in the air: professional, family and “Jack” (spiritual, physical, etc.). If I’m not taking care of any one of them, the other two suffer. It’s not just a balance of work and life. The approach to finding balance is to continually work on it; something I think a lot of people don’t do.

What product/gadget can you not live without? My smartphone.

What’s your favorite quote? Ivy Baker Priest’s “Often wrong, but never in doubt.” I know a lot of people who have absolute commitment and passion for their opinion. Oftentimes they’re misguided, but they’re never in doubt. I don’t think it’s necessarily a virtue, and I suffer from it at times, but I like the quote.

Do you have a philosophy about design? It’s been said that design informs and advertising persuades. I believe great design does both. My passion and commitment is to use smart, intuitive design as a means to express the authentic soul of any brand, that I create or touch, in a way that creates a meaningful, memorable and relevant relationship (and interaction) with the viewer, end user or consumer. Design is as much about empathy as it is about aesthetic; when attention is paid to both, it becomes a symphony.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Stay curious, open-minded and wear your seatbelt.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? How much of a team sport great design is. I think a lot of people get into art and design because they have this burning desire to create things; they have an idea for how they want something to look, but a true designer is actually trying to solve a problem for a client, not themselves. Today, with so many different interchangeable mediums and so many different creative thought leaders, some of the best work is being created by teams. Not to homogenize ideas, but complex problems typically require a broader group of thinkers. When I started, I never really realized the power and potency of a team; now I’m addicted to it.