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[photo credit: Hadley Spagna]

Originally from Hawaii, Greg Chinn grew up surfing and eating local ethnic food with a special fondness for Spam—a Hawaiian staple. He graduated from Art Center College of Design and from there, worked at various fashion and entertainment companies in-and-around Southern California. Moving across the country, Greg founded Jargon Boy, an integrated brand identity studio in Fairfield, Connecticut. His work has been recognized by numerous publications and Web sites (including ID, Dwell, HGTV, Core77 and Design Within Reach) and his M is for Modern Alphabet Flash Cards are for sale at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, SFMOMA and MODA. He's on the board of the Connecticut Art Directors Club and is an adjunct professor of design at the University of Bridgeport's Shintaro Akatsu School of Design.

11.15.11

Thinking in Three Dimensions

If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a BFA in graphic design and packaging from Art Center College of Design.

Which designer (or design studio), other than yours, do you most admire? I have to say Lester Beall, or my wife will be bummed; she happens to be his youngest granddaughter. But, truthfully, I would say Beall without her nudging. I respect his work and the way he accomplished it. Looking at his Rural Electrification Posters Series 1, I’m always stunned by how much visual impact they have. And I always felt that his studio at Dumbarton Farm in Brookfield, Connecticut (with a silo converted into a design studio) epitomized the essence of the designer life.

What’s the strangest request you've received from a client? I have some painful monster truck VHS packaging memories from early in my career—but let’s just move right along.

If you weren’t working as a designer what would you be doing? Being a chef would be the best. I don't think I’m cut out to be one, but I can dream. The idea of creating food that viscerally works on all senses, appeals to me. Every time I go to a great restaurant, I know that it will be an of-the-moment experience that can never be duplicated. Creating that sort of experience on a daily basis seems so cool... but physically and mentally draining.

What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? Pampers. I have a 22-month-old and every time we pick up a new box, I say, “Ouch, that just hurts my eyes.”

From where do your best ideas originate? Usually while I’m driving somewhere and looking for a parking space.

How do you overcome a creative block? Flipping through all the art books I have stacked everywhere in our house. Also, listening to great music, I start with the Flaming Lips, Horace Silver, Wilco, Miles Davis, Cornelius, DJ Shadow, The Clash, Sonic Youth and of course Bob Marley. But if I’m really, really stuck, I’ll play some classic Hawaiian music by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Gabby Pahinui or Keola Beamer which always takes me mentally back to my origins.

What’s your dream project (not client, but project)? One about all the different varieties of french fries in the world that would require taste-testing all of them.

Do you have creative outlets other than graphic design? Drawing and collaging with my daughter Lily. She will put the craziest, most “contrasty” images together and it somehow works. Her mind has no boundaries and I sometimes need to be reminded of this. I also like taking fine art classes. I recently took a mixed-media class at Silvermine Art Guild in New Canaan and it really brought back a textural quality to my work. The instructors at Silvermine all have fine art backgrounds so how they solve problems conceptually always comes from very unique perspectives which opens your mind to thinking differently. Working on the computer on a daily basis, I feel somewhat distanced. Working with various materials, paints and found objects was exhilarating; it not only brought back my attention to details but I was surprised to find myself thinking in three dimensions again (I hadn’t even noticed I’d stopped doing that).

What’s your approach to balancing work and life? My wife and I both work out of the house so we get to be with our children a lot. Our 9-year-old daughter is doing cartwheels around the house and our 22-month-old is laughing/screaming and climbing all over the furniture while our two 80-pound Bernese Mountain Dogs look on in zen-like trances. It gets pretty crazy but I like knowing that no matter how much I work, my kids know I’m always nearby if they need me.

What product/gadget can you not live without? My iPhone. When I’m jonesing for some Arepa with hoisin glazed pork belly and green onion while driving down a rural road in Connecticut and my iPhone shows where I can get it (along with a review), I thanks the gods that it was created.

What’s your favorite quote? “The moment clients realize that revisions are not an all-you-can-eat buffet, suddenly they realize they are not hungry.” —Lester Beall

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Stay open to new approaches in problem-solving; you never know when someone can help refine your process.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? I wish I’d realized I could have exactly the career I wanted... without doing that damn monster truck sleeve.