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M.AD Insighter Series

JP Williams

Apr 27, 2022 - 04:00pm

Overview

Join Zoom Meeting on April 27 at 4 PM ESThttps://zoom.us/j/95298874961?pwd=b1NaSWRkNG1OUndzZnRNVE9taytYUT09 Meeting ID: 952 9887 4961Passcode: 454794 JP Williams is a creative director, brand innovator, and founding partner of design: MW. He has collaborated with some of the world’s most respected photographers and stylists on award-winning work for a wide range of international clients, from Mexico […]

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Join Zoom Meeting on April 27 at 4 PM EST
https://zoom.us/j/95298874961?pwd=b1NaSWRkNG1OUndzZnRNVE9taytYUT09

Meeting ID: 952 9887 4961
Passcode: 454794

JP Williams is a creative director, brand innovator, and founding partner of design: MW. He has collaborated with some of the world’s most respected photographers and stylists on award-winning work for a wide range of international clients, from Mexico City to Tegernsee, Germany. Clients include Abinitio Software, Lands Ends, Takashimaya NY, Rizzoli, Starwood, Büttenpapierfabrik Gmund and Jack Spade.. Sought after for his highly refined aesthetic, personal style and retail expertise, JP also curates exhibits and designs interiors for select clients.

JP is a connoisseur and avid collector of vintage ephemera and tools, and an established authority on typography and design, which led to the formation of Wms&Co. An online store offering everyday objects elevated by design and influenced by history. He has written about his collections and obsessions on Amassblog.com. He published “A Designer’s Eye”, a photographic essay of the personal ephemera of Paul Rand and “Incomplete Inventory”, a documentation of the possessions of Nick Wooster. Educated at the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University, JP has taught graphic design at Parsons School of Design and The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and Brigham Young University. He has lectured at Beckman Stockholm, ECAL and the Nurnberg Art Academy. His writing has been published in Communication Arts and Looking Closer: Critical Writings on Graphic Design.

FULL TRANSCRIPT STARTS HERE

Speaker 1:

Everybody, as you join us today, welcome to our broadcast, The Insider Series. And today, J.P. Williams, who is a creative director, a brand innovator, and founding partner of Design MW. He's collaborated with some of the most respected photographers and stylists on award-winning work for a wide range of international clients from Mexico City to Germany, clients who've included Lands' End, Takashimaya, an amazing store, Rizzoli, Starwood, Jack Spade. He's sought after for his highly refined aesthetic, his personal style, and retail expertise. JP also curates, exhibits, and designs interiors for clients. He is a renaissance designer in the true sense of the word. He is a connoisseur and an avid collector of vivid miscellaneous, and things, and tools, and artifacts, and an established authority on topography and design. I should say beautiful typography and design, which led to the formation of Williams and Company and WMCO, which is an online store offering the most unique everyday objects elevated by design and influenced by history. As a matter of fact, if you can see here, I'm sharing one right now that was gifted to me by JP on Paul Rand.

Speaker 1:

You will not find this book anywhere on Amazon. And he's written about his collections and obsessions on a mass blog. He published A Designer's Eye, which is what I just showed you, a photographic essay of the personal happenings of Paul Rand, and an incomplete inventory and the positions of Nick Wooster. And he was educated at RISD and Yale University, where he has the distinction of having actually studied under Paul Rand. Well, you're not going to meet very many people today that can actually... A lot of people can talk about Paul Rand from third person, but very few can say that they actually were a student of his. JP has taught graphic design at Parsons School in New York, and the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and Brigham Young University. He's lectured at Beckman Stockholm, ECAL, and Nurnberg Art Academy. His writings have been published in CA magazine and looking closer to critical writings on graphic design. That said, JP, welcome today. And thank you for joining us and sharing with our students all over the planet.

J.P. Williams:

I'm excited to do so. And I'm going to just, for a fill out right away, just go right into the... I give a little bio part in the first start of my slide aspects because as we all know, Hank has a great deal of reach in terms of the designers and the people he knows. And we have known each other now, I don't know how many years, but I've actually been down to Portfolio Center a couple of times, been able to give a lecture like this in person, but it's been many years. So let me just start this and we'll save some... If anybody... We'll do a little Q&A afterwards, and we'll just run through this. Okay. So I always start of, who am I? So let me get my screen here. So my name is JP. Actually, my name is James Phillips Williams, the full name, but people always call me JP. And the reason was because my father was JB and my uncle was TL, and my family names are Betty Lou, Betty Jo, Michael Wayne, Barbara Gail.

J.P. Williams:

And the reason a lot for that is because I'm from Alabama, not too far away from you guys, of course. And we always love initials and double names down there in the south. So I spent most of my life in Alabama and moved... Here we go. So after graduating high school, I studied at James Madison University. I started at Birmingham-Southern College, Eckerd college, Indiana University. I was a student at Brown University, and then I went to RISD. And so at all those places, I studied art history, drawing, painting, philosophy, design. I loved math. I was very good at math. I loved calculus. And a lot of art history, and then lots of soccer. And that's one reason why I went to so many colleges. I would go from place to place trying to be a soccer player. And as a part of art history, I loved early romanticism, so Courbet, Delacroix, Manet.So I specialized in 19th century French romanticism and impressionism. Cezanne.

J.P. Williams:

I loved early American modernism. This is Gerald Murphy. I loved, loved, loved art history. I was 12 hours short of a BA in art history from Indiana University after all of that time. Stuart Davis, Juan Gris, Leger. That was my main concentration. So a lot of times, I like to ask everybody, when we think about, can there be a moment that touched us and it never left? And Henri Cartier-Bresson, in 1952, published this book, A Decisive Moment. It was actually a different name in French, but... And everybody knows about Bresson where he used his, like a camera, and hide in doorways, and wait for that specific moment. This is when he waited for hours to take this picture. And the idea is that, when do things that we see actually touch us? And when do they matter? So by that, I mean, I like to think about how design touched me. And I begin by my first design memory, and this was mine. Oops. Got to go back. We're in trouble. We're having technical difficulties. It will not go backwards.

Speaker 3:

The drivers are all on the grid now, and the Monaco Grand Prix is about to start. There's Scott Stoddard with his Jordan-BRM. And with him now, is Jeff Jordan himself, talking to this brilliant English driver, who's won so many races so race in the dark green BRMs. Even faster than Stoddard in practice, was the Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Sarti. Twice world champion, and an absolute master of these twisting Monte Carlo streets. He's won the Grand Prix here three times. He drives for the great Italian manufacturer, Ferrari. And his teammate is the Sicilian, Nino Barlini, who's also won a place on the front row. Barlini's the former world champion motorcyclist who made a very successful switch to car racing last year, and is certainly a potential world champion for Formula 1 racing. On the second row, is Pete Aron, the American, now driving for BRM. Pete hasn't won a Grand Prix since he left Ferrari three seasons ago. But in spite of two bad accidents last year, he's still just as fast as ever. Yesterday, he lapped only a tenth slower than Scott Stoddard, number one driver in the BRM team.

Speaker 4:

Let's try and get the season off to a good start. Shall we? Drive the car, don't try to stand it on its bloody ear.

Speaker 3:

Tim Randolph, another American, driving a Japanese Yamura, is also on the second row. This team's only been in Formula 1 racing for two years. And so far, the car's not been reliable enough to win a Grand Prix, but the Japanese have the most powerful engines of all. [inaudible 00:10:54].

Speaker 5:

10 seconds. Five, four, three, two, one. Go.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible 00:11:59] devote, and then Sarti in the lead. From Stoddard, Aron, Hulme, Anderson, and Randolph. Stoddard's drawing level with Sarti up the hill. He's going to...

J.P. Williams:

So those were the titles by Saul Bass for the movie Grand Prix. And I saw this film in 1968 with a friend of mine named Richard Norell. I was 10 and I was blown away by this construction. And most people don't realize that this photo montage was the first time anything like this had ever done. And I was just... I was so blown away I stayed for the movie to start over and watch this section again. I didn't know any idea about what film titles was, Saul Bass, and I didn't know about this until 10, 15 years later, that this is something that was actually a profession, so to speak. And I've never forgotten that moment of sitting in that theater and watching these beautiful things. And what I really love, and if you look at these nine frames, you see the bottom where it has directed by John Frankenheimer, and he put the thumbs up. And I think that's really amazing to see how a designer can actually construct a narrative and put all this together, and there's a little bit of humor in that as well.

J.P. Williams:

And I've always found this to be a fundamental moment in my design education, being recognizing this, and that's a very powerful thing. So then after... So then we say then after graduating college, I worked in Birmingham, I worked in Houston, and then I worked in Boston. And then I decided it was a good idea to attend graduate school. And the reason I decided to do that is because I really wanted to be a design educator. And the possibility was, it's greater at that time to have a master's, so I applied to Yale. And I showed you all of my IDs from the different colleges. I have every physical picture ID that I've ever had taken. And my very first one is, I was 12 years old, and I got a certification to be a scuba diver, so I have them all. And one day, I'll make some use of all of these, but I save them all. Passport pictures, whatever it is, I have the originals. So then after I finished Yale, I graduated in '89, I moved to New York City. And then I worked for a couple of different places, design agencies.

J.P. Williams:

I worked at as an art director for Bergdorf Goodman, and then I started my own studio. And I say, "The what?" Well, this is some of the work that we accomplished at Design MW. This is a hotel in Bavaria, Germany called the Bachmair Weissach, which I actually continue to work for this hotel today. It's been about 12 years. I continue it. So this is a piece of furniture that's in the hotel, and it helped derive the logo and things like that. I primarily work in hotel hospitality design of late. We do all the photography, photo arc direction. I do part of their Instagram signage. I love doing hotels because we still get to do the physical aspects of the corporate identity. And I love the application of a logo as it goes throughout the program. You get everything from pencils to matches. These are candy boxes. And then, as the introduction that Hank gave me, is that not often, on a rare occasion, someone will hire me to do the entire aspect of their identity, which include the store itself.

J.P. Williams:

Here we did the door handles. This is called Silver Deer. It's in Mexico city. It's a menswear brand, menswear store. I did the windows for the first year. We also commissioned the artwork that was on the wall. This is a photograph. And if you can see the gentleman to the right, this is a quite large photograph, and these are within the store itself. And these are library pictures. There's a famous photographer named Candida Hofer. We couldn't afford Candida Hofer, so I hired some good friend of mine, a really good photographer named Grant Peterson. He went to Mexico, we got access to a bunch of libraries, and this photograph is actually 97 photographs stitched together. And the camera... He set the camera up, it was on a dolly. So he would photograph, move every six inches, and then you can actually see the dust on these books. It's quite remarkable. It's a beautiful thing. I designed the furniture.

J.P. Williams:

Some of the furniture, these pieces here, anyway, they're Piet Hein Eek, a Dutch designer. I love to edge business cards. I do it all the time. This agency, unfortunately, closed during the pandemic, Wenzel. They actually have a... They're a photo agent, so they have lots of photographers, and so this is primarily a web job. It's a web portfolio of... They rep Sofia Coppola, Mikael Jansson. And we mentioned Lands' End. Once upon a time, I did a lot of work for Lands' End and we designed a whole new logo for them, and their advertising campaign, lots of things for them. They've since changed it, I think twice, since we did it, and this is not that long ago,. One of the fun projects that we've done over the years is something called the Pop Up Flea, which is a menswear market that gets set up in different locations throughout America, LA, New York, and London it says. And we did the logo, the typefaces, the Instagram, all the aspects related to it.

J.P. Williams:

And this was a lot of fun project. There's always some sort of theme related to where it is. One of our institutional clients is The Drawing Center. It's a beautiful museum in New York City. If you've never been, it's a very low key, very lovely exhibitions. We did all their publications for a couple of years. And this is really about presenting the artwork best as possible with really nice hierarchical typography. This is one of my favorite artists, a gentleman named Seurat. This is actually the brother of the hotel client, Buttenpapierfabrik Gmund. They make beautiful papers. And we designed their store and re-imaged their look for their retail brand. So design the store, we designed the products. This is the papers. Their ream wrap that wraps their paper, and we used this for their brochure. This is one of their paper brands. For about five years, I worked for this company in house as a consultant creative director in house, and it's called Ab Initio Software in Lexington, Mass.

J.P. Williams:

And they make overviews software. And here is an example of... This is our logo. Ab Initio means from the beginning. And we designed these little business card holders. And when you open up the business card, you see all the different colors. And every employee, when they got hired, gets this little package of a business card holder with all the different colored business cards. We designed products. I designed pads, everything you can imagine for this store, little pencil kits. And when some client... This was a proposal. If a client buys their software and their software costs seven figures, it's a multimillion dollar investment for a company to do this software, and I took the logo and made this little box of parts. These are all individual pieces of paper. And for the engineers, we created this game, so engineers to take a break from their development time. So we made this little... These pieces and they stack up. So someone could actually go and just keep stacking until they fall over because it depends upon the weight, so this was a big sculpture in the room.

J.P. Williams:

I designed this as well. So one of the things I like to talk about is, what do we think about beyond the work that we're doing every day? And Paul Rand talks about, in A Designer's Art, he has an essay called The Beautiful and The Useful. And he says, "Visual communication of any kind, whether pervasive or informative, from billboard to birth announcement, should be seen as the embodiment of form and function: the integration of the beautiful and the useful. Copy, art, and typography should be seen as a living entity; each element integrally related, in harmony with the whole, and essential to the execution of an idea. The artist is a collector of things, imaginary or real. He accumulates things with the same enthusiasm that a little boy stuffs his pockets. The scrap heap and the museum are embraced with equal curiosity. He takes snapshots, records impressions on tablecloths, newspapers, on backs of envelopes and matchbooks. Why one thing and not another is part of the mystery, but he is omnivorous.

J.P. Williams:

So what I decided to do in Rand's book... It's called A Designer's Art. So I would visit from time to time, when I would go to Rand's house. And one day, I was visiting after he passed away and I pulled out a drawer. And in that drawer were all of these things that Paul Rand had saved. And I'd like not to say collected because like he said, it's the random thing that you run across. So I took them all and photographed them, like from cigarette packaging to just simple packaging. I don't even know what the left one is, but he had saved these. On the right, these are sugar cubes, so we put a book together. And this is now eight years ago that we published this book and we're actually going to republish it next year. I've got the estimate. I was going to reprint it this next month, but had too many things on my plate. These are some of my favorites. And this was just lovely. When I saw all of these in a drawer, I just couldn't believe it. They were just so beautiful.

J.P. Williams:

In fact, if you go to Williams & Co's Instagram, @wmscoink, there is a shot of this bottle and it's actually still sold today, actually, just like this. The label's not quite the same, but it's a beautiful wooden bottle. It's a Liqueur inside for after you drink. So detritus, detritus, detritus. So what is mine? So this was my desk in New York with... And it's funny because things would come across my desk, and I would just paste them to the wall, and they would eventually just have some sort of look. I didn't put them all up there together. Something would come up and I would put it on my desk and it would just evolve into a look. And I create my own collage books. And these are just a few pages from my collage books. They're always open. I have dozens of these and I will grab a piece of paper and it's like, "Oh, that might look good on this page." And I might spend an hour in one day on these. I might not look at these for a couple of weeks, but I'm always continuing and adding to them.

J.P. Williams:

Sometimes I draw in them. So William Davies King wrote a particular book and this is a quote from his book. It's called... "My own collecting is different because I refuse the object that cries in the marketplace. I respond to the mute, the meager, the practically valueless object, like a sea-washed spigot, it's mouth stoppered by a stone." And these are some of the sculptures that I make. And all the ones that looked like objects, I have cast in bronze. There's a ball of twine. There is bananas, a glove. And these are all sold at a gallery in New York called de Vera. So I'm always casting something interesting, and these are part of... I'm showing you some of the things I collect. These are obviously calligraphy pens, boatman's rulers. And I had an exhibition at P! gallery in New York. And this shows you some of my collections. Every time I travel, I go to hardware stores and I am compulsive about my twine collection. And then I have the wedges that are used for door stops.

J.P. Williams:

That is just of my obsessions here. One of my favorite things to collect is pumpkin stems. My twine. I also collect Wedgwood. This is black Wedgwood teapots. And one of the reasons for that is growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, the Birmingham Museum of Art has the largest collection of Wedgwood outside of Wedgwood, England. And my mother would take me, of course, to the museum and she loved these things. And so to a certain extent, I think I'd collect them because of her as well. And she's passed away a while ago. Here's the pictures of the exhibition I had. So sometimes, when we have a hobby or an interest, it can be something more. And so all of these things we started collecting, turned into WMS & Co, Williams & Company. And we started a brand and I was walking a trade show. I recommend, everybody... There's lots of big trade shows in Atlanta, from carpentry trade shows. It's amazing. Even a gun show, believe it or not. There's so many worthwhile things to go visit a trade show because you just never know what you're going to run into.

J.P. Williams:

And I ran into a gentleman, an American actually, and this was in Frankfurt. And I was walking the fair and this booth, the man was selling his stamps, these things sitting there. They're rubber stamps. They go down. And the booth was very, very crowded. It was 9:30 in the morning. And I was just like, "Wow, I want to come back and look at this." And at the end of the day I came and I was happy because there was no in there. And I would look at these machines and they're just these beautiful mechanisms. And unfortunately, they didn't look very good because they were done out of cheap metal, bad handle. And I looked at this and I started talking to him and I said... He says, "What do you think?" And I unfortunately told him I thought his product was terrible. And he says, "What do you mean?" And so I told him, I said, "It could be better this way." And so we went back and forth and I told him, "I could create a new brand for them." He says, "Look, I'll work with you. I'll make the product for you, but you create your own brand," so hence, started Williams & Co.

J.P. Williams:

And we started doing mostly rubber stamps with a certain amount of books and stuff that we would sell, so these are custom stamps. You can go online, you can choose one of our stamps, show you how it works. You can choose. You could upload your artwork, so we created our own company. And now, my partner Alison, in America, she pretty much runs this 100, 95% of the time. So another aspect of what I like to do with students is to realize that a lot of times when we are designers, we don't have a lot of chance to think. We're given an assignment and we come up with it. We need a new package design. We need a new logo. We need a new website. We need an aggregate app to sell something or help someone do a product. And so what I like to try to do is show things like this. And so the question is, to everybody, it's like, "What's the translation to this? If we see these two words, what does it mean?" And this translates to... I don't know if people can talk and answer questions. I don't know if everybody's... Can anybody say what this means?

Speaker 1:

Stephanie, can they free their mics?

J.P. Williams:

If anybody can translate this... Do I need... Let me just show the first one. I'll do the first one. This translates to he's besides himself. And if we do this one, what would this one be? Does anybody know? Somebody?

Speaker 1:

Let me, I don't know if they can speak.

Speaker 6:

Repair underground?

J.P. Williams:

Ground under repair. Close.

Speaker 6:

Okay.

J.P. Williams:

So how about this one?

Speaker 6:

Zero degrees, under degrees.

J.P. Williams:

That's right. Three degrees below zero.

Speaker 4:

Oh.

J.P. Williams:

So one of the things about these tools, and as a designer, and as a design educator, what's really important for all of us is think about how our viewpoint is. Each one of us brings something different to the table. And the idea is that how, as an educator, can I get you guys to think in a parallel way? There's a word called parallax, and we all can look at something and see something differently. And this is just one of the tools that I like to use when I'm teaching. And this is the last aspect, and I'm going a little quickly here tonight, but this is something that, being from Alabama, is very special to me, but mostly special because visually, this to me, never, ever fails. I watch this movie once every couple of years, if not more often. And let me play it for you. And I think most of you guys will be familiar with it, but maybe in this context, we'll give it new meaning.

Speaker 7:

(Singing).

J.P. Williams:

So what's interesting about that particular title... Let me.. Trying to get my... So, the titles for that, by Steve Frankfurt, what's really special about that particular title sequence is that it was filmed on the eight millimeter camera on his dining table in his apartment in New York city. And realizing that now we have so much at hand that we can do so easily, but I've always loved those titles. And it's funny because his daughter makes that sound, boom, boom, boom, boom. Boom, boom, boom, boom. And often, I'll hear my daughter walking around in our house and I'll hear her say, "Boom, boom, boom, boom." And she doesn't even remember where that comes from for her. But what I love is the contrast between someone like Saul Bass, which is creating this narrative, this montage, this heart thing, and then we see the soft and the beauty of that.

J.P. Williams:

And I've actually never done... I've done some titles where we've just done the typeface for a film title, but I've never done the narrative of a film title, those first two, three, five, six minutes. I have a list of certain film titles that inspire me, that I think are really good. The TV show Six Feet Under by Danny Yount, who did the titles for that, that's really fantastic. And it turns out that one of my classmates from Yale, Kyle Cooper, if you haven't seen the film Se7en, it changed the world when the movie Se7en came out for film titles. It was absolutely incredible, but I've always come back to film titling because I really feel it's very, very powerful. And film is one of the most powerful, if not the powerful, medium to control the way we can understand a narrative, but that's my career so far. And I love doing design, I love teaching design, and I love the idea of the object. So that's who I am and what I do.

Speaker 8:

Thank you so much for tuning in guys. My name is Tyler. I'm going to be one of the admissions advisors helping you guys to start your creative careers here with the Miami AD School. With our four portfolio programs, art direction, copywriting, photography and video, and design, as well as our boot camps, we are well equipped to make you well equipped for the creative industry. And my job is to help you transition smoothly from prospective to enrolled student. We have financial aid and scholarships available for all of our portfolio programs and our four US locations, Miami, Atlanta, San Francisco, and New York, as well as our international locations are ready for you guys to go ahead and enroll when you are ready. So feel free to go to our website, www.miamiadschool.com, hit apply now, start your application. And if you have any questions, set up a call, and we will be happy to help you.

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