From riding flatland, ramps and street on his BMX bike to designing magazine layouts and T-shirts as well as stealing many souls from behind a shutter, Jared Souney is many things to many poeple. Those in the BMX world know him as a rider from New England who made the move to the Left Coast to do design work and shoot photos for Ride BMX magazine and beyond.
I conducted this Q&A to find out more about the man who constantly gets ribbed for spilling coffee on himself and whose mind definitely rolls along on more than two wheels.
Roy Christopher: How did you originally get into art and design?
Jared Souney: That’s tough to say. I guess I was always sort of interested in it. I got really interested in the whole design process when I was in high school. I’d see something and wonder how it was made. I started experimenting myself… printing t-shirts, making zines, whatever. I was always really interested in magazines and print in general. I ended up going to college at the Art Institute of Boston for Graphic Design, during which I found myself kind of thrown into the position of Art Director at a fashion/lifestyle magazine in Boston. It was a good experience and I learned a lot. From there I just experimented with different things, and I continue to.
RC: What are you working toward with your own designs?
JS: The non-commercial stuff doesn’t have a concrete goal, really, more individual messages you could say. I’m really interested in American culture in the way of advertising, the roles of corporations, social responsibility in advertising, etc. To me, design isn’t really about making a few grand off the creation of an annual report. It’s more about a message and a responsibility. Everyone interprets that responsibility a bit differently.
I guess I just sort of react to what’s around me and make statements based on that.
RC: What are your goals for jaredsouney.com?
JS: Actually, there really never was one. I started that more or less to give myself a creative outlet. It wasn’t ever meant to be a self-promotion. It was more an expression. I was working at Ride BMX magazine when I started doing it, and I was sort of frustrated creatively being there. I was still doing freelance work, but I needed to do something that was mine. I created the site, and people seemed to respond to it. It’s pretty cool that people like it… I mean it was really for me, and then people started to respond. That’s awesome. I’ll get an idea, and I’ll work on it. If people like it, cool, if not, that’s cool too. I’ve gotten some weird “cool site” recognition from different things on the web. That’s pretty cool that people recognize it like that, but it wasn’t about that. It’s a place for me to experiment and to learn, and to do something I like.
RC: What are you going to be speaking about in your upcoming lectures?
JS: I’m still trying to figure that out really. I’ve been in classroom settings with friends that teach and looked at student work before… more or less just giving input. I’ve got this lecture thing coming up at Cal State Fullerton in April. I guess I’ll just explain how I approach my work, and that if you do things in that way, you aren’t going to get rich. That would be a nice positive speech to college kids, eh? I just want to make it clear that there’s a lot more to design than making something look “cool.” I’m not really even sure what “cool” means. I think cool might mean “no real message.” Design can be pretty interesting if people think about it.
RC: What kind of stuff are you working on these days?
JS: Right now, I’m doing some freelance photography stuff for a lot of BMX magazines, mostly in Europe, just because they’re my favorites. I do all the BMX photography for Etnies as well. In addition to that I’m doing a lot of design work both personal and commericial. I’ve been working on doing a lot of things with the “consume” image other than T-shirts, like stickers and posters. I’ve been traveling a lot as well, which is always nice.
RC: Do you find a lot of crossover between your design work and riding flatland?
JS: Well, honestly I ride more street and ramps than flatland these days. The past few weeks I’ve been messing around with flatland more than I had been. I don’t know why I started riding more of the other stuff, maybe just a change, but a lot of it was just that the people I liked riding with were riding street and ramps, so it was natural. As far as a crossover, I guess riding’s a pretty individual thing, as is design. They are both expressions.
I guess you could say that flatland opened my mind in a lot of ways, through the process of learning, and through the traveling and meeting so many different people.
RC: Tell me about the “Consume” T-shirt. Are you into the culture jamming movement?
JS: The “Consume” T-shirt came about one night while I was thinking about all the different T-shirts I had that represented a brand. I was putting away my laundry. None of them really said anything at all, other than the name of a company. We’re all billboards in that respect. I just felt like if I was going to wear a T-shirt, with an image, it might as well be of my own doing, and something that said something. I was always into the process of screen printing, so once I created the image I went out the garage, burned a screen and printed some shirts. At first I just made some for myself.
Eventually I made a bunch more and sent them to art directors and designers that I knew, and I sent one off to the guys at Adbusters. I like that magazine. I think what the do is pretty incredible. Some of it might be a bit over-the-topish but that’s subjective. I don’t know if I’d call myself a culture jammer to the extent that some of them do. I like to make people think, as do they. I don’t like what advertising and big business has become. I don’t like being sold. I guess I’m a toned down culture jammer. I’m not that militant. I have my opinions, and if it comes time to express them I will. I take certain stands in my design work and projects, and make certain statements with them because of what I believe in. I’m not always out to change people’s minds though, just to make them think about what’s around them, and have them make up their minds for themselves.
I made a few other T-shirts since then with graphics that say “America: Corporate Owned and Operated,” and “Consumption Kills.” I have some other ideas too. I make them available on my web site, however I don’t make any money off of them. I recoup my costs, and the rest goes to other projects or to charity. Using them as some kind of commercial venture is a contradiction to the message.
RC: What kind of stuff do you like to read?
JS: I’m on my third reading of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol as we speak. I like Andy Warhol. I’m not as into fiction as I am biographical writing. I’ve been reading a lot of Studs Terkel. He’s famous for his interviewss with everday people and collecting them into great books of various themes. I think real, everyday people are pretty interesting. I like to read observations. Andy Jenkins always has interesting little tidbits he calls “Glimpses.” I find people’s everyday experiences in short form, kind of fun to read. I read a lot of design critique and theory type stuff. I just read a book by Rick Poynor called Obey the Giant. That’s a good one for a designer or anyone interested in design to read. It really looks at what’s around us, and how designers play a role in that. I liked Speak Magazine a lot, but they’ve gone out of business in the last year, much like all the magazines I like seem to. Plazm is still around… I think that’s a good read.
RC: Anything coming up?
JS: I always feel like I’m shooting myself in the foot if I talk about stuff before it actually happens. For now I’m just trying to focus on my own work, and getting together stuff to go in a few shows. I can be picky about commercial work, so I’ve been doing enough to pay the bills lately, and beyond that, just toying with different ideas. Will at Dig Magazine asked me if I’d contribute some design work to that magazine, so I’ll be working with him on that stuff. Other than that, I plan to drink a lot of tea.