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Meet Jarrett Johnston, Creative Director of Studio Numa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jarrett Johnston.

Jarrett, let’s start with your story.

I grew up in Canyon, a small town in West Texas. It’s the kind of place where everyone waves as they pass each other on the back roads, and the cows outnumber the humans. I was constantly surrounded by family — most of whom started or ran small businesses of their own. My mom was a florist turned real estate agent, her dad and my dad run a construction company. My dad’s parents ran the local hardware store. I had a couple of uncles who owned restaurants. The list goes on. I laugh now, but as a kid, I even had my own office at both of my parent’s businesses. Foreshadowing?

For as long as I can remember I have been drawing or making things. My parents always encouraged those interests by enrolling me in local art and drawing classes. As I got into high school, I accidentally fell into what would become my career. I needed an elective last minute so I enrolled in a computer class where we learned Photoshop. I was in heaven. I went on to graduate from West Texas A&M University with a bachelor in Graphic Design. It was at WT I took my first big kid job on campus as a graphic designer and gathered some experience under my belt before making the big move to Dallas.

Since the move I have worked in small branding shops, big B2B agencies, and leading digital firms — using each opportunity to absorb as much as I could before starting my own business. I’ve had the chance to work with Fortune 500 giants like Interstate Batteries, Phillips66, ExxonMobile and Dr. Pepper, but my heart has always been with small and medium-sized businesses. I love entrepreneurs. I love their energy, their excitement, and their desire to change the world or disrupt an industry. That entrepreneurial energy that was all around me as a kid is the same energy that drives me today.

Though I have always dreamed of having my own business, I didn’t know what that would look like or where that would be. Turns out, it looks like me freelancing from home (most days), outside of Fort Worth, TX, listening to my 2-year-old daughter learn her alphabet in the other room, while drinking Coca-Cola. It’s a dream. And while I live my dream, I get to help people launch theirs. I get to help brands figure out who they are, and then express that in a consistent and compelling way. From hungry entrepreneurs launching the next big thing, to global giants looking to reinvent and grow, to churches and nonprofits changing the world, I love helping them succeed.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Here’s a little secret: even “successful” people are still trying to figure it out. Running a business small or large is not easy. Though I have always been a pretty self-motivated and determined person, some days punch you in the face. There are times I have made costly mistakes, and I had to learn from those and keep going.

In a more practical light, being a one-man shop means it’s all on me. I have always been good at the creative side of what I do, but I also had to learn to do the not-so-sexy stuff like generating leads, project management, client communication, and accounting. These things don’t excite or come naturally to me. However, if they are not in order, I will never get to do the things I love.

We’d love to hear more about your business.

I run an intentionally small branding studio that focuses on strategic branding and interactive design for brands that matter. That usually means I partner with hungry entrepreneurs to create clear and concise messaging and consistent visual identity to move their audience to buy from or interact with their brand.

My goal has never really been to build a big organization. What I have learned in my many years in-and-out of large agencies is that quality often gets compromised, clients feel disconnected from the actual work being done, and processes trump people. Eliminating the red tape allows me to form meaningful relationships with my clients so we can be candid and direct with one another. I often act as a trusted business partner rather than a vendor and can influence a brand beyond what is typically understood as graphic design. I regularly get emails from happy clients saying things like, “you exceeded our expectations” and “you are worth way more than we are paying you.” I consider those days’ mission accomplished.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?

I was revisiting the enneagram personality test recently, and as a type five, a major characteristic of mine is a desire to understand and figure things out. I spend a lot of time asking questions, observing people, and studying what makes other brands successful. It is rare that I simply do exactly what a client asks without truly understanding their goals and helping them think through how to reach them. This curiosity and desire to get it right finds its way into all of my relationships and work. I have the drive to get a project right for a client so we can get it to market faster, and optimize its effectiveness. Everything I touch must be equal parts stylish and meaningful.

Story originally published by Voyage Dallas.

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