We started this Becoming interview series in 2019. We wanted to hear from women in different walks of life and how they approach creativity, career goals, and more — mostly the whys and hows behind it all. It’s been great to do these interviews and get a “behind the scenes” look at so many inspiring women! You can see them all here.
Today I am happy to share with you the interview with Amanda Jane Jones, someone I am lucky to call a friend. I first met Amanda when we were living in New York City for training — she is a graphic designer and I am an interior designer. She became a freelance graphic designer, author and illustrator of children’s books, specializing in publication design (she is co-founder of Kinfolk magazine) and in recent years began “experimenting” with product design. “Dabbling” is the word she used to describe herself in this interview, but as someone who has been observing her work over the years, I can attest to her as a thoughtful and prolific designer who can create magic in anything.
Over the past 15+ years, she has made a name for herself with her signature minimalist design that is always perfectly executed from logos to book design to products. follow her Instagram She shares beautiful photos of her life, her family, and her countless passion projects. She has the biggest heart and you will see that in how she dedicates not only her personal time but her work time. It’s one I admire! Now, let’s hear more from her!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City.
What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
I wanted to be a jazz singer! But my anxiety has always gotten the better of me. I tried photography and quickly realized that I had to talk to people a lot, and eventually gravitated towards graphic design, which was, in all honesty, a perfect fit.
What sparked your interest in design and sharing online?
For me, in the beginning, it was a way to get more work. When I graduated, I moved with my husband to a small town in Michigan and got a design job, which wasn’t a great fit. So I’ve been working on personal projects in the evenings and on weekends, sharing them in hopes of landing freelance projects. But then it evolved into this beautiful community, where my work brought friends and vice versa. It’s interesting that when you put your work out into the universe, you make people search for your personal perspective. I’ve seen it over and over again, no matter how many times the algorithm changes.
What are three words that describe your style?
Minimal, nostalgic with pops of colour
What is your educational background and how has it shaped or changed your current career?
I have a BFA in graphic design. My teachers hate my work. They were torn from the walls, crumpled and thrown in the trash. I was told it was very simple, and I didn’t have the opportunity to practice at my school. So I stopped going to classes, and rushed to get my own training in New York, and that is where my real education began. I’ve trained four times! I loved being an intern. The beauty of being an intern is that you can learn directly from people who are doing what you want to do. My favorite training was to Swan Song, now appointed. I learned early to be a sponge. Learning from those I admired as best I could was a profound education.
What inspired you to become a designer/author?
My mom actually! She really pushed me to try design, and I’m grateful that she did. It suits my personality well. In fact, my children inspired me to be an author. When you’re a parent, it’s so easy to see what types of books kids are drawn to, as we were reading, I would notice and find myself inspired by what they were engaged in and the things they were currently experiencing.
What project are you particularly proud of and why?
I think my first book for children, Yum, yummy, yuk. Coming out of my niche made me feel like a fraud, but it was well received, and I just released my fourth children’s book last fall. Decorate the tree. Watching my kids read it to each other is probably one of my proudest moments. A real dream come true.
Also last fall, I asked my neighbor, on a whim, Mike Whiting, (via direct message, because I was too shy to ask in person!) if he would like to collaborate with me. I immediately felt embarrassed just asking, but he quickly said yes! Our little project grew into a large art gallery for Salon 801. Again, I felt like an imposter, but it turned out to be a truly amazing and beautiful experience. I’m so grateful you asked!
Where do you find inspiration?
I saw Mayra Kalman speak at a conference a long time ago – and I’ve been a fan ever since. She said:The most inspiring things are books. I have about 5,000 volumes in my home library. It’s a never-ending source of images and ideas.”
I always remembered that and tried to follow in her footsteps. One year, my husband added the amount I spent on books. Things didn’t go well. But books are a great source of inspiration. Also go into nature. In Chicago, when I was in an artistic slump, I would run along Lake Michigan, and I would always come back, refreshed by the wind and waves with new ideas. Nature always energizes me a lot. And also have a clean and organized space. I’m more creative when my spaces don’t feel cluttered.
How do you establish social relationships in the creative field?
I think Instagram has been a great way to connect with artists around the world. For all its flaws, it’s really great for that. On a personal level, I’m lucky enough to have an art club founded by my friend Mika Ren. She moved to Utah at the same time as me, looking for a safe place for freelance artists to make art and share ideas. We see each other relatively often, and it’s become a night I’m really looking forward to.
Who are the artists and creatives you look up to, both historically and today?
Oh! too much. I met Mayra Kalman last year and was able to visit her home and studio. Her space was very peaceful. I love her work. I’m also very inspired by mid-century female artists like Anni Albers, Ray Eames, and Ruth Asawa. Recently I’ve been inspired by the strange works of Sophie Tauber-Arp. I find the breadth of her work very impressive. I also love, love, love Ella Fitzgerald. I listen to it while I work a lot.
What books, movies, shows, or music get you excited these days?
I’m writing a book with Jennifer Fernandez called Mother/Founder with Artisan Books! It has been in the works for years, but will be published this fall. I can’t believe he’s here. It was a labor of love, but I was very happy working on it. The goal is to create a book that empowers women to find solutions beyond the traditional 9-5 job. (Which generally do not offer paid leave or childcare options.) Many feel trapped by motherhood, and we hope to show ways to find freedom, financial independence, and joy at this stage of life. We’ve interviewed over 60 women from very diverse backgrounds, to get their tips, advice, and failures, so that every mother can definitely see themselves in our book, and know that there’s a place for them.
What advice did you carry with you and who is it for?
At my first baby shower, I asked everyone to give me advice, and one woman said, “Honestly, don’t take advice. Listen to your gut.” I’ve thought about this many times as a professional artist and as a mother.
What does your workspace look like?
I have an office in our house! It has white walls and concrete floors! I know this sounds terrible to some, but it’s perfect for me. Large window overlooking the valley. Artworks and books pepper the walls and shelves. I love him. I didn’t have an office with a door before moving here, so having a space where I could work without interruption if necessary was nothing short of revolutionary for me.
Describe some habits that keep you motivated and productive. How do you get out of a creative slump?
I’ve learned a lot about my body and mind lately. This year I started treatment (life-changing!) and started taking magnesium (most sleep I’ve gotten in four years!) and weight training as well as hiking and running. My mind is most active when my body is healthy, especially when I start the day with some blood-pumping movement.
What is a typical day for you?
Hug my kids! Breakfast everyone. My husband takes my kids to school, then I work out and work! I work two full days a week and the rest two days, so I can be with my children. It’s the perfect amount for me.
What skill do you wish you had learned when you were younger?
Oh wow. I was raised to be a people pleaser! I think many women are too. I wish I learned emotional maturity sooner in life. Not being able to say “no” was a huge obstacle early in my career, sometimes to the detriment of my career. I am learning and growing.
Is there anything else you would like to “become”?
We come into adulthood with all these ideas that seem so black and white, and I was so grateful to learn that that simply isn’t the case. I hope with all my heart, that as I continue to read and learn and meet new people and listen more, I can continue to learn and grow and become more inclusive, more compassionate, more honest when needed, and ultimately be more loving and loving. Understanding as the years progress.
Thank you, Amanda, for your words. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say WOW! And honestly, I can’t stop thinking about those professors who took away your work and didn’t give you training…
You can find Amanda Jane Jones:
Pictures of Amanda Jane Jones and Kate Osbourne