Jonathan Schubert, Graphic Designer & Illustrator

Jonathan Schubert

Jonathan Schubert is a Graphic Designer & Illustrator based in Dallas, Texas. After five years working at Fossil and two at Tractorbeam he set out on his own path and has been killing it ever since. If you're an admirer of gorgeous typography and sweet vintage inspired design you've probably seen his work all over the internet, it's some of the best design out there right now. Thanks for chatting with us Jonathan!

What do you do?

I’m a graphic designer and illustrator, and sometimes an all-around branding consultant.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

As a child and young adult I was interested in a variety of things – but very seriously dreamed of working in film as a director or production designer. That said, I was constantly drawing through elementary, middle, and high school and even had an appreciation of typography early on, even as I had no idea what to call it.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a freelancer.

Honestly, I started freelancing because my first real day job out of college (designer at Fossil Inc, Dallas, 2010 – 2015) didn’t pay the best and I had a bigger appetite for what my monthly budget accounted for. The first projects I took on came my way via Dribbble. Various clients would see my work, which was all personal projects back then, and reach out to hire me on a variety of things ranging from apparel, logos, full brand development, etc. Inquiries were infrequent in the first 6 months or so – but as I began to use each project as an opportunity to mold my own identity as a freelancer, try new things, and learn business sense by trial and error the work became more steady.

Between 2012 – 2017 I basically worked full time durning the day and freelanced, when I had work, at night, early in the am, or on the week end. This became more challenging to do when I worked for an agency in Dallas (Tractorbeam, 2015 – 2017) – especially as the amount of freelance work I could take on while working elsewhere full-time peaked in 2016. So, I took a leap in the summer of 2017, leaving Tractorbeam, and it was the best decision I ever made (other than saying “yes” to all the late nights, early mornings, and working on the occasional week end that led me to it).

When you first started, how did you find clients?

For the most part they found, and still find, me! I have never looked for a client in my freelance career – ever. Dribbble has been a huge tool in not only connecting me with other designers, illustrators, and freelancers – but in getting me work through the years. It’s a great platform to share my work and allow prospective clients to find it. Other than that it was a mix of word-of-mouth, personal recommendations, etc. But Dribbble was probably the biggest facilitator of new work in the early days.

What are the biggest milestones that have led to where you currently are in your career?

The 5 years I worked at Fossil + 2 years with Tractorbeam offered invaluable experience which has molded my personal aesthetic, sensibility, general business sense, and also allowed me to work with some talented folks. While I wouldn’t call that a “milestone”, it’s important to mention as my career simply wouldn’t be what it is without that experience. The only big moment I can think of is simply when I decided to take the leap into full time freelance. Working from my home office that first week felt incredible and I can’t imagine where I’d be without having made that decision 1.5 years ago. Looking back, I see it was the only way forward for me. Other than that my journey has been the sum of a thousand little decisions: saying “yes” to working a little longer, or earlier – or taking on that extra project, and chasing what I wanted to do, ultimately.

Do you have a motto that you work by?

Hustle Makes Muscle

How do you stay productive?

I keep a monthly list of open projects to help gauge my bandwidth and time management. Under that, I keep a hand written list of goals week-to-week, day-to-day. On most Monday mornings I go through my current project list, any upcoming deadlines, etc – then I write down my plan of how to advance on all those fronts between Monday – Friday. Sometimes I rearrange my goals through the week because life happens and I may be more inspired about project A than project B any given day – but as long as the things on that list are in good shape, or crossed out, by 5pm on Friday I’m satisfied. Other than that, there’s nothing better than enjoying some down time after some hard work. That kind of contrast and balance is important to my productivity.

What are you working on right now?

Currently I’m working on a variety of projects – but some that I’m excited about: Gratsi, a wine brand out of Austin. Ventura Brewing, a hard kombucha brewery in Australia. Secret projects: I’m working on a new bar and cafe coming to London soon – I’ve got a boutique coffee brand – and – a separate boutique tea brand on the way, both from California. Other than the usual array of medium / big projects I’ve got an assortment of smaller requests for illustration, apparel, etc. Staying busy!

Antidote | Jonathan Schubert
Antidote © Jonathan Schubert
Scrap & Relic | Jonathan Schubert
Scrap & Relic © Jonathan Schubert
Keep at it – even when it’s tough to put the time in. Take on more work than you are comfortable with and push your own boundaries.
Birdmans | Jonathan Schubert
Birdmans © Jonathan Schubert
Landers Garage | Jonathan Schubert
Landers Garage © Jonathan Schubert
Gratsi | Jonathan Schubert
Gratsi © Jonathan Schubert
What is your dream project?

I’m excited about all the work I’ve been doing lately…but if I had the chance to brand a Havana-inspired rum bar, anywhere, I’d try to clear my schedule and focus just on that for a while…

What one piece of advice would you give to a freelancer just starting out?

Keep at it – even when it’s tough to put the time in. Take on more work than you are comfortable with and push your own boundaries. Get your work out there – on Dribbble, Instagram, Behance, a website, etc. Do the work you’re excited about and enjoy your work!

What is the best piece of advice you've been given?

Hustle Makes Muscle

Tell us about a time in your career when you struggled.

Staying inspired and keeping the hunger to to great work can be a challenge when you’re juggling a lot of projects, looking at deadlines, and trying keep your finances organized. That, in my opinion, is the constant “struggle” – the underlying anxious energy that will either slow you down or propel you forward. It’s all about perspective and how you channel it. Look at what other people in your industry (or even outside of it) are doing – get inspired by contributions made by others. Research as much as you can to keep your curiosity, interest, and drive to do good work. The projects I have been most personally excited about are the ones people ask me about or reference in new work inquiries. It’s important to find that good energy and channel it into the work – even when it’s a tough path at first.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Realizing my best year-to-date as a graphic designer and illustrator, both financially and in terms of the projects I got to work on, was the first full-year I have worked for myself full-time (2018). It was a great feeling.

What are you listening to, reading or watching that is inspiring to you lately?

My favorite music to put on while working is dub reggae – chill vibes and beats originating from tropical states of mind are my speed most days. Silence is also nice. Anything else I listen to, or read, is usually unrelated to my career and serves as a way to balance my interests.

What is your favourite piece of clothing?

Khaki safari jacket. Almost a decade old, still fits, and it’s been on many adventures with me. And no, I don’t hunt endangered animals.

What is the strangest thing about you?

Well that’s a tough one. And you’d probably want to ask my fiancé…but to pick something relevant: I’m actually a little bit color blind. Red/Green. That said, it’s never kept me from doing the work I wanted to do…occasionally I just need a second opinion when matching a Pantone!

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?

My great friend, Jonathan Thompson – a talented travel writer and British expat living among us in Texas!

How can we find out more about your work?

You can check out my work on Dribbble and Instagram.