If you’re a person who’s anywhere on the Internet, or has ever even taken a glance at Pinterest, no doubt you’ve seen the work of Amanda Jane Jones. From her covers and spreads at Kinfolk magazine to her understated and elegant logo designs, Jones’ work strikes that hard-to-reach balance of simple beauty and thoughtful design.
With an uncluttered simplicity and elegance to her work that many designers try (and often fail) to imitate, Jones proves the old adage that “clean and simple” is often the most difficult—yet worthy—design state to achieve.
“I remember in school, I was criticized for being so simple,” Jones explains, “but it’s just who I am and what I like.”
Graduating from Brigham Young University with a BFA in Graphic Design, Jones began her career in the typical design-school-graduate fashion—with a handful of internships before landing at a design studio, where she then spent two years working during the day and freelancing nights and weekends before moving into freelancing full time.
One of her first big projects after making the full-time freelancing leap was the one that she’s probably become most well-known for: Art Director at Kinfolk magazine.
“Nathan Williams, the editor, wrote to me when the idea [for Kinfolk] was still formulating and asked if I’d join him. It was perfect timing,” Jones says, “I’d just quit my studio job, so it was perfect for a new full-time freelancer.”
Taking the magazine in a simple aesthetic direction not commonly seen in magazine design, Jones is at least partly responsible for Kinfolk’s popularity—her covers and spreads can be found on inspiration boards all across the Internet.
As for the development of that aesthetic, Jones explains, “I’ve always been a simple designer, so it was just natural to me. We were inspired to create something unlike anything that was currently out there. We were mostly inspired by book design and transitioned it to magazine.”
After designing 13 issues of the magazine in the past three years, Jones recently left Kinfolk to focus on new projects.
“It just felt like time to move on to something new,” she explains. “I love Kinfolk and enjoy working on it, but I’m ready to move onto new projects and collaborations. I’ve got some fun things up my sleeve that I’m excited to share in the coming months.”
With Jones’ love of design, one can only assume those projects will showcase as much passion and thought as her past work at Kinfolk.
“Set aside time in your schedule just to design for fun. Give yourself fun projects and try different things—it’s a great way to hone your skills and discover what you like to design.”
“I really, really love what I do,” she says. “I love being creative everyday, making things beautiful, and especially seeing the final product in print. I also love seeing books I’ve designed or magazines being used. It’s fun to spot them here and there in real life.”
For those looking to develop an aesthetic as well curated as Jones’ simple style, she has some words of wisdom: “Set aside time in your schedule just to design for fun,” she says. “Give yourself fun projects and try different things—it’s a great way to hone your skills and discover what you like to design.”
A few more questions for Amanda Jane Jones:
Has there ever been a time in your career you’ve felt like you failed? If so, how did you overcome it?
“Yes, the biggest obstacle for me has been learning the business side of things—i.e. taxes, contracts, billing. I’ve made so many mistakes, I’m just learning as I go. A couple tips: Always have a solid contract, even if you’re working with a friend or someone you trust. Money makes things complicated, so it’s best to have everything in writing. Always build in a kill fee—make sure both parties can feel like they can get out of a project if it’s not a good fit and feel like their time was compensated for / well spent. Set aside 50% of all checks to cover quarterly taxes and to cover unexpected business expenses—and speaking of business expenses, keep track of those! It pays off.”
Where do you go / what do you do when you’re stuck for Inspiration?
“We live by Lake Michigan, so I’ll generally go for a walk. Or I have a great collection of art books and magazines. I can just sit and flip through those for inspiration. Also, Pinterest is a lifesaver.”
If you weren’t a designer, is there anything else you could see yourself doing?
“I think I’d be a jazz singer or a National Park Ranger, ha!”
You can find Amanda Jane Jones at amandajanejones.com