Updated: Aug 29, 2022
A multi-disciplinary creative professional, Josh Talbot has spent many years deftly playing all positions both in brand agencies and in-house creative teams. Equal parts Designer, Art Director, Creative Director, and (whether he likes it or not, Administrator), Josh does it all with an unfailingly collaborative approach, tireless optimism and good humor. -- CC What did creativity look like for you in childhood?
Like most children, creativity was EVERYWHERE when I was young. Everything from playing in the yard to making valentines day cards for class felt like an opportunity to be imaginative and expressive. Some of my earliest memories of intentional creativity was how specific I was with my “outfits”. If we were playing soldiers I HAD to be wearing green. And an astronaut couldn’t wear shorts. Haha! Shortly after that I remember getting really into creating fortresses and maps with gridded paper. And did anyone else have collect stickers? So many stickers!
How has creativity changed for you versus how you thought about it when you were 20?
When I was young I never thought about the process. A + B = C. It was just “Let’s do C!”. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. When it worked it was amazing. But when it didn’t, I never knew why. And that was frustrating. Evaluation felt arbitrary and speculative.
Working in the creative industry as long as you have, and in as many capacities as you have, where have you seen the most opportunities for creative satisfaction?
This also comes down to process for me. The more energy I put into A + B, the more opportunity C has to be great. Sometimes that’s giving myself the space to dream before I act. Other times, that’s doing the research and leg work I know I’ll need later. As a graphic designer, it also has a lot to do with the people you’re partnering with. Clients, stakeholders, coworkers. Collaboration demands a thoughtful approach. That never seems to be intuitive. There’s always a curve ball. But leaning into it and finding that path that allows people to explore ideas and have a voice has resulted in the work I’m most proud of. You never know where that process will take you!
As a creative professional, what do you feel are the biggest impediments to creative thinking?
This might sound weird in the context of creativity, but I think it has to do with not being able to say “No”. That means learning to say no to too many projects. But it also means not being afraid to ask questions or raise concerns. I think most of us have a hard time asking questions that we think everyone else knows the answer to. And for too long in my career I thought I was being negative if I spoke up about something that I believed would be a problem. But it’s actually the opposite! Asking those questions or raising a concern gives that project a chance to be great. If you’re confused others probably are too. If you think there’s a hole in the plan, there’s probably a hole in the plan. And when you speak up you’re actually opening doors to more ideas and new ways of thinking.
How does your creative process differ at work versus on your own creative projects?
That process at work needs to be honed and refined. It’s a really big deal to me. So when working on my own stuff I try to let that be more organic. I love sitting down and writing a song for no reason. Just see where the melody and lyrics take me. It might be worth capturing. It might not. But the free form creation is also really important.
What's inspiring you in this moment?
There are so many things! Of course all the cliche answers (because they’re true!) A well-crafted movie. A good album. A new book. But at this point in my life, I think I’m most inspired by others people’s journey. For instance, I’m really inspired by you creating a blog on creativity and asking me these questions! Or connecting with friends about what they’re making and why.
Tell me a little bit about anything you'd like to accomplish in your creative life, or that you are actively working on.
Post pandemic has me in a weird place. I’ve been head down in my professional work for so long and I’m actively looking for a renewal of focus in my own creative pursuits. I’m hoping that takes me to some unexpected places. I’ll keep you posted!
Josh and I both cut our design teeth on a hearty love of skate graphics and culture. - CC
Tell me about the impact that skate graphics have had on your design aesthetic or creative career.
That’s a huge question! It’s had an enormous impact on me. Skate culture resonated with me on multiple levels. At a very young age, I tired of organized sports quickly. I didn’t hate them, but I didn’t love them either. First BMX and then skateboarding drew me into something I wanted to DO. There were no limits or constraints. No one was telling you how to do it. All you needed was a skateboard and a flat space. I spent hours learning to ollie in my back yard. That was it. I was hooked. And of course skate culture was the same. I had that contrary nature in me and it needed an outlet. Just like music a little later in life, it was a group of people pushing past the norm to express themselves in new ways. You very much felt like a part of a tribe. If you met another skater (or Joy Division fan) you were instantly friends.
I loooooooove that Josh still has this self-ornamented PeeChee folder. I painted many a canvas binder with the Tony Hawk, Bones Brigade, and Love and Rockets emblems, but alas, mine are lost to the ages. - CC
What got you hooked on them?
All of that culture and activity was represented in the visuals of skateboarding. Deck graphics, clothing, magazines. All of it was incredible to me. I’d spend hours obsessing over deck designs and magazine articles. And I didn’t want to just look at them. I wanted to MAKE them. This was a culture of doing. I made my own font inspired by The Animal Chin poster. I would draw my own t-shirt graphics. I was making logos before I knew what a logo was.
What are some particularly notable examples that still stick in your mind as sources of inspiration?
The Powell-Peralta stuff is the first thing that comes to mind. Like most kids, I was a sucker for the Bones Brigade. I really loved Natas Kaupas deck graphics. And as an appeal brand, Vision Street Wear was incredible. Not only was it a strong visual brand but it was the first functional skate shoe on the market.
As a young hooligan, did your friends ask you to draw skate graphics for them? Do you still have any examples you can share with the class?
I started creating stuff for others in High school. T-shirts, event flyers, band posters, stickers, you name it. That was also the time I started making a zine. I have bits & pieces saved.
Definitely feeling some Mike Judge in this image on the left! - CC
You're an avid mountain biker; do you see any similar tropes used in graphics or marketing for mountain bike culture? If so, can you share some examples?
It’s a different time and place. But a lot of people I ride with grew up in a similar culture. Both are less about performance and more about the experience. It’s a shameless plug, but I’m really proud of the work I did for a local shop here in Santa Rosa, Trail House. It needed to feel ownable for everyone who walked in the door. It had to be distinct but also malleable. https://www.joshuatalbotdesign.com/work/trailhouse
Some of Josh Talbot's beautiful, immersive, work for Trail House. If you find yourself in Santa Rosa, California, stop by and enjoy a pint and a shirt! - CC