Introducing our Big Brain 2012 Finalists.
Long before Jon Ashcroft moved to Phoenix, landed a gig at Fender, and then quit to do design work for a regional church, he started designing event fliers for his friends' bands in high school.
The 27-year-old designer grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico. After high school, he enrolled at New Mexico State University. He thought he'd study business. A few classes in, he was miserable.
He liked his art history class, so he switched to the school's photography and design program, where he says he developed an eye for clean lines and good composition - two elements that are at the core of everything he designs now.
There's no denying Ashcroft is incredibly talented - and incredibly hardworking. He says his experience at Fender was unbelievable (on the back of every 60th Anniversary Telecaster guitar, you'll find a metal plate with Ashcroft's simple, clean design), but that there was a glass ceiling of sorts, so he took a full-time gig at the church he and his wife attend. The flexibility fives him time to freelance (he illustrated three pieces for the Atlantic last year) and the freedom to orchestrate the brand of for a growing community.
He sits casually in a vintage, mid-century modern chair in the home office he shares with his wife.
There's not a sign of dust, though Ashcroft promises that's because his house in Phoenix's Coronado district was just featured in the design publication Design Sponge. (That's before he admits that the mason jar organization system in the kitchen, the vintage camera collection in his office, and the large, stylish monogrammed letters above his bed have been there for a while.)
He talks about his upcoming projects while flipping through a flat file of his own work and posters he's been collecting. He's passionate about giving a good name (and lending some great design) to Phoenix, which he says was often referred to as a "cow town" in the design world before the community came together two years to take part in Phoenix Design Week.
Ashcroft's work -- included in Communication Arts' 2010 Illustration Annual, Graphic USA, An Alternative Guide to the U.S., and The State Mottos and To Resolve projects -- has seen the far corners of the design world and put a big mark on the local and national maps.
In April, Ashcroft, with Dorina Bustamante, Jonce Walker, Jeremy Stapleton, and Nicole Underwood will host the first PEDAL CRAFT PHX, which aims to unite the design and urban cycling communities with a bicycle-themed, locally designed poster exhibition and a showcase of unique bike racks.
He'll also be doing a little rebranding for himself (the fact that there's a political character with the same name hasn't done Jon Ashcroft's website any favors) and getting back into doing more freelance jobs. And for now, he promises, he's definitely sticking around.
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