Visual Design

Visual Design

Interview with Julian Alexander,
Creative Director & Graphic Designer

How did you first become interested in graphic design?

I have always been interested in art. As a kid I drew all the time. In the beginning drawing people was most interesting to me. Eventually graffiti became my main interest. During my first year of college I took a drawing class and my teacher mentioned that she thought I’d be good at graphic design. Before that, I hadn’t heard the term. The more I learned, the more interested I became. With my teacher’s help, I put together a portfolio and applied to art schools.

When did you first realize that you could make a career out of your art?

Graphic design seemed like a safe way to earn a living as an artist. Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Can” had a major impact on me. It made me aware of how ubiquitous design actually is. Product and design go together. My attitude is that if I worked hard enough the odds of success were in my favor. I started my career designing for music packaging, which is a passion of mine. Getting my foot in the door was the hard part.

What kind of education or training helped you develop your skill set?

My education at the School of Visual Arts set my foundation and prepared me for the professional environment I work in today. My jobs taught how to be a better problem solver. They also gave me experience in working with others to achieve a common goal. And I have learned a great deal from the ongoing dialogue I have with my peers and mentors.

How did you really break into the Design industry?

My first break was landing an internship at The Drawing Board, formerly the creative department at Def Jam. Being there fueled my desire to pursue design. But a Stress magazine cover I designed in 1996 was the first time my work was produced on a large scale. When the it hit newsstands I told everyone I knew about it. The rush was intense. Earlier this year, Complex magazine ranked the it as no. 38 on their list of “The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Magazine Covers”.

You have now won a grammy for your work on the album design of the Jack Johnson / Miles Davis album, you have done work with EMINEM, 50 Cent, Apple, and NIke, all of which are amazing accomplishments, what was your road to such great success and how can others best follow?

As an artist, my work gives me fulfillment. The work of other people moves me, and I hope to produce design that does that connects with others in the same way. Success, for me, has come as a result of loving what I do.

What skills as a Graphic Designer do you think have really made you a success in the industry? What is it about what you do that sets you apart from others in the industry?

Listening to and interpreting what people are asking for is key. Once you establish the goal, you can push creatively and expand on it. I’ve been blessed with clients who trust me. The trust between us leads to great work.

Can you describe what you think have been the most important ways that you have built your business and marketed yourself in the industry?

Slang Inc.’s reputation has been our greatest promotional tool. We have worked hard to build relationships and to showcase our design skills various formats. The work we have created has been the most effective tool for building new relationships.

Tell us about your clientele – how did you start working with them?

Most of our clientele has come from word of mouth and existing relationships. That and being sought out after working on highly visible projects. When people like the work, they can be resourceful in finding its source.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

I love that no two projects are the same. Never. Each job comes with a new set of challenges. The variety and the feeling of seeing my work in the world are my favorite things.

Tell us about your typical work day – is it a normal 9 to 5?

Each day is different. In its simplest form, I’m either working, or looking for work. As an entrepreneur it is important to stay focused on finding or creating the best opportunities for growth.

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

As a person who always planned on having my own studio, I am surprised that I avoided taking business classes. Talent is key, but business sense is a requirement. The younger me thought art and commerce were polar opposites. That could not be further from the truth.

What is one piece of advice that you would you give to aspiring artist?

Respect your art. Take pride in your work and do it well. Don’t be dismissive of things that you don’t like aesthetically. Stay hungry and pass on what you have learned.


  • Anna Ortiz
    Anna Ortiz

    Mural Hunter, Photographer, & Writer | Anna is a writer and lover of urban street art who attended San Francisco State University. She is self-taught in digital and film photography, and spends most of her free time fueling her photography obsession by researching vintage cameras.