Designer Profile: Amanda Jane Jones


How did you get into graphic design and publication design?
My mom was a photographer and I would work as her assistant during the summers. I realized that I didn’t want to be a photographer because I didn’t like being out all the time, since I’m a bit of a homebody. But, I realized that I wanted to do something in the arts and there was a woman at my church that did design, so I just applied to [Brigham Young University’s design program] on a whim and got in. They only accept, like, 10 people a year, so I’ve always felt like it was very serendipitous because I wasn’t really in that [design] mindset, so I’m really grateful. I did an internship at Mucca Design in New York and they put me on the book team for awhile and I just loved type and fonts, so my love [for publication design] grew from there.

How did you originally get involved with Kinfolk?
Nathan and I both followed each other’s blogs, and he wrote to me and said he had this idea for a magazine and that he needed an art director, editor and creator to help. They actually had another designer on board, but she got pregnant and backed out, so it just worked out. Good timing I guess. I had just quit my design job, so we launched it in just two months. Neither of us had done it before, so we thought we could do it in two months, but we just did a tester to see what people would think. We were all remote; Nathan was in Salt Lake City, I was in Michigan for a bit and then D.C. for the first issue, and then later we worked with a couple who was in D.C., but that was about it. It was like that for a very long time.

How did Kinfolk change the way you viewed publication design?
It didn’t really. I feel like we went into it viewing publication design in a different way. We wanted to keep it classic and more like a book – just very simple. I always thought that it was impressive how Nathan kept it going for as long as he did without advertising. I don’t know how he did it.

How did Define begin?
I don’t know, it was just something I always thought would be fun to do, and after leaving Kinfolk, I kind of missed the magazine thing. I feel like as an artist [who] makes a living as an artist, I often do work that I love but that is filtered through clients and company requirements. I missed in a way school projects and the type of freedom there. I just thought that adult working artists would enjoy working with other artists in a way that they could use their own brain and not have to worry about anyone else and do something that is completely their own. Which has been fun and a lot of people have been really excited about it. We launched right before [Miles] was born, and we did three issues, so we’re going to take a little break and maybe do one next year, but it is a lot being a mom with two kids.

What is your end goal with Define?
I think it would be fun to morph it into a book at some point, and do an anthology of all of these definitions that we have done. I would love to see more community art projects. We’ve been talking to different companies about doing large installations and interesting things with different groups of artists, just to have different ways to bring people together. I also think it would be cool, and maybe better, if we had a larger online presence rather than in print, to feature more artists and more ideas than what the pages can allow at this point. There are lots of opportunities. Coming from Kinfolk where everything had to be a certain color and was very regimented but beautiful, I wanted this to be more hands-off. When the first issue [content] came in, everything just fit perfectly. We’ve been really lucky. We’ve had a couple of instances where it didn’t work, but I feel like that was my fault for not explaining the process well enough. It has been a cool experiment.

What former internships or jobs stick out in your mind?
I’m a huge fan of internships. In college, it was really competitive, and at the end of that first year, they gave everyone an internship but me and two others. It is a big deal. They placed [students] at Martha Stewart, West Elm, and other big companies. It was because my work was too simple and I was mortified and so embarrassed, which fueled my fire. I sent out about 50 inquiries and only heard back from about three, and that’s when I got Mucca.

I did more internships after the Mucca one; I did two, one at a letterpress studio and one at an advertising firm. After I’d already started Kinfolk and was working full time, I did another internship in D.C. with Suann Song of Appointed. I learned so much from her. She was so kind to everyone she worked with and I loved that about her. She took me under her wing and taught me everything and was very open about everything that she did. I felt like that experience for me, being an intern, especially her intern, taught me so much, almost more than my own schooling. School and internships are just different things, but that real life knowledge from a woman, and a mother as well, was huge for me.I learn the best from example and by watching people. I get emails probably twice a week from kids that have graduated or people that want to change their career asking for advice; it takes me a while to respond, but I just feel this need to always respond to them and tell them because I’ve had people do the same for me and you need to pay it back when you can. I even feel like as an adult and a professional, if I could be an intern when my kids are a little older for someone else that I admire that would be awesome, even just for a week or an apprentice for a day.  

What inspires your work?
Well, obviously books. I have a lot of little books and they are what I use when I have a creative slump. Music, for sure, and nature. Some of my best ideas have come from being outside early in the morning. I also feel like sometimes when I’m in a creative slump, it is because I am too much in my head. So if I go out and serve others or spend time with someone it usually clears my head and gets the focus off of me.

How did you develop your style? 
I think I’ve always really liked simple things. I think it comes from my mom, because growing up, she would wear linens, and our home was very simple. I guess by association I just stuck with it. We went to a lot of garage sales when I was a kid; we would try to find nice things and turn them into something else. A lot of it just comes from my mom.

What brought you to Chicago?
Cree, my husband, is at the University of Chicago getting a PhD in Economics. The first year [Jane] was born was the first year of the program, and he would be gone 12 hours a day, so I didn’t get to work much that first year. Now he and I trade off, so I work half time and he works half time. We’re lucky that we get to do that. I know a lot of families would love to do that, so we feel very grateful.

If you weren’t here, where would you be?
We’ve moved so much since we’ve been married, we’ve lived in so many places, that I feel like sometimes I’m not excited about the place we’re moving to, but I end up loving it. I’m open to whatever. I’m very content where I am, wherever we are, as long as I have my people. That’s what was fun about this summer, which was the first time relocating with the children. I was really worried about it, but it was totally fine. We didn’t need our stuff. I was really worried about being over there with limited toys, but it was fine and they loved it.

If you weren’t doing design, what would you be doing?
I always thought I would be a jazz singer. I love jazz, but I don’t think I’m meant for that lifestyle, obviously, if I’m a homebody. I think though, realistically, I would have probably gone into photography instead of design. I was never really good at anything else.

What are you trying to learn right now?
For me, I’m kind of like a faker photographer because I don’t really understand it. I just move buttons until it starts to look right. So I’m trying to make a conscious effort to understand more about how my camera works, which is hard for me.

What are you most proud of?
My children. Before I became a mom, I was so nervous about being a mom and I didn’t know if I would be a good mom. The night before I just cried and cried, and I told Cree “I think our life is going to be over.” And then [Jane] came and it was the most peaceful moment in my entire life. I had had an emergency c-section; I’d gone into labour and had been pushing for a long time, and they said we lost her pulse so we have to take you in for a c-section. They took me in and it was scary and frightening. When she came it was so bizarre, the room was so loud, but I couldn’t hear anything after she arrived but her. It was really weird. It was this weird, miraculous, spiritual becoming a mother moment for me. I grew into becoming a mom; I felt like it was kind of what I was supposed to be and everything just fell into place and it felt right. It’s funny, as a designer and a working parent, I was so worried that I would lose my identity and I wouldn’t be able to continue my work, but I found that if I always make them my priority, put them first, and then everything else seems to fall into place. It just all works out, which sounds bizarre and I don’t know how it happens. Thinking back before I had kids, I would spend probably twice as long on projects than I do now – part of that could just be experience. I just feel like when you make the important things in your life the priority, it just all works out for the better.

How do you take time for yourself?
I don’t, but I need to. I’m really bad about that. Miles is still nursing and so you’re just attached to your child and it feels like you can’t leave them. He won’t take a pacifier, he won’t take a bottle, so if he’s upset, you’re in trouble. I remember when [Jane] stopped nursing, I felt a little bit more like myself. This is just my season of life. It’s really nice living [in Hyde Park] because there are really nice restaurants just down the street, so we can put them to bed, have a babysitter come hang out, run and grab dinner and be back before [Miles] wakes up to nurse. So I guess that’s for me, date nights with my husband.

Why do you think it’s important for creative women to come together and collaborate? 
So many reasons. Being a support system to one another is great. I think learning from people and being able to share the knowledge you’ve learned is huge.

What is your advice for someone who would like a job like yours?
Apprentice or intern. You have to go into it thinking that you probably won’t get paid, so it’s just for the experience. Just learning from someone you admire, looking through design annuals, as a student, being part of the AIGA and going to meetings and conferences, you learn a ton. Books – there are so many good design books. Ellen Lupton, she’s awesome. Anything that is beautiful, I think is good to have.

What is one thing that has surprised you in your path?
How much I love being a mom, that has shocked me. I was surprised that Kinfolk did as well as it did. In college, I took a business practices class that I thought I wouldn’t need so I didn’t pay attention, and every day I wish I would have paid attention. It taught about taxes and writing invoices, and I run my own business so I do that every day, but I’m getting that hang of it now.

Favorite female creatives? 
I adore Maira Kalman; I think she’s just fantastic. She’s one of my favorites. I saw her speak once and I’ve just been her fangirl ever since. Designer wise, I love Louise Fili, she is such a classic designer and I’ve always loved her work. Lately, I’ve really been into Saar Manche, she’s an illustrator, but also does photography. There are so many on Instagram alone. I love Nicole Franzen and Andrea Gentl. There are so many more.

Top three items of clothing in your closet?
This Ace and Jig dress, my new cozy sweater by babaà knitwear, and my matching set pajamas.

Favorite Chicago places?
Because we are in Hyde Park, I love visiting the University and Plein Air Cafe. The lake, I’m there every other day with the kids. I love Lula Cafe, The Art Institute, and because I’m a mom, The Children’s Museum, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Antique Taco, Bang Bang Pie, and Parson’s. I just love Chicago.

Morning routine?
I hear the children yelling “mom” and we bring them both in our bed for cuddles, which usually lasts ten minutes. We always make breakfast, which has lately been oatmeal. Then get ready, Cree and I take turns showering and managing the kids. If it’s my day, I just get to work and he’ll go out with the kids, and vice versa.

Favorite travel destination?
It’s hard to pick because everywhere we’ve been, I’ve just loved. I loved Switzerland for the mountains. I loved Rome for the gelato. But if I had to pick one, I would pick Switzerland because I love being in nature.

What did you learn living short term in different destinations with your family?
Routines are important to help you feel at home. Asking local people where their favorite places to go are makes a huge difference. We never do hotels, especially with kids, we do Airbnb or find a friend. Staying at a home makes all the difference. I feel like you do need a couple things to make your home feel like your home. We brought some of our favorite books to just have out on the table, that may sound silly, but just to have elements of your own home around. We brought a blanket that we were able to use on the bed – those types of things that are packable.

Favorite indulgence?
I have a major sweet tooth. I just love getting treats. We did the Whole30 and it was terrible. I need my treats.

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