Joe Black knows how to make it through a maze.
He should. He’s been doodling his own mazes since he was six.
“You just start from one corner and expand out making sure everything is done meticulously,” he says. “It’s a very A-to-Z process.”
The skill set definitely isn’t mandatory for his role as Well Done Marketing’s newest associate creative director. But, since a lot of the work we do generating bold advertising and marketing is about forging paths from a project’s conceptualization stage to its reality, we were happy to add this specialized talent to our pool.
But maze making is just one of a whole lot of interesting things about Joe. We learned some more by sitting down and asking him a few questions about his career, life, and other pastimes.
Q: What should we know about you as you start work here?
A: I’m obsessively detail-oriented, but I try not to make that frustrating for other people. That’s something I’ve always kind of had growing up, just finessing and polishing, making sure things are done to a level of craftsmanship where I’d like to be able to sign my name to it.
Q: Where does that come from?
A: It’s probably just the way I think.
Q: OK, thinking more about your details. Where did you grow up?
A: In Bloomington, Indiana, but I wasn’t born there. I’m adopted. I’m from Seoul, Korea, home of K-pop.
Q: The music?
A: Yes. It’s bad. Don’t listen to K-pop. It’s like this perfect amalgam of hip hop, pop music, and electronic dance music. They’ve been able to take all of these different influences, melding them into a well-polished and very consumable package. K-pop’s going to take over the world. Don’t listen to it.
When I was 7½ I was adopted and came over here. I grew up in Bloomington, which is amazing. You’ve got the arts, theater, music, the library. As a kid, it was really cool to be able to go to the IU library, find old books 14 stacks up that nobody had checked out in years, and be able to flip through them. Really cool.
Q: So, how did you get on the career path that led you to Well Done?
A: Well, I think people interact with the world differently and it’s definitely visual for me. I loved art class in high school. So, when I went to college, I first tried to set up my own curriculum to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in illustration, but I ended up with a BFA in design.
Q: Oh! What’s your favorite kind of design?
A: I think there are really cool things from a lot of different periods.
A lot of visual designers like Bauhaus. It’s clean, modern, no nonsense. It’s got that beautiful geometric minimalism. There’s also the super decorative Arts and Crafts style à la William Morris that I really appreciate, and Art Nouveau has interesting elements. I like concise, thoughtful pieces that aren’t overly worked or too busy. But I think, at the end of the day, if you’re in this business, you do the most effective and beautiful thing you can, and the most effective thing isn’t always one style.
Q: So, you graduated from IU and then what happened?
A: I moved to Indy and got a job at a printing house, where I learned all the nuts and bolts for print production. From there I spent a big hunk of time at a small agency called MB2. I was a designer, photographer, and a little bit of a catch-all. By the time I left, I had kind of cut my teeth, got my feet wet, and dirtied my hands. Then, it was Bradley and Montgomery—good guys there. Most recently, I was an art director at Miller Brooks—also good people.
Q: Fun, cool, career path. What are your goals for Well Done?
A: Well Done has a reputation as this boutique shop that puts out solid work, and that’s great. But there are so many talented people here with experience in a lot of different disciplines that haven’t been recognized yet, I’d like to get the word out. And I also like the idea of having an impact on the growing creative department.
Q: What else? What do you do in your spare time?
A: Explain this spare time of which you speak.
Kidding. I’m a very analog person. I like to do hands-on activities with the kids—hiking, going to museums, and that kind of stuff. My latest project with my son, Preston, is working on a Honda CB750 motorcycle. I’ve had motorcycles since I was 18 and the Honda is currently in pieces, so we’ll make it a hands-on project this summer to clean it up and try to get it running. I think it’ll be fun.
Q: When you’re finished, will you ride it to Well Done?
A: We’ll have to see.
Q: Let’s end with a few random questions. Two things on your life’s bucket list?
A: Go to Vietnam and eat everything. See a Puccini opera at Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
Q: Favorite ad campaign?
A: Volkswagen campaigns from the 1950s because they were done on a ridiculously small budget compared to other automakers of the time. Also, because they were soft sell campaigns instead of feature-driven.
Q: Last one. I think you have a signature accessory. You’ve worn a different scarf every day since you got here, so that’s it. Right?
A: I have about 10 scarves I rotate through, during official scarf season. There was even a brief, hipster summer when I tried to do some light-weight scarves but that was more ironic than anything else. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
Q: Will we see a summer scarf or two when it warms up?
A: I think I’ll spare you that. It’s time to put away boyish things.