John C. Jay was voted one of the “Top Ten Most Influential Art Directors of the Past 50 years” by Graphic Design USA Magazine and has received numerous awards for his work in advertising, which includes campaigns for Nike during his time at Wieden+Kennedy as Global Executive Creative Director. Today, Jay serves as President of Global Creative at Fast Retailing Co. and is widely lauded as one of the most creative thinkers in the business. Yet Jay doesn’t casually throw around words like genius, talent or destiny. Instead, he credits his success to a strong work ethic and a conscious commitment to remaining inspired. Jay offers us his views on the concept of fate, his approach to engaging with design and his thoughts on today’s culture of good curation mistaken for origination creation.
Were there any moments in your life where it felt like something bigger than your own willpower and effort aided your work, creativity or perhaps a chance connection?
Chance connections are part of the joys of life and work, but those chances are few and far between if you are lazy, if you are not curious, if you are not ambitious to be better. It takes hard work to be in the position to have a possible chance connection… Remember, I come from almost nothing, yet I have worked with legendary people such as Marvin S. Traub, Dan Wieden, Phil Knight, Mark Parker and now Tadashi Yanai. Just think of all of the chance connections they each gave me in each of my career moves. They gave me the world, but I had to work so hard for the opportunity. You can’t beat hard work as an investment; it always pays.
Do you believe in destiny or fate?
This is a tough question for me. I have to believe that there is a loosely defined path for each of us. But that path has to be chosen and acted upon by us. My belief in hard work doesn’t take away the potential of some kind of destiny in our lives. The universe is too deep and complex for me to even begin to understand. Do I believe in destiny or fate? Yes because I will make it happen. And that takes faith.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your current work?
My inspiration is always from culture and the magnificent people who make culture relevant and exciting. It’s from everyday people and not simply about self-curated influencers. Inspiration comes when cultures, societies and ideas clash, collide. It’s not always pretty nor easy… Having good taste is not a skill. I see hundreds of young people with great fashion taste, incredibly put together with artistry and sophistication, but that doesn’t mean they are fashion designers. Fashion design is a craft, a highly honed skill that goes far beyond being able to put together a mood board. It’s more than curating yourself on Instagram. Fashion design demands talent, craft, vision and hands-on capabilities. Fashion design is a highly competitive profession that demands real skills… If we ourselves are not inspired, how can we inspire others? It is our job to be inspired.
TEXT BY VALERIE DEMICHEVA