TAKING THE PULSE with Young Blood winner John Naboye

A Q&A with the multiple Awards winner

February 1, 2024

TAKING THE PULSE with Young Blood winner John Naboye

Imagine being a young designer and landing a place on the DDB design team, creating a mega design project aimed at, of all things, the Design Industry. This was where designer John Naboye, found himself in 2022. The project? Designing "Defy" the RGD’s DesignThinkers 2022 conference! A two-time Young Blood category winner. Overall, his work and contributions were 11 — yes — 11 times, across two competitions! A single winner under the 2023 Illustration Awards and 10 wins in the 2023 Design Awards competition. Now that the dust has settled, let's find out what keeps this talented designer, a Design and Visual Communications graduate at MacEwan University with a Bachelor in Design, in staying inspired.

What is your creative process?

It really depends on the type of project. But generally, always starts with the brief. Followed by identifying which team members you should collaborate with. If I need to ideate or need copy, I go to a copywriter. If I need to work on a project’s look and feel, I go to a designer or art director. And so on. From there, I whack away at my notes, sift through inspiration, and do sketches. Oftentimes, I go directly into Illustrator to play around with whatever loose ideas I come across. The entire pasteboard always looks like a mess, but I consider that file my “sketchbook.” 

Once I’ve landed on a few ideas and comps, I get it peer-reviewed by the team. After some back and forth, the creative gets approved, and it’s all about refining and finalizing until the product meets standards. It could range from simple things like ensuring everything is aligned to complex things such as adding specific elements to the creative to help elevate it (i.e. motion design or re-evaluating colours).


What is the most difficult piece you have worked on? What were the challenges?

The most difficult piece I’ve worked on is from my last year in university. For my final project in my motion design class, I decided to participate in the infamous 36 Days of Type, where designers are challenged to design a letter/number for 36 days straight. Since this was my final project for my motion class, I had to animate every single one. I also wanted to add an element of sound design to each one to help elevate each animation. On some days, I had to double down on a few letters to make deadlines. On other days, I was tired of making these letters and numbers. I almost lost my sanity several times, but it helped me get a job out of school. I also got an A+.


What is the project you are most proud of? What was your creative process?

“Defy,” our work for RGD’s DesignThinkers 2022 conference. Impressing designers is hard enough, so imagine impressing them at an event MADE for them! I was a rookie in event identities, so my involvement came with lots of learning. But luckily, I was able to lean on my colleagues. Teamwork makes the dream work.

It all started with a collaborative brainstorming session with the whole creative team. We all put out ideas on a theme and narrowed it down. Once we were happy with our shortlist, DDB Canada’s [VP] Creative Director, Eva Polis, and [VP] Design Director, Howard Poon, refined the ideas and set the foundation for us to work with. From there, the design team worked in parallel to establish the look and feel. We went back and forth on icon ideation, typefaces, and colours until we settled on something we were satisfied with. Shortly after, we pumped out the various deliverables, ranging from animated screens to signage, program books, and lots more. 

We got a chance to see the identity in person during the Vancouver and Toronto conferences, so seeing it all in action felt rewarding. The accolades that followed this project also made all of us proud of our hard work. On a personal level, being recognized as an Applied Arts Young Blood Design winner made “Defy” one to remember for the rest of my career.


Who is your creative hero?

I don’t necessarily have one! I admire the work of many creatives, whether they’re a sole entity or an entire design studio. If we’re looking into historical designers, Saul Bass comes to mind since he’s the grandfather of motion design. I also admired Shigeo Fukuda’s work since my university days, as it got me interested in modernist graphic design and op-art. Nowadays, I’m very into the work of Studio Dumbar and Vucko with their approaches to motion identities.


How do you stay inspired?

I look into culture: my favourite designers/creatives on social media and other agencies/studios’ work to see what’s trending vs. timeless. I also like to check out award websites to see what’s winning to help inform myself on quality work. Outside of design, I look into pop culture, fashion brands, and the music industry, as they also demonstrate what’s trending vs. timeless – but also who is consistent. 

John, may you continue to be inspired and create timeless design! Congratulations on your 2023 wins!