J Collins on bringing the punk aesthetic to branding


written by Hatti Rex

You wouldn’t necessarily think the anti-establishment punk aesthetic would have a place in branding, but it’s a proven way to appeal to customers' quirks which often results in success. Designer J Collins is more than familiar with the idea, effectively blending the punk rock influence of his youth to his professional practice.

J Collins is LA-based and has been a professional designer for more than fifteen years.

"I've worked at ad agencies, design studios, branding firms, motion shops, and with clients directly. Projects ranging from visual identities to campaign creative to social content to logos for entertainment properties to records and t-shirt designs for bands. My experience is diverse, but at the heart of everything I do is a desire to create work that is explorative, beautifully crafted, with a bold point of view."

Back in his senior year of high school, his love of music fused with his interest in art from classes and electives with the help of a forward-thinking art teacher. “I was in a couple of bands that created artwork for. Then I started doing art for my friends’ bands. That turned into a little business I made for myself. I would paint band logos on jackets in exchange for whatever I could barter for: records, tapes, CDs, t-shirts... beer.” 

“After seeing a few of these seemingly shady deals go down my teacher pulled me aside and asked me what I was up to. Assumably relieved that I wasn’t selling drugs or something, my teacher asked me if I ever thought about a career in graphic design. I came from a working-class background and hadn’t heard of graphic design. I didn’t have plans to go to college - or any plans really - after highschool. My teacher arranged for me and a few other students to meet with a rep from a local design school, and I fell in love. The rest is history.” 

Some of his standout projects on Creative Commission include risograph inspired graphics for indie beer brand The Hunted, as well as provocative works for Cult Records such as a bold and bright poster for Surfbort.

“That’s a look that I’ve been developing over the past couple of years. The idea is to bring together my love for Danish and Swiss graphic design, experimental typography, and punk flyers from the late 70s/80s. For The Hunted I incorporated my love for tattoos and made the composition of the piece in the vein of a flash sheet.” The fusion of these visual subcultural signifiers results in undeniably striking imagery.

But where does he see the punk aesthetic fitting into branding generally?

“It all depends on the brand and its message. I think punk is more about the frame of mind than a replicated look that comes organically from culture. You don’t need halftone images and scanner bed textures to say 'fuck it' and do things on your own terms.” Amen!

Featured work

The Hunted

Boomtown Brewery calls the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles home. It’s a place they’re very proud of, and they’ve made it a point to work with local artists.

One of the ways that they work with artists is to offer them some canvas space on their can designs; Artist Series releases.

"I was humbled to be invited to do a design for their next batch I was excited to work the Boomtown guys again. I wanted to keep things 'LA' and pay homage to one of the great artists of LA, Charles Bukowski. The design features tons of easter eggs from his writings and life. Tons to look at."

Design Lecture

"I was invited to give a lecture about careers in the arts, and my experience working in advertising and graphic design. I took the opportunity to create some new work that reflects an aesthetic that I've been moving towards with my personal work and help tell my story in the presentation."

The frames below are elements that J Collins created for the deck and some shots from the lecture.

"here was a 40 minute Q and A session to help any questions that the 300+ students had about going to design school, the competitveness of the industry, the various careers that are available for them to pursue etc. It was a privelege, and I can’t wait to do more of these."