John Jay lecture from his Portland studio
Nike ad from John Jay lecture
CD project from John Jay

Guest Lecture: John Jay

Oct 09 2020

Emily Roemer

On Thursday afternoon our guest lecture was with globally acclaimed designer, John Jay, zooming in from his beautiful studio in Portland, Oregon. He is currently the president of design at Uniqlo and is a partner at Widen + Kennedy. He has done monumental work for Nike, Bloomingdales, and countless other brands. 

One of the most interesting things I learned from his talk today was how he has collaborated with all these amazing artists and people throughout his entire career. From architects, pop artists, sculptures, to tennis players, his collaborations are very impactful. In his earlier design days at Bloomingdales, he famously made cultural relevant shopping bags and would collaborate with different artists to produce eye catching pieces. I loved how these bags didn’t even have the word ‘ Bloomingdales’ on them, everyone just knew. That is branding success. 

He talked about important life lessons. “Never forget about the real customer,” he said. When you are working with a client think about who is actually going to see, touch, feel, experience this piece of design. “Go where you can make the best work of your life,” he added, noting that he would never have left New York yet had an opportunity in Portland and had to take it. “Take those chances,” he urges. 

John says that he gets inspiration from interviewing people on the streets, on public basketball courts, parks, and other public places. He finds seeing things from other peoples’ perspectives really helpful in the creative process. Something we should all try out! 

Finally, lets talk about his work with Uniqlo. He has been a mover and shaker for the company and has literally the brand made it well known around the world. From his collaborations with Rodger Feder, Takashi Murakami, Billie Eilish, and KAWS to branding and designing the headquarters, John is a key player in all things Uniqlo. In relation with Uniqlo he said, “We think simplicity can be improved upon.” 

He resides in Portland in a beautiful studio with huge windows and natural light he calls, Studio J. He says the ability to speak and articulate your ideas is a huge piece of being a successful design entrepreneur. He urges us to unlearn and learn again all throughout our life. 

He left us with a perfect sentiment, “The most powerful thing you can be is yourself.” 

Thanks again, John Jay! We loved every minute.