Tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, your background, and your work…

I am the owner of Visual Lure, but I function primarily as a freelance designer. After college, I worked at a small design firm for five years. During that time, I requested either a raise or the ability to freelance during off-hours. My bosses permitted me to freelance, and within a year, I had acquired enough work to go out on my own. I have been working independently ever since. As a branding and design firm, my specialty lies in logo design/branding and creating fully custom, search engine optimized WordPress websites, with logos being my absolute favorite. I attended Eastern Illinois University and graduated from SIU Edwardsville with a major in graphic design and a minor in printmaking. My work and clientele are very diverse, and I consider my style to be timeless. I strive to avoid trends unless specifically requested by a client. I like to think that all my solutions are concept-based, with substantial thought behind everything I produce.

What was it that made you want to pursue a career in graphic design? What about this field were you most drawn to? What was your journey like?

I wanted to be a fine artist, but I also wanted to eat on a regular basis – LOL – so graphic design and commercial art were the next logical steps. I’ve always been drawn to art and creating things. As a child, I would build entire cities on my living room floor with Legos and blocks, draw the stained-glass windows in the church, and my mother enrolled me in various art classes during summer vacations. My first paying job was in high school, painting a Harley Davidson sign a guy had cut out of metal. Towards the end of high school and early college, I was drawing ad layouts for a small advertising company in the Chicago area. Fast forward to today, and my work can be found in publications like Logo Talks II, The Big Book of Packaging, and in eleven LogoLounge books to date.

What designers or creative minds influenced you growing up? Has this changed over the recent years? What types of style do you most admire?

Growing up, I was heavily influenced by movies and special effects, specifically “The Mind’s Eye” – one of the first CGI videos. I loved architecture, and still do, with Frank Lloyd Wright and Prairie Style being my favorites. And of course, art. I admired all the great masters, but my real love was for more graphic styles like those of Warhol and Picasso. I was also inspired by photorealism, with my absolute favorite artist being Chuck Close. I still remember seeing my first Chuck Close – his self-portrait. At first, I thought it was just a huge 9-foot-tall photograph. Then, as I walked up to it and realized it was a painting, I was in awe. The brushstrokes of every whisker and the depth of field he created by softening the paint left me speechless. I’m still in awe. As for who is inspiring me nowadays, there are too many to list, but my absolute favorite is Chad Michael of Chad Michael Studio. He primarily designs labels for spirits, but his typography, illustrations, patterns, embellishments, use of color, and overall layout design are as good as it gets.

How would you describe your design aesthetic? What makes your style stand out from other designers/design firms?

I believe my aesthetic is almost anti-aesthetic, and I consider myself a versatile designer. I believe that the “look and feel” of a logo should be dictated by the client, their industry, and their target audience, not by my “style” or personal preferences. With that being said, I try to stay away from trends, so my logos tend to be as simple as possible or, if illustrated, have a timeless aesthetic that I hope won’t become dated. What makes my style stand out from other designers is the thought and concept behind the designs. I almost always try to incorporate something clever or memorable, or at the very least, a solid concept behind the design.

What hobbies or activities are you involved in outside of the design world?

Within the last year or so, I started making art (paintings & photography). You can see some of my work here: https://www.justenhongart.com. I’m also heavily into interior design, constantly tweaking my own house. Lastly, I love to cook, with a passion for Mexican, Italian, and Asian cuisine. I enjoy the meticulous nature of cooking and the fact that I get to make it for others to enjoy. It also fulfills my joy of creating.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Are there hobbies that inspire your work?

Inspiration is everywhere – all around us, but specifically for design – all you need is an Instagram account, Behance, and, of course, a subscription to LogoLounge ;), which provides you with the best work being made around the globe.

What is your design process like? Are there things that would surprise us in how you get your work done?

For logo work specifically, I always start with words – whether they are from the brief or related to the logo, industry, or the name of the company. I then sketch and don’t stop until I have a handful of what I consider to be strong concepts. Next, I render them out, step away, stare at them for hours, refine them if necessary, and then present them once I’m happy.

Why did you decide to join LogoLounge?

LogoLounge Book 1 came out when I was graduating college or just starting my design career. I still remember being in the bookstore, drooling over all the logos, and dreaming that one day I could get into a LogoLounge publication. They are hands down the best logo books in the industry, and I joined in 2007 or 2008 with the hopes of someday making it into one.

What work or works are you most proud of and why? Did such designs come easier than others?

I think I’m most proud of my negative space logos because the only way to create a successful one is through exploration and sketching (often accidentally), and that journey feeds my soul. They also can’t be forced; if they are, it’s obvious to everyone. With that being said, I think my favorites must be Lucky Mutt Doggie Daycare and Chirp Chirp. As for designs coming easily, some I see right away in my head, while others emerge during grueling sketching sessions. So yes, some come easier than others.

What or who would be a dream project or client for you?

My dream projects come from good, hardworking people who want to create, sell, or service others in an honest way. My father was a business owner and entrepreneur, so I absolutely love working for people and smaller companies to help them succeed, as opposed to doing work for large corporations. I get no greater fulfillment as a designer and business owner than when my clients succeed, grow, and flourish.

Can you tell us about a current project you are working on and how it is going?

I am currently wrapping up a project for a company called Stay Ready Prepping. The client came to me after working with a couple of designers and not being happy with what they provided (which is pretty common). He really wanted to fit everything his company did into his logo. I explored what he had (and wanted), trying my best to come up with something. Then, I provided an option that was slightly less literal. Luckily, he decided to go with my concept.

To see more of Justen’s work, check out his LogoLounge here.

You can also see Justen’s work by visiting his website here.

Stay tuned next month, as we feature another LogoLounge member.