#KnowWhoMadeIt is a movement created to bridge the gap between consumer and producer. For the end user, the products hold much more significance and purpose. For the maker, it honors their creation and provides credit where credit is due. To explore this idea further, we are hosting a series on our blog where we interview those who create and discuss the importance of signing the work they produce. People are behind products. Let’s celebrate this!
Meet Jeff Sheldon. He's the talent behind Ugmonk, and we've been working with him on an exciting collaboration launching this week. We're really excited to introduce him first through our #KnowWhoMadeIt series — keep an eye out for the limited edition products launching later this week!
Name: Jeff Sheldon
Occupation: Designer and entrepreneur
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
1. Can you tell us about your inspiration behind your KK intl.- exclusive design?
This design was such a fun project to work on. I don't usually design anything outside of Ugmonk but this collaboration couldn't have been a better fit. The phrase “Behind Every Product is a Person” really struck a chord with me personally as a maker and designer and I wanted to place the main emphasis on the word “person.” I started by sketching out a variety of styles and different layouts until I landed on the final design that you see here. I wanted to integrate some of my organic hand-drawn script and with the clean typeface to a bring a smooth flow and clearly communicate the message behind the campaign. I'm really pumped with how the final design turned out.
2. Ampersands are a consistent element in your designs. Where does your love for ampersands come from?
It's funny how much of a cult-following ampersands seem to have. There's something about the form and variety of the ampersand character that makes it a fun element for designers to play with. I didn't originally plan on ampersands being a key part of the Ugmonk brand, but over the years they've become almost synonymous with the style that I've created. The custom Ugmonk ampersand that I originally designed for our leather goods has now become a trademark of our brand.
3. What was the hardest part of moving from designing for others to creating your own line?
I am my own toughest client. At first it may seem like a dream for a designer to create work for himself instead of being constrained by client expectations, but that creative freedom can also be paralyzing at times. Without having those constraints in place the temptation can be to keep tweaking designs indefinitely. Though my work is far from perfect, I feel like creating work that I'm personally proud of has really pushed me to become a better designer.
4. What were the early days of Ugmonk like?
Back in 2008 when I launched Ugmonk, I never considered it anything more than a passion project. My goal wasn't to start the next big design brand but rather to fill a creative void and create products that I wanted for myself. I didn't consider myself an entrepreneur or business guy, just a designer who liked making things. I didn't know anything about what it took to launch and grow a business but quickly realized there was a lot more to it than just designing shirts. It was all learning by doing and figuring things out along the way (which is still how I operate to this day). We started out slow and small only shipping a few orders a week, but as we starting gaining some traction in the design world I realized I might be onto something bigger. I poured most of my free time during the evenings and weekends into growing the brand on the side, while working a full-time job at an agency. After two years and many long conversations with my wife, I decided to make the jump to quit my day job to go full-time with Ugmonk. Since then it has grown immensely and become so much more than I ever could have imagined. I'm so grateful that I get to wake up every day and pursue my passion to design awesome products.
5. What’s a normal day look like for you today?
One of the things I love most about running Ugmonk is that every day is very different. As a small business owner I wear quite the variety of hats each day and it can be overwhelming at times but always keeps my days interesting. On a normal day I spend most of my time in my home studio working on many different areas of the business. My days are filled with product design, sourcing, marketing ideas, product photography, ecommerce related projects, and so much more. There's never a dull moment.
6. Where do you draw inspiration from either in your work or in your life?
I never have a good answer for this question. For me inspiration doesn't come from a single source, it’s more of a cumulative gathering of bits and pieces from everything I see and experience in life. My mind is constantly absorbing inspiration from all sorts of places and I tend to pick up on tiny details that most people would never stop to notice. Sometimes it's traveling to a new place, or browsing the web, or looking at old work from the masters that pioneered the world of art and design.
7. Your aesthetic is distinctly minimal. How do you prevent yourself from over-designing?
Simple is hard, much harder than it looks. I've always been drawn to simplicity and a minimalist aesthetic. Not only is it visually appealing but there's something about the restraint and pureness of simplicity that I really connect with. It's much easier to add to the clutter to hide inconsistencies but stripping things down to their essentials means all of the subtle details need to be on point. It's been fun to evolve and refine the Ugmonk aesthetic over the years but still keeping it very true to the same bold simplicity that I started with.
8. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not designing and creating?
The one thing about running a business that's so integrated into my life is that I can never really turn it off. This can be good and bad. I'm always thinking about concepts for my next designs and products and how I can improve Ugmonk. When I'm not working I enjoy spending time with my wife and traveling to new places to experience other cultures and taking photos to capture those memories. These past few years we've had a blast traveling to places like Iceland, London, Norway, Honduras and others. When I get the chance I also still enjoy playing soccer, snowboarding, and staying active to make up for the long hours that I spend at my desk.
9. What does #knowwhomadeit mean to you?
We live in a culture that’s quick to consume whatever is the cheapest, fastest, and newest. Rarely do we stop to think about who actually spent time to make the things that we use and enjoy every day. Whether it's a craftsman in another country or a chef at a local restaurant, there are real people behind everything and I'm excited about the #knowwhomadeit campaign because it highlights those people. Being a maker myself has caused me to consider which products I purchase and think more about the where and how they were made. I've been a fan long-time fan of Krochet Kids intl. and their transparency about how their products are made is what initially drew me in.
10. What does it mean for you to sign your name on something you’ve worked hard on?
As a designer it's super humbling to have people wearing and using things that I have designed. I put a crazy amount of time into designing quality products, but I'm still grateful for every single order and knowing that someone would spend their hard-earned money on something I made. Though many of my customer and fans haven't met me in person, it's really rewarding to know that thousands of my products are walking around the globe at this very moment.
11. What about when you see a signature in the KK intl. product?
Seeing the hand-drawn signature of the woman who made each product serves as a great reminder that a real person spent time making the product. It's also such a neat conversation starter and fun way to share the KK intl. story with friends and cause them to think twice about where their products are made.
12. Who signed your shirt from the collection?
13. From one creator to another, what would you say to her?
Thank you. Seriously, thank you for pouring your talent and time into making such beautiful products. Keep working hard to perfect your skills and know that people are enjoying your work all around the world. I hope your dreams to one day start your own business becomes a reality.