[Ron]: So Jordan... It is just “Jordan”, isn’t it?
[Jordan]: I’ve had a handful of nicknames growing up. My good friends back home in Florida call me “Jung” or “Mr. Jung” or “Junglist”. If we were really tight, you might call me “Zaddy”. But you can just call me Jordan.
[R]: Okay, Zaddy it is.
[Zaddy]: Wait, no...
[R]: So Zaddy, how was it like growing up in Florida? Did you play any water polo?
[Z]: I’ve never played water polo. I grew up in a small town in the panhandle called Fort Walton Beach, but I actually spent most of my time at the bowling alley. I barely know how to swim.
[R]: Bowling? (laughing) I can’t imagine a scrawny boy-man like you throwing a bowling ball.
[Z]: Seriously, I practically grew up at the bowling alley. My dad was super-tight with the people that ran my local bowling alley. He helped coach the youth league on Saturday mornings, and all the kids got to practice for free on Mondays after school. There was a “Quartermania” day once a week where you could get shoes, hotdogs, and games for a quarter each. And then there was Cosmic Bowl on the weekends... so yeah, I spent a lot of time bowling.
Atlanta, GA, USA
Fort Walton Beach, FL, USA
“Black on Both Sides” by Mos Def, “Internal Affairs” by Pharoahe Monch, “The Pimp & Da Gangsta” by Dirty, “My World” by Lee Fields & The Expressions
Deep conversations, holding hands, and long walks off short piers
Working lunches, clout chasers, and Lakers fans
Nike or Adidas
Unless it's Boost, it's Nike all the way
[R]: Bowling and creativity don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. How did you get into the arts?
[Z]: I remember being in kindergarten and not knowing how to properly hold a pencil. I looked around and all these kids around me were scribbling away in their fancy notebooks. I felt dumb. How did all these kids learn how to write? And at such a young age? When I eventually found a grip that felt natural, I started to draw.
The first thing I started drawing were Ninja Turtles. There was no shortage of reference material back then — there were toys and cartoons and movies everywhere. I also played a bunch of video games as a kid, so I would redraw the characters that I found in gaming magazines and instruction manuals. I was drawing non-stop back then. I was that kid that the other kids knew could draw. You know the one. I had a reputation. Sometimes I would get odd requests from other kids to draw random cartoon characters or temp tattoos. It was pretty fun! (laughs)
I didn’t take my first art class until the 8th grade, but when I got to high school, I was in an art class every semester.
[R]: Interesting. So who is your favorite Ninja Turtle?
[Z]: Raphael for sure. He’s brash and he’s direct and to the point and kind of an asshole. People around him often mistake his bluntness for being rude but he’s just being honest. I find that incredibly relatable.
[R]: That sir is a trick question. The correct answer is Pisanello.
“I was drawing non-stop back then. I was that kid that the other kids knew could draw. You know the one. I had a reputation.”
[R]: I imagine you carried your talents into college and parlayed that into a career in the visual arts.
[Z]: Not quite. When I got to FSU, I was originally a graphic design major but I hated it. I was still drawing and doing “studio art”. I didn’t feel like the program was fully fleshed out. At the time, the path to become a graphic designer wasn’t as clear-cut as it is now. When I came home that Christmas, I spilled my guts to my parents, and my mom told me to do something “practical”. After hearing that, I reasoned to myself that I needed to be doing something computer-related. I bounced around different majors for a few more semesters before finally landing on MIS – Management Information Systems. I took some programming classes and learned about a bunch of shit that I don’t even use. Four years later, I graduated from FSU with a BS in MIS and a minor in Computer Science. (shrugs)
[R]: You don’t use any of it?
[R]: Wait. So what did you end up doing after graduation?
[Z]: I quickly landed a job at a company called EDS – Electronic Data Systems. They gobbled up the entire MIS graduating class. I worked as a systems engineer doing batch claims processing for Florida Medicaid.
[R]: That. Sounds. Terrible.
[Z]: It wasn’t fun. (Laughs) But I did get familiar with the command line.
[Z]: It took me about two years but I realized I needed to do something different. I was still in Tallahassee, and I knew I had to move to a bigger city if I wanted to achieve something more. My closest options were Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Atlanta. I ultimately decided to go to Atlanta because my brother had been there since the Olympics and his family was willing to put me up until I got my act together. I went back to art school and got an Associates in Graphic Design in a little over two years. A few months later, I joined a startup called TripLingo. I wasn’t doing any design, but at least I was working closely with a designer and dabbling in app development.
[R]: Do you ever become a graphic designer?
[Z]: After TripLingo, I joined ShootProof as a front-end engineer. I was still in a development role, but I was able to collaborate with the product design team on a daily basis. Every so often an opportunity would come along where I could exercise my creativity. I started taking on more design tasks and less development work. It was pretty obvious to everyone that I was more interested in the design-side of things. A spot on the design team eventually opened up, and I quickly transferred over.
“It was pretty obvious to everyone that I was more interested in the design-side of things.”
[R]: What’s the hardest part about being a designer?
[Z]: I actually struggle with imposter syndrome on the regular – more so though when I was a developer than a designer. I think the solutions come more naturally as a designer, but sometimes my views don’t align with my peers and I have to defend my decisions. So to me, that’s the most difficult part – not getting too attached to any particular solution and having to validate your work whether it be through data or pre-existing patterns or mental models. I can admit when I'm wrong though.
[R]: Are you glad you chose Atlanta over San Diego?
[Z]: San Diego never even crossed my mind.
[R]: It’s a fantastic city. You should’ve gone to San Diego.
[Z]: I’m sure it’s a great city, but I’m happy that I picked Atlanta. Before I moved to Atlanta, I had zero style. My friends will probably say that I still lack style, but I think my fashion-sense has increased tremendously just by being exposed to the various people and cultures that this city offers. I’ve met a ton of amazing and talented people here, and without some of these friendships, I’m not sure where I would be right now.
Plus, the food scene is incredible. I live in a great part of the city where I can take advantage of that. There’s always something for me to do and explore.
[R]: Where’s your favorite place to eat in Atlanta?
[Z]: I love pizza. It’s a toss up between Antico and Ammazza, but I’d probably say Ammazza because it’s less than a 15 minute walk from my place. The best wings in town are at The Local. If they're not the best, they're definitely top five dead or alive.
[R]: Word on the street is that you also have quite the shoe fetish.
[Z]: (Laughs) I have a bunch of sneakers, but I wouldn’t call myself a “sneakerhead”. I only have so many sneakers in my rotation, and I’m actually trying to offload some of my collection. A lot of my shoes are just sitting in my closet collecting dust.
[R]: Do you have a favorite sneaker?
[Z]: I love all my children equally. But really, it’s the Air Max 90 Infrared.
[R]: Last question: If you had a magic time machine, what advice would you give to a young, bushy-tailed version of yourself?
[Z]: That’s a good question. I would probably tell myself to lighten up and stop being so serious. Not a whole lot of my friends realize this, but I can be very serious at times – mostly because I’m always chasing after my idea of perfection. I’m just now realizing that this pursuit has held me back. You need to know when to let go and settle.
At the same time, don’t settle with being practical. You won’t be happy if you take the easy road and let other people make those tough decisions for you. Trust your intuition and keep pushing yourself.
Keep your circle tight. Try to surround yourself with people that are smarter and more talented than you. For the record, most of my friends are way smarter and more talented than I’ll ever be.
Finally, don’t buy those Yeezy’s. They’re already played out. Stick with the classics.
[R]: Thank you Zaddy.
“You won’t be happy if you take the easy road and let other people make those tough decisions for you. Trust your intuition and keep pushing yourself.”