Janet Brent is a Filipino born, Pacific Northwest raised Filipino American back in her motherland to pursue her renegade design career online and prides herself in being a “professional hobo” (homeward bound). She blogs at Purple Panda where she recounts the trials and tribulations of “lifestyle design” and tweets @janetbrent and is preparing a new web design launch for her services on November 11th, 2011. To view more of her work, go to byjanet.net.
How did you become interested in design?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist, writer and teacher growing up.
My artistic side seemed strongest since I’ve been drawing at a young age and started painting in high school. A job shadow assignment in high school during my sophomore year got me turned on to “graphic design.” I had no idea what that was but I knew it had to be artistic, so I ended up job shadowing a graphic designer who worked for a sewerage agency. Not the most glamorous job at ALL, but he was so excited about his work and the passion was contagious!
From that moment on, I knew that I would go to school to become a graphic designer. It seemed like the most ‘practical’ profession to do your art and not be such a starving artist.
In what ways do you differ from other designers?
I’ve always had a strong ethical pulse that has pulled me away from the corporate path. I’ve struggled with my role as designer because I didn’t want to be designing ads to promote meaningless consumption. I’ve always felt like a designer with heart and that the regular industry is no way to change the world.
I decided to go renegade and quit my job.
It wasn’t the fulfilling work experience that I had imagined after college. It was more like that dead end Kinkos job, and even though I say I’m anti-corporate, I wouldn’t have minded getting more traditional industry experience and working up the ladder, just to taste the other side and keep up with my skills. Instead, I felt like I was wasting away and not growing as a designer or utilizing my skills.
Now, I find myself rebuilding my career completely from scratch as an indie web designer for the holistic and creative arts. I have never done this professionally until now but I taught myself html way back in the day when I was 13 and updated myself with WordPress expertise. Like so many “lifestyle designers”, I decided I needed to move back to the Philippines where I was born so that I could build my online business in a place where I can basically afford to be broke because of the cheaper standard of living.
My life is completely different now, and I’m living like a local in a poor community while I build my new business and hopefully move out soon, travel and pay off my student loans.
If that’s not renegade, I don’t know what is!
Tell us about your experience at the Art Institute of Portland.
Like I said, I had a strong ethical pulse that even surfaced during college! I had a lot of mixed feelings about my major and what I was getting myself into. A lot of people around me wanted to move to New York and make it big or start off with $50k a year right off the bat.
I just couldn’t relate with that at all.
The art critiques toughen you up though but I had a lot of anxiety about my work and feeling like I wasn’t good enough. I’ve struggled with self-esteem even up to today. It challeged me to be a better designer and I’ve improved a LOT since my very first assignment that I still remember. A menu and logo for a fictitious restaurant called the Dilly Deli. Looking back at this time, it was one of the happiest points of my life even though living it felt like a much different story.
Being in a state of learning and growth is the best way to live and college challenges you to that by default.
How do you feel the web will change in coming years?
That’s a good question. I really have no idea! So far, I know about responsive design which makes it easier to view things in smaller screens like mobile devices and allows images, backgrounds and the whole content structure to resize as you move your window. There will be more of that.
Looking at current trends, the way people deal with SEO will completely change. It will be more about social media and networks than keywords. Google+ will rise and Facebook will be a memory. There might be more rules and regulations as more and more people do business online.
Could you describe a successful “branding” philosophy in just a few sentences?
Branding encapsulates your core values and attracts your target audience by being able to convey your top three personality traits within seconds in a clear and straight to the point manner.
Who you are as a person, brand, or company and what makes you unique is part of a remarkable brand.
What are some of your favorite movies?
I love movies!!
I’m partial to foreign films and indies. Such a cliche, right?
I love I Heart Huckabees, Waking Life, Amelie, American Beauty, Buffalo 66, Brazil, any David Lynch film, and Metropolis (both the Anime and silent 1920′s film). I have so many!
I also love a good 80s movie like my all-time favorite, The Breakfast Club.
Where do you find inspiration?
I try to find inspiration in my life and experiences, ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I am inspired by the people around me, my amazing boyfriend, and the awesome clients that I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with.
I’m inspired by bloggers I read, videos, and good typography. I love just grabbing random brochures or flyers that I think have good design.
What has designing taught you about life?
How existential! I think that designing has taught me to see the beauty in life, and disregard the negative. It’s taught me to focus on the details, and I try to be as positive as I can be in my outlook.
My design philosophy goes hand in hand with my life philosophy. Help as many people as I can and make the world a better place… One design at a time!
Samples of Janet’s design work.