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Jacob Cass travels the world with his wife and his laptop creating inspired design work for grateful clients along the way.

We all have been given the advice: “envision a life that you would be proud of, and then take steps to make it happen.” It’s meant to be inspiring, but it is always a little challenging to hear because it invites the question: “am I living my best life?”

Someone who may feel confident that he is living his best life is Jacob Cass. He is an award-winning graphic designer and web designer who work for clients like Disney, Nintendo, Jerry Seinfeld and many more. He has a TedX talk under his belt, 21 awards in his arms, and a successful blog and social presence coming from his mind.

But what makes Jacob (and his wife) special is the land under their feet; it is never the same because they are digital nomads. They travel the world and work when they can. Jacob explains to us that he works for 4 or 5 productive hours in the morning, and then experiences the culture and sees the sights of the world in the afternoon.

This globe-trotting and constant intake of inspiring stimuli leaves him primed to create world-class work for his clients and publish insights for his followers.

We were fortunate enough to catch Jacob when he was in London experienced World Cup fever. You can watch the video directly below, or read the interview in the transcript further down.

If you enjoy, please support BMB by giving the video “thumbs up” and subscribe on YouTube.


Video: BMB’s Colin Finkle talk to Jacob Cass.


Text: Jacob Cass and Colin Finkle talk about starting in graphic design, the pace of web development, and living abroad for $50 a day.

Jacob Cass

Colin Finkle
You worked with some pretty big brands: Nintendo, Jerry Seinfeld. How did these relationships come about?

Jacob Cass
So I used to live in New York for five years, and I bounced around different agencies. And that gave me access to these big clients. These days I’m working through my business, Just Creative, and I work with most small-midsized businesses now, but that’s where I got those jobs.

Colin Finkle
How does it compare working for smaller businesses versus those big agency jobs?

Jacob Cass
Well, it’s a totally different experience. Because when you’re working in an agency, you have access to smart minds around you, you’re working in teams, and you have bigger budgets and things like that, which is cool in its own way. But then you have obviously all the things that go with small businesses. So it’s just different and, yeah, they’re both enjoyable.

Colin Finkle
Yeah, sometimes it’s nice when the client is smaller. I have the same experience where I’ve had agency experience with big brands, but it’s nice to realize entrepreneur’s visions; people are a little more appreciative when you’re working on more of a personal vision when you work to them with smaller guys.

Jacob Cass
Yeah, absolutely.

Colin Finkle
Were you always interested in design, or has that come later in life for you?

Jacob Cass
Yeah, it’s, it’s always been there. Even looking back in my kindergarten stages. I’ve always gone towards the art side of things that never enjoyed math or science or anything like that. So it’s definitely in my DNA.

Regarding design, I just kind of fell into it as a hobby. I was doing a lot of Photoshop editing, and just creating like mock websites, and morphing people’s faces and things like that. But when I was a teenager, and that kind of landed me into this direction of finding out about graphic design, and I’d never even heard of it at the time and my careers adviser told me about it, I looked into it more and followed that path.

Colin Finkle
I think you owe them a career advisor a little something.

Jacob Cass
Absolutely.

Colin Finkle
Did you go to design school?

University of Newcastle. Graphic Design.

Jacob Cass
I did. I did one or two years in high school, just like basic graphic design course. And it was more about illustration, and drawing and graphic design.

But then I went into university, The University of Newcastle in Sydney, Australia. And I studied that for three years and then I left and moved to New York.

Colin Finkle
Now would you recommend someone design school if you’re advising a family member, like a nephew, who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

Jacob Cass
I think is possible both ways. It’s definitely possible to go without university with all the tools online these days. There is a lot of online courses regarding design and development.

And I I personally think that a lot of universities struggle to keep up with the fast pace of development and all the coding languages. The design principles generally stay the same. So, yes, you can learn the basics through design school, but regarding website development, you can keep up to date online.

Colin Finkle
Yeah, web development changes so quickly. I do find that online courses, or blogs or tutorials or whatever, can’t match is the stuff you learn from your classmates. There is value in being in the same discipline, same environment as other designers. I learned more from the people around me that I did for my professors.

Jacob Cass
Absolutely. The professors can give you real feedback, and they can show you things. And you have that one to one interaction or with your classmates, and you do get that team aspect to it. Whereas online courses aren’t like that.

So there’s definitely pros and cons. The monetary value of each comes into it as well. The cost: online versus universities. In Australia, it’s a little bit more affordable, but in the United States where it’s just ludicrous. But you have to keep that in mind.

Colin Finkle
Yeah, Canada is the same way. As long as day close to home, you’re, you’re well well funded.
After you finish school, you have a pretty unique story. Can you share with us?

Jacob Cass
So I got, I got offered a job for an agency in New York six months before graduating. And I said yes. I packed up my bags and I didn’t know a thing about New York. I found accommodation the day before I left. I got there, found it really cool, and fell in love with the city.

Straightaway, I work for this company for six months. And then they decided they didn’t want me anymore. So I pretty much had to find another job very quickly. You have ten days to do that or get kicked out. So I found a job, it didn’t work with immigration, and had to go back to Australia. Then some lawyers got involved… blah, blah, blah.

I ended up coming back to New York and working for a number of different agencies just to figure out what I want, where I want to work, and what I want to do. Eventually, I found one which I loved. And I stayed there for four years, until about three years ago, when I decided to leave and go traveling. So that’s what I’ve been doing the past three years, just traveling and freelancing with my own design business.

Colin Finkle
Nice. I think that I think I remember hearing this story before that you sort of escaped to Canada when you had your visa issues. Why not stay in Canada? What’s wrong with Canada?!?!

Jacob Cass
That was a different thing. You have to renew visa every couple of years. So that was the second time. I went over to get a particular kind and got denied, I wasn’t allowed back in this states. My wife had to come over with all my bags. We had just signed a lease, and she had just got a new job. So we had everything and the wheels were in motion. And yeah, I couldn’t get back in the States. So then I had to go back to Australia again.

So but it worked out with a lot of determination, immigration lawyers, and I found a little loophole regarding a particular visa that I qualified for. I could come back on that. So was able to make it back into the United States.

Colin Finkle
So nowadays, you’re you started Just Creative. What prompted you to start that?

Jacob Cass
Well, actually started Just Creative in my university years, and it was actually “Just Creative Design” back then. And at that, at that time, it was a personal hobby, just recording my design process. And a way to document my studies and what I learned, and I shared that online and it picked up some traction.

I learned about web, social media and things like that, which I hadn’t really known about. And that opened up a whole world of opportunities and has been the foundation of my business ever since then. And it kind of evolved from a personal blog or a record of my design studies to an outlet on my portfolio and sharing articles, which I continued to today. So as it’s been consistent.

I eventually rebranded from “Just Creative Design” to “Just Creative” just to shorten it. And to show us more than just design and, yeah, I’ve gone from there. Nice.

Colin Finkle
Do you differentiate that brand? Like the just create a brand from Jacob Cass brand? Or is it all sort of you?

Jacob Cass
It’s all it’s all me, and I don’t really differentiate. I don’t have any employees except for my wife, and she assists me. And in terms of differentiating myself and my brand: the idea behind Just Creative was to be the same as my initials, Jacob Cass. That was how I actually ended up on that name. Whether or not that changes in the future, I’m not sure, but right now, the two brands definitely the same.

Colin Finkle
You told me earlier that you’re in London, and Your wife is in Africa. And you guys are both working. Tell me about that sort of lifestyle: the roaming-digital-working lifestyle.

Jacob Cass
Yeah, so it’s actually strange because we haven’t been apart for this long in seven years; we’ve always been side by side. But she’s a nanny and teacher back home, and she landed this gig down in Africa which was too good to turn down. And she’s decided to go over there while I am in London, working and exploring. She’s working and having a holiday at the same time, as I am.

Regarding the lifestyle, we originally planned to do it for one year. We did it for that year, and it we found out of those actually much more affordable to work on the road then to live in like a major city like New York, London, or Sydney with the ludicrous rent and expenses. So it was actually cheaper to travel; you see the world, you have more freedom, you don’t have the boss, so there’s a lot of benefits to it. And we really adapted to that lifestyle.

But those things are going to come to an end because, well, soon we will have a little time on hold because we’re having our first kid in November, which I am very excited for.

Colin Finkle
Nice. Well, congratulations!

Jacob Cass
Thanks! We don’t plan to stop entirely; we will nest for at least six months to get the ropes and learn about babies and all that comes with it. And then if things are going well, then yeah, we can pack up and go somewhere else and figure it out. Probably slow the travel, not moving around as much. But I think I think it’s very possible. We follow a lot of families that do the same thing.

Colin Finkle
I don’t think it’s the end. I’m a dad myself, I have a three-year-old, and we’re just sort of getting to the point where he’s actually fun to have around and travel with. It’s good.

Jacob Cass
Yeah, you have some more interaction at about that age.

Colin Finkle
I know, and they can communicate their needs, which is huge.
So where do you turn for inspiration?

Jacob Cass
Inspiration? Well, it depends on the projects. Travel is a big inspiration, and it always keeps me fresh and alive.

Regarding inspiration: there’s so much on the web these days that I don’t have a single place turn to every time; it’s always around that project. So I’ll do research based on industry, or style, or whatever it is for the client, and then go from there.

Colin Finkle
If you’re starting a branding project. You’re pretty confident you understand their business. You’ve talked to your client quite a bit. Now it’s time to get started; pen to paper or cursor to screen. How do you start?

Jacob Cass
Yeah, it’s not always the same. But I do follow a similar process. I have it down, and got the brief and generally do some brainstorming like mind mapping and putting keywords together during some initial research on other brands. I ask, how can you differentiate the brand from the other brands? Then I get into the concept.

Sometimes I sketch. Sometimes I get straight on the computer, because I love working with type and to see what feeling comes from the type, and that can often dictate a lot. Because type is such a huge part of design, as we all know, it helps me kind of form the image in my mind. It can often dictate the logo, or the website, or whatever is to come. And I see how the design gradually plays out in further materials because you want the whole brand to be consistent.

Scratch Karak and Bread

Colin Finkle
So the type is the foundation. Do you start straight on the computer? Do you do any hand sketching before?

Jacob Cass
I do type exploration first. A lot of the time just get a feeling from the type. I gotta get my head around the feelings regarding the company name and then seeing how some creative type with those words like might play back into the brand, and then sometimes bringing in like a tagline. Get an overall concept to work towards.

Colin Finkle
When you’re working with content and presentation, sometimes you stumbled upon an excellent piece of content that can change the whole way you want to present it.
So, I know that it’s sort of best practice to not go to the computer straight away because you get hung up in the details. But I do find, especially when working with type, that I see more opportunities when I’m on the computer than I do when I’m when I’m sketching.

Jacob Cass
Yeah, and the process isn’t always linear; you go back and forth. And when I’m traveling I’m often I’m just like on a bus, don’t have the tools available, and it’s bumpy. So that’s where computer works. So you just adapt to the situation and the project and go from there.

Colin Finkle
With your clients: you’ve got something that you’re pretty proud of, or maybe multiple things that you’re pretty proud of. Do you present one option that you’re fully confident in and you say “go with this!” Or do you present multiple options and let them choose something?

Jacob Cass
I’ve done one option that a handful of times, but people generally like seeing a couple options. When I’m super confident, and the concept is awesome, I’ll just build out the whole presentation.

When I am 100% about it, then I’ll just send one. But not often am not 100%, because I believe that it’s the collaboration and the client is always going to have some valuable feedback and suggestions.

And it’s good to compare; one direction may be light, one maybe dark, one maybe modern, one might classic, or one might be a middle ground. So sharing different options allows people to compare and you can get better feedback. Or you could just be fortunate and get: “yes, you nailed it” from the client. I just don’t want to close the doors too quickly. And which is rare to get it 100% first go.

So yeah, a couple options. But I try not to show too many options unless it’s just small changes. Because otherwise, too many options can lead to Frankenstein’s monster, trying to combine them all.

Colin Finkle
I know, when you’re in a client meeting, and you they’re like: “oh, I love this aspect of this. And this aspect of that. Maybe we can put them together!”
I am like: “they’re good because they’re different in their own right.” And explaining to someone is always a little tragic; explaining that they don’t really go together.

Jacob Cass
Because you want to send one strong message, not multiple messages. That’s often the case with logo design: you want to send a strong single message. And that’s achieved by simplifying and not having too many concepts or thoughts into one mark, which often happens if you try to combine marks.

Colin Finkle
So while we’re like talking about logo marks, designers are so integral to the process of branding is because we can bring brand personality and brand associations into a logo or design. How do you make sure that the logo mark, the brand, or the website that you’re working on has the personality that you and your client are going for?

Jacob Cass
It depends on the on the project, because I work in so many different industries; I’m working on a Disney project is going to be a certain way or a Nintendo project is going to be bright, colorful, and it’s going to have a personality there already. And the design going to be an entirely different style if it’s a finance client, where it’s very corporate and clean modern, or whatever it may be. They’re all just different styles. So the personality comes through, depending on the industry and the project at hand.

That’s what I loved about working in the agency because you could have access to so many different brands. Working on finance one day, working on gaming another day, and a company the other. They are all really fun. And that’s what I love about being a designer, you get so many different choices and angles. It’s really exciting.

Colin Finkle
That’s cool. So sort of cross-pollinate.

Jacob Cass
Absolutely.

Colin Finkle
I actually like brings us to creative health. Do you believe in it? Do you do things to foster your own creativity?

Jacob Cass
It’s that work-life balance thing. In New York, I was I worked at an agency, and also was running my freelance business at the same time. So it was a lot of work. There’s a lot of hustle in New York as everyone knows. And that’s what you just have to do.

The balance wasn’t there; I was working way too hard. But now, working on the road, I find I am able to be more productive; I work for the first four or five hours in the morning and then go out for the afternoon. And then either come back, get a coffee, and start working again.

But I find the work culture just the long hours in New York is very draining, and it’s not as productive as it could be.

High hustle. New York, NY.

Colin Finkle
Yeah, it’s tough. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had a job that’s required crazy hours for extended periods, except for when I was in school. That is isn’t conducive to creativity. And I don’t define just design as creative; sales can be creative, management can be creative. But when you try to ram someone into a 12-hour workday and force them into tight timelines, it just doesn’t create the best work.

Jacob Cass
Yeah, I get the reason why it’s done that way. And it’s not always great. Changing that culture is hard. What I aspire to is different.

Colin Finkle
Okay, cool. So do you have any advice to fellow designers trying to fight the good fight? Someone trying to get into the lifestyle? What’s your best advice for someone that’s in your shoes?

Jacob Cass
I often get asked, like, how do you work and travel? When find time to do everything? The biggest thing is: how do you afford to travel?

It is cheaper to travel and work on the road. I wouldn’t start in in wealthy countries like Europe or North America or Australia, places like that. Go somewhere where the cost of living is much more affordable. And you can branch out from that.

Somewhere like Southeast Asia is a good example. You can put up shop in setup shopping in Thailand, for example, and it’s much more affordable. You can live like a king: great food, great people, great culture and then you can explore Southeast Asia.

As your business evolves and you’re getting more money, you can grow it and grow into new countries, and you will have more experienced by that stage. So it’s an evolution. You just have to start places you can afford and then grow to places you want to be.

When we started, we actually started in Europe, we saved money to do Europe first because we just wanted to see it, get it out the way, and we spend a lot of money there. Drinking was a big thing when I was a bit younger, but it was expensive.

It was much more affordable being in places like Southeast Asia where we could stay in a place longer, experience it better and really get ingrained in the culture. Whereas, I just found Europe to be a little bit more taxing because you have more overhead. And it get’s to you when you’re paying like 50 to 70 euros for a night, and you’re working. You see the places you want, but it just puts you in a different mindset. It depends on what you can afford, really.

Colin Finkle
Yeah, if somebody wants a resource to sort of look into this thing, I read The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss a long time ago, which touches on this a bit but also the sort of mindset that when you sit down to do work, make sure that you’re working on the stuff that matters. The book also goes into what to look for when you’re sort of setting up shop in these foreign countries.

Nomadic Matt

Jacob Cass
Yeah, that that is a great book, and there’s another one by Nomadic Matt. (How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter Paperback by Matt Kepnes) He is a big travel influencer and blogger, and he has a book on how to travel the world on 50 dollars a day. So if you if you’re traveling and want to know how it’s done, it was a great resource as well as The Four Hour Workweek. I think that the Four Hour Workweek is a big exaggeration, but it is a great goal to aspire to.

Colin Finkle
Yeah, $50 a day is a is a good number because even someone entering the graphic design field, as long as they can find the clients, can make $50 in a couple hours of work and then you have your travel covered for and the work you find beyond that it’s just gravy.

Jacob Cass
Yeah, and a good way to think about is: where you living now, what are your overheads? Like every day you’re going to be paying rent wherever you are, and you’re always going to be eating. You always have overheads.

Now, if you think about different places around the world, what is that cost going to be? And what’s doable for your current income? And you can work out a goal and go from that as well.

Colin Finkle
Okay, well, I won’t take up any more your time. Thank you, Jacob. And if people want to reach out to you or connect to you on social media, where should they go?

Jacob Cass
My website, justcreative.com, has all my links. Most my handles are “Just Creative,” and you’ll find me as that handle on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so forth.
Colin Finkle
Hopefully, we will have you on again soon.

Jacob Cass
Thanks, Colin. Appreciate it.


Note. This article includes Amazon Associate links. If you click one of these links and purchase an item from Amazon, Colin Finkle receives a small commision at the expense of Amazon and at no cost to you. This supports content on BMB: Brand Marketing Blog.


Categories: Interviews

Colin Finkle

Colin Finkle is a brand marketer and designer with ten years of experience helping Fortune 500 companies tell their story at retail. You can see his work at finkle.ca

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