Professional Perspectives

Joshua James Harvey



Joshua Harvey is a Los Angeles-based freelance Creative Director with a background in Design and Animation. His career started in 2005 after studying at the School of Visual Arts and  then being offered a position at Psyop’s NY studio. Since then he has been a part of projects and campaigns for clients large and small, in roles that run the gamut of production. As a creative Director at Buck’s LA office, he co-led, designed, and animated on projects that garnered several awards. To name a few: the prestigious Clio, Gold at the London International Awards, ADC Designism, and the ADC Gold and Silver Cubes as well as Finalist at the Cannes Lions Festival. 

What is your art and design background?

I was fortunate to have a father who kind of had his ambitions taken away from him. So, once he saw I was interested in being creative, he basically knocked down all of the obstacles for me and gave me a clear path when I was young. That definitely plays .1 lot into my character now, the fact that I was encouraged to go after a career that I was passionate about. He got me into an .11t class with an illustrator who used to do illustrations for the National Wildlife Foundation and NASA. This guy happened to live in my hometown in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. I didn’t really understand a lot of what I was being taught, it was very technical. But I think, later on as the years went by, a lot of those things sunk in and permeated into my process. I had a really good art teacher in high school as well, who pushed me to think more conceptually about what the art is really saying. I went to the School of Visual Arts because I was really interested in doing computer animation.

How have you refined your design aesthetic?

I went to Psyop in New York, so right off the bat I was working with people at the top of their game. The people I was working with went to schools that focused on design, so I was more or less an executor of someone else’s ideas. I was doing technical direction, a lot of rigging, coding tools, and fixing problems in the pipeline. There is a lot of creative problem-solving in that, but ultimately, I was being driven by an idea that someone else had. It’s not necessarily that I wanted to be in control, but I didn’t feel like it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an artist.

I realized it had been a long time since I had drawn on paper or created images for myself. So, I bought sketchbooks again and started drawing as much as I could, trying to develop my skills. A job came up for Guinness, and because I had expressed that I wanted to get into the creative side of things, I was asked to do some style frames. We ended up winning the job. It was a really great experience because I actually sat down and made digital paintings, and I was excited about doing it. They came out really well, and I was surprised that I was able to accomplish things on that level. That project changed my whole perspective and so I started to focus on design.

I started freelancing after the Guinness job. I continued to do my own creative work so I could convince studios to hire me to do that kind of work. I didn’t have too much to show, but I put a lot of the drawings I had been doing in my sketchbook on my website. I also had cool technical work from being at Psyop. It was a good way to get into it because I could go to other studios and help them out technically and also get creative participation in the projects, as well. Slowly, over time, I started to do more creative work, and I was careful to tailor my image via my website.

I was at Buck in New York helping out on the Sherwin Williams jobs, and I was fortunate enough to have some creative participation in as well as to run the job technically. They wanted to hire me as a technical director. But, I was very hard line that I wanted to be on the creative side of things. I was hired as a Creative Director in Buck’s LA office, which was kind of crazy because I didn’t know if I had the experience or skills as a designer. But now it was my job to be creative and conceptual, and I could task and direct the technical stuff. At this point, I was 100% focused on developing my creative side. I was doing style frames and boards every day and thinking about story and concept. It was a steep climb. I was around incredible talents there and that taught me a lot. When you are doing design and creative in an environment where you’re turning projects around in weeks or months, its all about banding together and everyone throwing their ideas in and filtering out the best ones, guiding that process.  

Figure 1.1: Johnny Walker: Endless Walk style frames. Designer: Joshua Harvey

How have you developed such a wide range of both technical and aesthetic skills?

It was really just chasing my interests. If I find something interesting, I am going to do it. At one point, I was really into technical proficiency with these tools. Then, I started thinking conceptually and aesthetically: -how can I change this stuff and experiment with it?” Design is an idea that things are built out of systems. There is a hierarchy for how things are put together.

There is a set of rules that creates something, and images are no different. Whether you choose to put an outline on something, or no outline? How do you fill things in? Does the fill stay inside the line really cleanly, or does it break out? Is it rough? I create a process, or find a process every time I try to make something. Its a lot of experimenting. Its a lot of failure and frustration. But in the end, I know how to make something. Here is the idea we are trying to get. What process will make that idea? My process starts at that point, which allows me to go in different directions. 

Figure 1.2: Guinness: Alive Inside commercial. Created by Psyop and Nathan Love. Designer/Director: Joshua Harvey

Do you have a favorite project?

Good Books is definitely one of my favorites. This project was about doing something big and cool to put on Buck’s website and get more interesting work. But it also served the creatives involved because it was about making art. We started coming up with ideas, and we knew it needed to be wild because Hunter Thompson’s whole nature was like “fuck the rules.- I did some initial design that I kind of hated. So, I reverted back to digital painting and coming up with a feeling or a mood. Joe Mullen came up with a graphic look, and we threw our styles together, and that’s how we got the visual aesthetic.

There is a lot of distortion of form and making shapes from negative space. Joe helped tighten it up into a more graphic style, and I would bring it back into more of a painterly aesthetic. From a creative standpoint, that is where the visual design came from. Once we had one style frame that we thought was really working, that excited us about the language we were dealing in. That initial style frame breaks open everything. 

Figure 1.3: Good Books: Metamorphosis commercial. Created by Buck for String Theory. Associate Creative Director: Joshua Harvey. Creative Director: Ryan Honey.

Do you have any suggestions for young designers?

Experiment as much as possible, all good things are found in the process. If you are repeating the same thing over and over again, eventually you are going to get bored. Get comfortable with failure. Fail as much as you can, so you can get comfortable with the process of throwing ideas out there, even if they don’t work. The first part of your process should be a bunch of failures that inform what you are actually going to do. Then, you start the process of creating something. If the first thing you grab is the same thread you grabbed last time, your work is not going to evolve. At some point, you have to introduce new ideas. Accept that as part of your process.

Figure 1.4: Good Books: Metamorphosis commercial. Created by Buck for String Theory. Associate Creative Director: Joshua Harvey. Creative Director: Ryan Honey.