There's a small spot off Society Street, where some of Charleston's lesser-known and well-known designs take shape.
This three-room apartment with a queen-size bed doubles as Jay Fletcher's office, where designs have emerged for the Wine + Food Festival's marketing materials, a poster for the Maritime Festival, a Pecha Kucha poster, restaurant Shine's artwork, the recent Big Chef Little Chef Poster, and so on.
"This is the dream I've always wanted," says the relaxed 31-year-old illustrator, designer, and surfer.
Read more stories on this subject in our Creative Class topic page.But why the solo setup? Fletcher has had a taste of the bigger game in town, having spent time at both of our more renowned publications: Seven years as an illustrator for The Post and Courier in charge of many of the Preview covers, among other tasks. He also served year at Charleston Magazine before being laid off due to budget cuts.
He says you know the story: "It was the job loss that thrust me into what was next."
"I don't know if I would have ever had the courage to go solo, even though I was working nearly full-time on my freelance work from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. after leaving Charleston Magazine for the day," he said.
Fletcher says he has no regrets. A year into his new full-time freelance job, he seems perfectly content with his work and private life and his micro-office culture of one. Working by himself has been the most trying part of it all. Not so much the work, but "socially, it can be just a bit awkward. You lose touch."
Aside from the absence of cultural buzz, Fletcher doesn't seem to miss an office at all. "I do it all myself, and I can be meticulously organized," he says. Fletcher uses a project management software called Daylite to stay on task and organized while tackling 7 to 10 projects at once.
And despite his tech-savvy workflow and final rendering of projects in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (on a Mac, naturally) his projects aways start organically, without the need of technology, by hand sketching. It's a trait that runs through Fletcher's work culture — half digital buzz and half old school/traditional.
Perhaps these old school tendencies are why you haven't heard Fletcher's name, because he's not out there advertising himself.
"90% of my work comes to me by word of mouth in Charleston," Fletcher says, "and 10% of my work comes to me from outside of Charleston because I'll win an award and be put in a magazine."
The Dictionary Project
Doing a job well is the advice he has for those that might also be looking to go solo. Fletcher says to "take whatever job you can get ah old of and knock it out of the park. Every hour you spend on something and that's money you're putting into advertising yourself. Try as hard as you can."
He says, "The beauty of teaming up with others. Very little work I do is just me and the client, I'm always working with somebody else whether it's photography, copy writing, or whatever. I used to try to do it all myself, now i team up with some programmer who loves ones and zeros and I love design."
That creative niche is what Fletcher loves about Charleston, "People here generally have a passion for life and what they're doing. That's one of things about Charleston that's just awesome. In other cities it's so competitive and everybody's jealous, but here all the people I respect – Hook, Stitch, Fuzzco, Gil Shuler – everyone's real friendly and stoked about what everyone's doing. It's just a lifestyle town about living a life producing a calmer, friendly attitude."
And so the question emerges: Do you see yourself as independent forever or creating your own design shop? "I just don't know about adding people. I'll be moving in with my fiance soon, and I'll have a room to use as my own office where I can just compartmentalize all this."
If you'd like to get to know Fletcher and his work a bit better, you can check out his website. He also passed along a few of his favorite online publications to read: Grain Edit, Graphic Exchange, FFFFound, Brand New, and Design Work Life.
And don't forget we're hosting a little t-shirt giveaway courtesy of Fletcher.