Paul Woods is a Los Angeles designer and author. An advocate for creating useful things that people actually need—as opposed to filling the world with more garbage they don't—Paul places a hyper-focus on the user in his work. He writes on the future of design, and will be publishing his first book How To Do Great Work Without Being An Asshole in March, 2019. When he’s not designing, writing, or illustrating, you might find Paul early in the morning taking his stubborn basset hound for a stroll.
How does your self-deprecating humor present itself in your work?
My favorite illustrators, artists and comedians share a certain lack of reverence–no topic is sacred. Adloids — one of my side projects — is a prime example. Quite frankly, I’m surprised I wasn’t fired from my “day job” working in New York for publishing half the stuff we did.
How do you think a formal education helped you as a designer and illustrator?
Once I realized design and illustration was something I was passionate about, I enrolled in design college studying Visual Communications. What I loved about this particular course was that we were constantly taught to create work in a wide variety of creative mediums, not just “design”. From one day to the next, we could be illustrating a children’s book, creating a video, or designing an app or website. I am definitely a generalist in terms of creative, and that comes from my experience studying at university.
For young designers, do you think it is better to be a generalist or specialize?
These days, I think designers need a much broader skill-set than they did ten years ago. The role has evolved where it’s necessary to understand prototyping, development, analytics and a bunch of other shit in addition to the ‘traditional’ skills like typography, art direction and writing. There’s an expectation to have a much wider spread of knowledge, and it’s easy to get lost in it. That’s why it’s more important than ever to find your own voice and personal brand. Personal work is probably one of the most important things in this disparate world a designer can do to establish their own voice.
What advice would you give someone who is working 40+ hours a week and needs motivation for a side hustle or personal project?
I think having a limited amount of time to work on something is the most liberating situation to be in. Creative people generally don’t do well with open-ended assignments. When I was in university and had lots of free time, I would create these endless lists of personal projects I wanted to produce. Of course, I never finished any of them. It was un-focussed and open-ended. Ironically, it was when I had the least amount of free time in my life — when I was working full-time at an agency in New York — that I created Adloids with Kevin. The limited amount of time I had forced me to prioritize my endless list to one item. And that’s how shit gets done. Pick one thing and just fucking do it. The more side projects you have going on, the less of them that will get finished.
THIS IS HOW SHIT GETS DONE.
PICK ONE THING AND JUST FUCKING DO IT.
How did your path lead you to Edenspiekermann?
While I was in London working on my Master’s degree, I applied to be an intern at Edenspiekermann Berlin during the summer of 2011. They accepted my application, and I started that summer working on a dream project called ‘Red Bull Music Academy World Tour’. This was a travelling music festival, comprised of ten events, each of which required a unique identity, poster, campaign and website. It was a lot of fun.
After about four years at Edenpsiekermann Berlin, I wanted to try something new and was offered a job at HUGE in New York. It was an incredible experience. I worked on a lot of advertising campaigns while I was there, which was very rewarding creatively. There’s nothing quite like seeing your work on display in Times Square.
What projects have you produced in your career that you’re most proud of?
I have two. The first one is the work I did for Red Bull Amaphiko, a platform for social entrepreneurs in developing countries. For this project, I travelled to Soweto, a township in South Africa for a week in 2013 and worked on-site with social entrepreneurs to bring their stories to the world in a digital longform format. They were some of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met, and the experience was one I’ll never forget. It is the most rewarding project of my career so far.
The other project I’m particularly proud of is Adloids, a satirical publication that Kevin Growick and I created. Think of it as ‘The Onion’ for design and advertising. Kevin and I would work early in the morning before our day jobs started to produce each story, and then we’d meet for coffee mid-morning to watch the stats. It was based on real people and real situations that we experienced working together in agencies. It was so much fun to make. Now we’re working on a follow-up with a merchandise line and a somewhat sinister nursery rhymes book with dark tales from the creative agency.
Now some fun questions! Can you tell me about Barney? Do you have a favorite outfit for him?
My wife and I adopted Barney, a basset hound, from Corbin, Kentucky through a rescue organization called Tri-State Bassets. Barney is amazing, and also amazingly spoiled. He’s almost like a person, and will make funny sounds, not barking, when he wants to be patted. I’m convinced my wife and I have gone insane looking after the dog and treating him like a child.
When it comes to outfits, Barney has many. In New York, he could be seen wearing a NYPD shirt, which the police officers loved. My favorite outfit for Barney, which is coincidentally his least favorite, is a yellow designer raincoat along with green boots.
What does your morning routine look like?
Barney wakes me up around 5AM. I walk him on the beach, check my emails and plan my day. I have my (first) coffee at home, and spend an hour writing and catching up on personal projects. I arrive at the studio around 8.30 where I work for an hour before the madness of the day begins.
What shows are you bingeing on at the moment?
I am rewatching ‘Stranger Things’ for the third time and love it so much. As a child of the 90’s, it’s all the best parts of nostalgia bundled in a visually stunning way.
If you could be any character on a TV show, who would it be and why?
Captain Jean-Luc Picard because of his ageless quality and remarkably polished head.