September 05, 2018

Five Questions with Leo Jung: Designer and Creative Director of Pop-Up Magazine and The California Sunday Magazine

Leo Jung’s first job was kitchen help at a chicken rotisserie restaurant in Toronto. He was in high school when he figured out he wanted a creative career, and he continues to wow us with his impactful work as an art director, designer, and illustrator.

After stints as the Deputy Art Director at The New York Times Magazine and Design Director at Wired magazine, in 2014 he joined California Sunday, Inc., the parent company to the celebrated and critically acclaimed Pop-Up Magazine and The California Sunday Magazine, as their Creative Director.

Leo’s work has been recognized by the Art Directors Club, Type Directors Club, the Society of News Design, and the Society of Publication Designers. He has also served on design juries for the Art Directors Club, the D&AD, and the Society of Publication Designers.

In anticipation of his next big project, he is currently reading a lot of baby books: He’s going to be a first-time dad this fall. “Good typography skills will do absolutely nothing to prepare me,” he says, but we know he’ll bring all his passion and creativity to the task.

We look forward to hearing from Leo when he joins us as a speaker at
In/Visible Talks 2019 in January. Here are a few insights into his creative process.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

“It’s a fruitful one, and it’s only gotten better over the years. I get as much joy putting something out in the world as I do creating it. We’re lucky to get paid to do something we love.”

How or where to you find inspiration?

“The best kind is indirect, when you’re not looking for it. And the best way I’ve found is just living and getting out in the world and absorbing it—all of it. Not just the eye candy and the things that are meant to be looked at, but all of the ugly stuff that isn’t even design-related. Then let the mind make the random connections it needs to.”

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

“Figuring out the design identity for California Sunday. Since every issue is different visually and topically, there’s an ebb and flow to the look and feel of the magazine. In a way, you really need to look at a number of issues to get a sense of its personality. There are certain rules you set for yourself that establish a visual foundation, but how that personality manifests itself is something you don’t have full control over. It reveals itself organically over time. As designers, we are renowned control freaks, so trusting that process takes some patience.”

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

“High school. I always loved to draw, but in my teens, I noticed how much more at ease I felt when I was in art class. It was pure joy. It didn’t feel like work. That connection was even stronger when I was in art school studying graphic design. I felt so excited at the prospect of making this my career and the certainty of knowing that it’d be fulfilling. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to figure that out early. Most people don’t. And even if they finally do, they often feel like they can’t make it happen because of life’s circumstances.”

Who is one of your heroes and why?

“My mom. Paul Rand is great and all, but you can’t really compete with someone who gives all of themselves to make sure you are happy and have the opportunities to thrive. In my mind, there’s nothing more motivating than wanting to make your parents proud and to prove that their lifetime of sacrifices is not all for nought.”

BONUS ROUND: What drives you to create?

“I feel like I have a superpower, and it’s taken me many years to harness that ability and just know what I’m even capable of. I’m still figuring it out. The older I get, the more I want to focus that energy on things that are meaningful to me. I like giving voice to things that can change people for the better. I think that will always be necessary.”