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Justin R. Saunders

Interview by Scott A. Sant’Angelo 
Photography Courtesy of JJJJound

Originally published in Issue No. 5

JJJJound launched in 2006 as a digital mood board intended to examine the recurring patterns in timeless design. With thousands of curated images, the color-coordinated visual stream of consciousness has become a global mainstay and reference for the design community.

Since its inception, JJJJound has grown in the last decade into a collaborative design studio that aims to inspire through multiple channels; through the fabrication of items with purpose and longevity, through the design and construction of meaningful physical environments, and through the continued curation of its digital platform.

In addition to its own projects, JJJJound has worked in collaboration with numerous established artists and brands to extend its strong design ethics.

Located in Montreal, Canada, the design studio is operated by founder Justin R. Saunders.

Scott A. Sant’Angelo (SAS) — In the beginning, how did you transform your conceptual online mood board into a working design studio?

Justin R. Saunders (JRS) — It just happened. At first I was hired to lay out direction and visual mood boards. Things got interesting once I started explaining why I would choose the images I did and the psychology behind the selection.

SAS — What inspires you most about your current studio set-up?

JRS — The natural light from the big windows is ex- tremely inspiring. I also love and how unfinished the office is. Anytime I feel like procrastinating to think things through – I’ve got some desks to move around re arrange.

SAS — What’s your current creative process? How do you work together with your studio team and collaborate?

JRS — Manpower doubled this year. I’m currently adjusting to the change of pace and process. My office operates as the conference room where we get to lock in answers and discuss solutions. But for the most part everyone works in cubicles we designed. Definitely not an open space concept. Everyone has their own square footage.

SAS — What’s the last album you bought and why do you love it?

JRS — I recently repurchased Capone and Noreaga, the war report. I live in the past. This album brings me back to pre internet time with no cellphones.

SAS — When did you first realize you were a creative person? Does being creative run in your family or did you discover it on your own along the way?

JRS — My mom always dated artists. Pops is one, my sis too. Early in, mom just let me be and supported anything I did.

SAS — What do you love most about living/working in Montreal, Canada?

JRS — I haven’t been able to properly answer this ques- tion consistently. My reasons change like the seasons. I grew up in Europe obsessed with America. I love how European it feels yet in North America tied to and its pop culture.

SAS — You have a strong work ethic when it comes to your projects. Why is that important to you? Describe your 888 approach to work-life balance: 8 hours work, 8 hours play, 8 hours of sleep.

JRS — I def did my 100,000+ hours learning about aesthetics and the algorithms of design. Now that I figured out the formulas that work for me, the anxiety is completely gone which allows me to make quick decisions I feel good about. I’m able to shut off completely when i leave the office. Which is great.

At first I loved the symmetry of 888, such a romantic concept. The main takeaway is I learned to enjoy mundane things to turn them into leisure. It helps when you ask yourself why you do things and for what purpose. “ I have to eat everyday. Food is healthier when i cook it myself. I better learn to love to cook and live a happy healthy life.”

SAS — What are you and the team working on right now?

JRS — The JJJJ team is slowly learning to cope with growth. The ship is pretty vertically integrated and the demand has been growing faster than we can run. Logistically we defi- nitely deal with new issues day. Better products more often is the mission.

As for our agency we just run through projects that come our way and hit home runs. We operate as a ghost agency tucked away in Montreal and our workload is pretty tied to research, marketing, product design & dev.

SAS — What is your dream collaboration with a person or a brand?

JRS — For JJJJound brand – I’d love to work on a global scale hotel collaboration or a simple vehicle re-release.

SAS — Who are some up-and-coming designers to look out for that inspire you?

JRS — I’m loving all the kids making uber expensive jeans on the internet.

SAS — What’s next for you and JJJJound?

JRS — We spent all this year catching up to the clock. Next year should be interesting once those projects hit. A few bigger scale projects on our plate. It’s exciting.

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