From raw talent to studio owner: Graphic Design grad creates bold art for clients
Like many young kids, Joe Till loved to draw. He remembers having a pencil or marker in hand nearly all the time, filling page after blank page with creative sketches of dinosaurs, sports figures and superheroes.
And, like many young kids, Till enjoyed watching and playing sports, namely basketball. He played hoops throughout his childhood and into high school until a knee injury sidelined him from the game.
By the time Till got to second or third grade, however, his art (now mostly basketball themed) began to take on a more stylized look – one commonly associated with graphic design.
“I was looking at art and redesigning NBA logos long before I even knew what that was. I remember my mom saying that graphic design was a job, even though I wanted to be an NBA player for a bit,” he joked.
TECH COLLEGE – OR ART SCHOOL?
Till’s talent in illustration – paired with a desire to explore the technical side of art and design, and the practical side of printing – brought him to Waukesha County Technical College. He enrolled in the Dual Enrollment Academy’s Printing and Publishing program in 2014 while a senior at Greendale High School, and he completed his WCTC education earning an associate degree in Graphic Design in 2017.
“Naturally, I thought about going to MIAD, but once I was in the dual enrollment program, it wiped away any doubts I had about coming to WCTC,” Till said. “I fell in love with WCTC in my senior year, and it provided me with great background in (Adobe) InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop programs. A lot of what you learn in printing and publishing applies to graphic design, and I really got a scope of how to create something all the way to getting it produced.”
Till got involved with many WCTC organizations and earned accolades along the way, such as serving as president of the Graphics Club, and membership in the National Technical Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. He competed and placed second in the Phoenix Challenge, a competition that tests knowledge of platemaking, press operation, math and prepress skills. Additionally, he designed the poster for the College’s Graphic Design Portfolio Night, and he earned the Outstanding Student Award for both his program and the School of Applied Technologies.
PROJECTS IN THE BREW CITY
A requirement for many WCTC programs, including Graphic Design, is the completion of an internship. One of Till’s classmates had interned at Sprecher Brewing Co., and he encouraged Till to get in touch with the brewery’s creative team. He did, landed an internship – and then a job.
“They loved my style. I worked on rebranding some of their beer products during the summer, and that led into them hiring me as a regular employee,” he said.
While at Sprecher, Till refined his craft, creating bold, distinctive package design. He had the chance to work on labels for several year-round beer varieties, including Abbey Triple, Special Amber and Black Bavarian.
The experience he gained at the microbrewery “was amazing,” Till said, but he had a strong desire to start his own brand, with his own name. So began Joe Till Studios, a full-service creative firm focusing on illustration, design and brand strategy.
“I went to meet-ups, talked to a lot of people, and when I asked around about working for myself, most people said, ‘no, don’t do it.’ But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to take a chance,” he said.
Opportunities knocked for Till, and his passion for art and basketball would merge again. He connected with the Milwaukee Bucks and was hired to create a mural for its NBA 2K off-site gaming studio. His artwork was also selected for a limited edition t-shirt design, which was available at the first Klement’s Milwaukee Monday Bucks’ game of the 2018-19 season. Additionally, he has done commissioned pieces for pro athletes and their families, and he has created work that accompanied an ESPN story.
“The highlight of my career so far has been going to that Bucks’ game and seeing the shirt I designed in the pro shop. As an illustrator, that was really something,” he said.
Beyond sports organizations and breweries, Till’s clients include restaurants, performers, public figures, nonprofit agencies, retail stores, water parks and more.
The young artist hasn’t looked back on taking a chance and starting his own business. It’s rewarding work, he says, and he credits WCTC for providing the framework for a solid career.