Jeremy Perez-Cruz is a design director and photographer currently living in New York. He is the Director of Brand at Buzzfeed Media where he works with major brands to create experiences and products to connect with a wider audience. I first came in to contact with Jeremy through his photography on Instagram but later learned about his expansive design career and knew I had to have him as a guest. Here are the To-Go Notes for the episode.
- Jeremy is a first-generation American. His mother is British and his father is Mexican. He was born in the Bahamas but grew up all over the world including Australian and England before landing in Cocoa Beach Florida where he went to high school and college.
- He was inspired by his Dad who was an artist and went to school at Carnegie Mellon to study art. He started a tourism magazine in the Bahamas called 'What's What and Where' which he designed and curated. Jeremy would find color separations from the magazine that his Dad was working and was fascinated by it. His Dad also worked as a caricature artist in local tourist towns where Jeremy would hang all day and help. Eventually, Jeremy started to paint on the back of some business cards and would sell them along with his Dad's work.
- During middle school, Jeremy discovered comic books through a friend and was amazed at how comics could combine art and text and package it all together in these amazing stories. Specifically, he followed the work of Jim Lee through comics like X-men. He went on to take art classes in high school and learned that he really enjoyed it and wanted to continue to learn more.
Hey Mom I'm in a Band
- Around the same time, Jeremy also started to learn about music and playing instruments like the guitar, bass, and drums. He joined a band and started making flyers for his shows because of his experience with art. For Jeremy, this is where it changed from art to design.
- He started to learn more about the foundational principles of design like composition and typography and began to make more materials for his band like CD covers and shirts.
- Jeremy even went on tour with a few of his bands and made it onto Warped Tour! It was a great learning opportunity for Jeremy because it pushed him to practice skills such as speaking to an audience or marketing merchandise and designing materials.
His First Design Job
- During college Jeremy enrolled in a mentorship program offered through AIGA where he met Klaus Heesch who owned his own design agency called Juicy Temples. For Jeremy this was a huge opportunity for him to work at one of his favorite design studios. It was also a big moment for his career because he later met Randy Hunt who would be instrumental to his future design career.
- After Jeremy finished the mentorship program he went on to work at a fine art publishing company where he worked on books, catalogs, and limited-edition prints. It was an interesting role but Jeremy didn't love it. After a while, Jeremy received a call from Klaus to see if he was available for a 2-month freelance project. At this time Jeremy didn't want to leave his full-time role for a freelance opportunity so he negotiated with Klaus to bring him on full-time.
The opportunity for learning is like one of the most valuable things to me
Moving to the Big Apple
- In 2011 Jeremy decided to move to New York. He was originally interviewing for a few different companies but saw that Randy Hunt who was at Esty had posted on Twitter looking for designers. He got in contact with Randy about the opportunity and Jeremy was offered the position.
- Jeremy's role at Etsy varied from product design to defining how customers came in contact with the brand. He was able to learn so much from this role and during his time there he established what is now know as the Etsy Global Brand Studio. He worked with some amazing designers including Nicole Licht and Melissa Deckert who have since gone on to start their own company Party of One.
- After Etsy Jeremy went to work at PepsiCo and then Uber. Jeremy was a regional design manager at Uber where he managed a team of designers all over the US to create materials for local markets. Jeremy's time at Uber was a huge growing period for him as a manager. Jeremy was remote and his team was scattered all over so it pushed him to really strive to be the best manager he could.
What's all the Buzzfeed About?
- Today Jeremy is the Director of Brand at Buzzfeed Media where he works with major brands such as Macy's and Scotts to create products and experiences for them to connect with a wider audience.
- One of the cool things about Jeremy's team is that they get to do an accelerated design sprint with their clients. This involves working with the key stakeholders in a short window of time to come up with as many solutions as possible for the brief. Having such a short window of time can sometimes be a little stressful but Jeremy appreciates it as it also pushes him to do some amazing work.
- Overall Jeremy's role at Buzzfeed has allowed him to understand that it's not about having the power to make the final decision or call on a project. It is more valuable to create a relationship with the key stakeholders that share a mutual respect for each other and arriving at a decision together.
A huge thank you to Jeremy for taking the time to sit me for this episode. Make sure you stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Jeremy as we dive into his work as a photographer and how he continues to push himself to create work everyday.