I was able to interview one of my favorite graphic designers, Nathanael Clanton. Nathanael has been a mentor, leader, and friend to me for the past five years. I first became aware of his work as a designer at my church. He did, and continues to do much design work for our home church, Anthem Church; some of which includes the current logo.
It was great to interview one of my own mentors and get to know him better, specifically what it means to be a follower of Jesus and a designer.
Who is Nathanael Clanton?
Nathanael is a graphic designer, mentor, leader, friend, brother, son, and believer in Jesus. He was born and raised in the City of Roses: Portland, OR. Interestingly enough, before he knew he wanted to be a graphic designer, he aspired to be an architect. He is a dedicated 25 year-old graphic design freelancer. As a young designer, he has had a multitude of opportunities to work with various clients.
Beginnings of a designer
During his time at Benson Polytechnic High School, Nathanael studied two years of his high school career with a concentration in architecture. However, in his time at Benson he always drew graffiti and studied the works of other street artists. In his research he discovered that many street artists had become graphic designers. That was one of the first times he was introduced to the term “graphic design,” and became aware of the career. One of his mentors at the time was a believer, MC/Producer, graphic designer, and friend to Nathanael. His mentor had studied at the Art Institute of Florida, where he was from, and spent much of his time in New York. With the guidance of his mentor, Nathanael’s passions began to shift toward design and began his studies as a designer at the Art Institute of Portland.
The nitty-gritty of design experience
September of 2010 Nathanael graduated from the Art Institute of Portland as a certified graphic designer. Throughout his time at college he build much of his client base. Before graduating Nathanael had taken the initiative to do an informal interview with a design company who would later ask him to contribute his efforts for one weekend. They would eventually ask him to return for a paid design internship, and during his time there he participated in design projects for Nike, Dell, and other big corporation names. After completing his design internship, he was referred to by a friend for a job position at Nike. He worked with Nike for 6 months, free lanced for 2-3 months after, and then worked with IDL Worldwide in Portland for a year. At IDL, Nathanael worked on projects done for Nike, Xbox Live, Apple, and Nintendo. Throughout his various work experiences, he never neglected the power of networking and building relationships. Today, Nathanael has developed a good client base, and is able to free lance successfully.
What is your design philosophy?
Nathanael explained that his philosophy stems from his beliefs and faith in God. He shared that design is communication and therefore should be honest and never misleading. It should always be intentional.
“Design should be honest.”
“God gave people different forms of creativity, to share a bit of who He is. Everyone is creative. God gave us gifts as a way of experiencing Him and expressing a bit of who He is… In the same way that each of us are individuals, each client is individual. The client has goals, aspirations, dreams, and visions, our job is to find those and to use the language we speak to describe that. We are translators, they come to us and they are trying to communicate their vision in a visual way.”
How do you integrate your faith into your work?
When I asked Nathanael how he integrated his faith into his work as a designer he provided me with a great analogy. He compared client relationships as a “Transaction versus a Relationship.” If a client interaction is more like a transaction the main concern is to get and is not personal whatsoever. On the contrary, if a the client-designer interaction is more of a relationship, there are more lively conversations and genuine care for one another can be achieved.
He also shared with me that if your faith is a seamless part of your life it won’t be difficult to incorporate your faith into your work. He told me that the incorporation of his faith “happens less on the computer and more in person.” It was great to hear that as a designer he believed heavily that design is more than just a solution or product, but rather about the overall experience of the client relationship.
“Design should be simple; accomplishing the most with the least.”
Nathanael is largely inspired by styles rather than specific artists; styles which include modern architecture, photography, light, shadow, geometry, and typography. He is also inspired by music. He described himself as a collector of inspiration, and believes in constantly feeding his creativity. One of his inspirations is Dieter Rams, who contributed his “10 Principles of Good Design.”
It was a pleasure to talk with Nathanael about his passion and how faith can be incorporated into design work.
Check out more of Nathanael’s work at nathanaelclanton.com