Jon Flannery

“Every project is a new challenge, and deserves a fresh point of view to get the best final product. That’s where creativity & experience start
to work together to inform
the printing.”


In a few words, describe yourself and your practice.

A solid design and print studio.

When did you start your practice?

I started Cryptogram (my design and print studio) with a partner in 2011. 7 months ago I joined forces with a larger local studio, BLDG in Covington, Kentucky.

How does where you live affect your work?

Cincinnati is great for what I do… It’s why I never moved away despite being born here. It’s got deep roots as a printing town. So all of those lineages are still around in some form or another, or they’ve moved elsewhere in the midwest - a thriving network for print in the U.S. Operating on a local level is super easy here. It’s also a very affordable city.



Always know what you want with your work and your future. That sounds really basic, and maybe it is. But it takes a lot to keep what you want with you everyday. It means focus, clarity, and listening to only yourself. 


Your path is always going to change, and you’ll find that if you maintain focus, you can sort of draw that path yourself. Seriously, trusting yourself and what you want to put out there is so important.


What are some challenges you're facing in your practice?

The balance of design and print is always challenging. Some weeks I have a clear idea of how to break up my time, to give each leg the right amount of attention. Other weeks, there’s just so much and everything is up in the air. I end up saying f*k it and just maximize all around, minimizing sleep. It’s a challenge but I often like that challenge. Doing so much concentrated work, especially at night really works my mind in a positive way. I tend to be more focused and more open to new ideas. I may also not have the greatest time-management skills, so the whole “my work is my life” thing tends to be fairly consistent. A real challenge is also finding, building or acquiring equipment needed to further push the print studio to be the best it can be. I’m not much of a handyman and finding existing equipment, especially around here where a lot is still in use, can be pretty difficult. I’m still happy with the level of finish each project receives in the studio, but I also know I’ve outgrown some equipment’s capabilities and that the product can be even better.

How do you start your process?

Design and printing processes begin from totally different places. If I’m working on printing, I’m preparing for the actual on-press work. There can be a little or a lot of prep for an edition or one-off pieces. I work with a lot of unique materials and inks. So a lot of planning of proofing and self-checking has to be worked out as soon as the project is a go. Every project is a new challenge and deserves a fresh point of view to get the best final product. That’s where creativity and experience start to work together to inform the printing. There’s so many ways to execute a print project.

If I’m working on a design project, I’m soaking up the necessary info - I definitely thrive on a good well-detailed brief. The more I can know about the client, event, or objective, the better. Then I’m doing a lot of thinking. I’ve got a hierarchal list of projects in my head and whatever I’m doing throughout the day/night. That's how my ideas are steadily growing into more fully realized pieces. I really like to let what’s around me into the projects. That’s what I mean by always experimenting and questioning. The influence of the world around you can be so powerful if you let it in constantly. I think things are thrown into your world for the right reasons, good or bad. So in that way, no one’s pool of influences can even compare to another’s. When I need to get to realizing the idea into the physical piece, I let it out as it’s been realized in my head and then edit. So it's kind of like having a conversation between a past and present self. 

Is your practice how you support yourself? If not, what else are you working on to do so?

Yes. I really consider my studio work to be an extension of myself, I don’t really see it as a job. The things I work on outside the studio directly relate to it or influence it. I’m always trying to learn more about the processes I work with, as well as the ones I'm not familiar with. I always like to experiment and question within and out of the studio.

What is the most useful tip or advice you’ve ever been given?

I think it's a tie between: "Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you" - and - "Do with what you have". 




Lately I’ve been really interested in what I dislike or what might be referred to as bad or low-quality. 
There's so much design in the world, but the majority of it is fairly unconsidered, the disposable stuff. Some of it is just so honest it makes me think twice.


Are you comfortable sharing all aspects of your process? if not, why?

No. I really believe in spreading knowledge of the printing process, and passing along the right way to do things. I'd like to teach in that arena someday. But all the aspects of my process when it comes to printing have been learned exclusively by doing. They might be learned completely differently and at a different pace by another printer... this is what separates the work of each print house, and gives each entity a certain style, finish, and way of approaching projects. I think that's very important. Just how designers are drawing inspiration exclusively from the internet and other designer's work creates a staleness in new work, printers sharing everything creates too much sameness. Clients access a variety printers for certain reasons and vice versa. If we all created the same way, what would be the difference between us independents and companies like Moo


The design doesn’t just stop at the screen – and when it comes to translating that to the page, every printer thinks and executes differently. That’s what makes the printed material so vast and rich.


What makes your work unique?

With print, I think it's that the approach to each project is so different, that seeing all of the variety from one source is intriguing. A lot of screen printing, and some traditional printing I see is fairly standardized in its finish. People generally want to stand out when it comes to print - a lot of my clients share that concern. If they don’t know what I’m capable of when they first come to the studio, they certainly do after we’ve worked together, after they’ve seen what attention to detail and identity looks and feels like. I work to really push what screen printing can do, use it with other printing processes, and elevate the quality of it. I think that’s pretty evident in the final product.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

I’ve been playing drums since I was a little guy, so I’d be playing music for sure. I play with friends who are musicians when I can, but it’s definitely not something I could do without putting a lot of focus towards. 

How would your audience describe you?

I think they’d testify to how dedicated I am to what I do and what I produce, and getting them involved in the process from a client perspective. From a viewer’s perspective, I think they’d describe the studio as progressive.

How has your practice changed over time?  Where do you see it going?

Since I joined my studio with a larger local studio BLDG 7 months ago, there has been a lot more projects going in and out from all angles. I've always seen Cryptogram going towards a design and edition studio with an emphasis on print design. I'm working towards widening the editions offerings into more physical pieces, both functional and nonfunctional, as well as fabric and apparel stock. Longer term, I'd like to operate a cafe space and the studio out of one building.


I believe in certain principles of image making but it’s also really fun to break those rules and totally surprise myself. Growing is cool.


What are you currently working on?

Current projects are always pretty wide-ranging. Long-term, I’ve been working on the identity and marketing materials for a local co-op grocery store that started in my neighborhood. It’s been a couple years now and they’re about ready to open, so it’s been really satisfying being a part of building that up. I've been also involved in prepping a print edition for a local illustrator; going into production on a holiday gift project for a great local construction company; printing a show poster I designed for a band client; printing a run of 12” LP sleeves for a local artist; working on a recycled sketchbook project for a local philanthropic group; working on a collaboration show with a local visionary artists gallery; working on a few side-projects for myself and friends’ studios.