Featured Artist: Interview with Jeff Sheldon, the Creative Mind Behind Ugmonk

by . September 2nd, 2013

Success in the creative industry is a product of hard work and continuous learning and improvement. The most successful creative agencies, studios and businesses today took years of experimenting and innovating their brands to finally be considered successful as what they are today.

Say for example Ugmonk, the popular shirt brand of graphic designer turned entrepreneur Jeff Sheldon, which started from a brain-storming session after his college years ago and now a global brand shipping products like shirts and accessories in over 60 countries and been featured in various TV shows and magazines.

Ugmonk by Jeff Sheldon

Jeff’s minimalist style in design powered Ugmonk’s success throughout the years – turning his passion in creative design into a full-time family business. YTD got the chance to get in touch with Jeff talking about Ugmonk, his career, inspirations and creative process. Check out the short interview below.


Jeff Sheldon

[pullquote]Work hard and stay humble. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. It’s all about taking initiative and pushing yourself to improve as a designer.[/pullquote]


Jeff Sheldon

YTD: Hi Jeff, welcome to You The Designer! How are you and how’s Downingtown?

JEFF: Thanks! I’m doing well and busy as usual.

YTD: Tell us something about you and your creative work.

JEFF: I am a graphic designer turned entrepreneur who lives in Downingtown, PA with my wife and our Boston Terrier named Pixel. Ever since I could hold a pencil I’ve loved art. I grew up doing all types of traditional art like painting and sculpting. I later transitioned that artistic passion to graphic design which I studied in college.

YTD: How would you describe your style in graphic design?

JEFF: My style could be described as minimal, simple, and bold.

YTD: How do you usually start your day?

JEFF: I usually start by catching up on email, Twitter, and Instagram. I try to be more proactive about my day’s to-do list but still usually find myself still catching up on stuff first. After I’m caught up, you’ll find me doing anything from sketching, designing, product photography, researching new products, working on website updates or a variety of other things.

YTD: Tell us something about your popular shirt brand UGMONK.

JEFF: Ugmonk started with a simple idea – design fresh high-quality unique products. Just one month after I had graduated college, married my high-school sweetheart and started a full-time design job, I found myself brainstorming about launching my own brand centered around my love for typography and minimal design. I felt like the design culture at the time was really lacking in this area, and apparently this design sensibility connected with many people all around the world.


Rather than following the traditional model of starting a business, I just tried to apply common sense and research to figure things out along the way. I’ve found that the best way of learning is by doing. My approach to Ugmonk focuses on producing small batches of quality products with intense attention to detail. What started as an creative outlet for my passion for design has grown into a full-time family business. Over the last 5 years we’ve shipped products to over 60 countries around the world and have been featured in various TV shows and magazines.




YTD: Where or how did you come up with the name “Ugmonk”?

JEFF: When brainstorming various names for the brand (just a side project at the time) we came up with a bunch of options but most of them felt too generic or boring. We landed on using “Ugmonk” because it was short enough to remember and weird enough to stand out. It was also one of the only available URLs at the time and ended up being an excellent branding decision.




YTD: Can you share us your creative process? From where do you start when it comes to creating shirt designs?

JEFF: I usually start with pencil and paper to get my initial ideas and concept drawn out. There are times that I’ll start directly in Illustrator but I find pencil and paper to be less constricting. Once I have my basic sketch I’ll either scan it in or jump straight into Illustrator and use my sketches as reference. From there, I’ll continue refining the design and then mock it up on a t-shirt and pick the final pantone colors.



YTD: Which among the Ugmonk designs is your most favorite and why?

JEFF: Isn’t that like asking someone who’s their favorite kid? :) I like different designs for different reasons, but the new Slow & Steady design is one of my new favorites.



YTD: Who is your design hero?

JEFF: There are so many contemporary talented designers and illustrators that inspire me, but I’m also a big fan of the work of some of the great designers during the mid-1900s like Herb Lubalin, Paul Rand, and Saul Bass.


ugmonk 5th anniversary set


YTD: Any piece of advice to starting designers out there who wish to make it big in the creative industry someday?

JEFF: Work hard and stay humble. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. It’s all about taking initiative and pushing yourself to improve as a designer.

YTD: Thank you Jeff for spending some time with us. Anyone you would like to be thankful for?

JEFF: Thanks for the interview and what you guys are doing for the creative industry!


SEE ALSO: Interview with Designer Russel Shaw

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