Getting To Know Las Vegas’ Best Graphic Designer, Jef Obey Salazar
There are good graphic designers and great graphic designers. Then you have simply awesome graphic designers. Obey Jef is just that. The guy is well rounded and his work speaks for itself.
1. Where are you originally from and where do you live now?
I am originally from the Capital of Alaska (Juneau) – yes I said Alaska!
2. What do you do for a living?
Currently I am the Art Director for Las Vegas Nightlife Group Properties Surrender Nightclub, Encore Beach Club, Society Cafe & Andrea’s Encore. I am also Partner & Co-Founder of Kuma Snow Cream and Art Director for the world famous Crazy Horse 3.
3. How did you get started being a graphic designer?
Good question… When I was a kid, my uncle Jun used to draw me ninjas, dragons, robots & samurais and that really fascinated me and since then, I’ve always been creative, drawing, painting & sculpting when I was in elementary thru high school, but I never really thought it would be a living. I really wanted to be a psychologist, but instead I choose “Advertising Arts” to develop my creative talents. I did many projects, learned a lot and made great friends along the way and here I am today still learning and moving forward ;).
4. What big jobs in graphic work have you done that we may not know about?
I have many projects here and there that people may remember like the Celine Dion Bus wrap or the Pepsi design wrap escalator at fashion show mall, but one good one is that I had the honor of doing is graphic work for the opening of Stussy Las Vegas when it opened. Visionary Chris Julian & Eddie Cruz co-owner of Stussy & Undefeated gave me the opportunity to collaborate and put my design on both huge walls. It was an honor to do that and it really showed me that I could create with some of the elite innovative design minded individuals.
5. How did you get involved with the Wynn and Encore and become the big dog in the graphic arts department?
I give a lot of credit to David Pappas & Kozmoe Alonzo. I have been designing for them with the success of Revolution Lounge & Rok Vegas and when Mr. Pappas started working for Encore Beach Club. He came to me and said I could take design there to the next level, so he gave me an opportunity to interview and show what I got. I was first hired as a freelancer for Blush then quickly moved up in rank and became the Art Director and main designer for Surrender Nightclub & Encore Beach Club.
6. What’s it like working for corporate at the Wynn and Encore? Do you have an office there or do you work from home? Tell us about it.
I am very honored to design for the Wynn brand & also Sean Christie. Working there is a privilege & the level of professionalism with everyone at the Surrender & Encore Beach Club office is inspiring. To answer your second question, I come into the Surrender and Encore Beach club offices 2-3 times a week at the Wynn design center. I have a space where I can design next to Source magazine co-founder, Jonathan Shecter’s Office. The other half of design is done remotely from home since I have a lot of late nights designing and additions due to the hyper competitiveness of the Las Vegas nightlife universe.
7. Take us through a day in your life. From when you wake up to when you go to bed.
Well I wake up around 6:00 am and then I hit snooze 25-30 times after getting yelled at by my dogs because they are hungry and I am the keeper of the doggie treats…I then get up to shower & freshin’ up about 7:30 – check emails and social media while getting coffee at Starbucks down the street or instant coffee. I proceed to fire up the MAC and I usually like to get 2-3 extra hours of design time done before my noon meetings at the Surrender offices. 80% of the time I just have a light lunch while I design and my dogs watch me like I am their own personal food network… I usually end my day around 6pm, but sometimes later depending on my projects and deadlines or if I feel like doing more. I’ve discovered that I am a graphic design-a-holic lol. Depending on my work load, I either play with the pups or take time to go out to Surrender, meet with friends and other creatives to unwind and decompress. I spend 60% of the time at home working late and I go to bed about 1-3am to repeat the process.
8. You recently opened Kuma Snow Cream. What is it and how did you get involved?
This project developed over my friendship and trust with celebrity chef Jet Tila. Basically, he gave me the opportunity to create a brand with him and execute a unique experience in a design a culinary canvas. The result of which is what we have today an experience for everyone to treat themselves to a Kuma Snow cream ;).
9. What’s your plans with Kuma Snow Cream? Open more stores?
Kuma in the future is to open more branches and continuing a constant drive to be progressive in design, flavor and over all gravitating wonderful experience.
10. What’s the coolest project you worked on that you are most proud of?
Aside from Kuma snow cream…I would say the criminal campaign I did for Wynn and all the super star DJ characters. I don’t think that will ever happen again. That design and campaign was such a hit and also carried on for the whole year. Just incredible…
11. How do you sit in front of a computer all day? What is your balance?
Music and YouTube is my balance. I like listening / watching documentaries and social commentaries. I take breaks to play with my doggies. They keep me relaxed and happy in between the regular work day madness.
12. You get to Skype with A-list DJ’s from the Wynn and Encore to discuss projects and design. Do you ever get nervous or excited to talk to a big DJ?
I get excited over the projects. I do my best to give everyone the same treatment and level of designs whether or not it’s a celeb, a list DJ or someone trying to create a brand identity. It’s very humbling to work with such talented and driven people it gives me an opportunity to learn with every opportunity and collaboration.
13. Have any big DJs or celebs tried Kuma Snow Cream?
We have had lot of local celebs, social media influencers (such as yourself) and service industry superstars come enjoy Kuma – to name a few, we have had Gold Medalist & Dancing with the stars dynamo Apollo Ono, MMA Champion Nick Diaz, Skam Artist Dj’s Five, Scratchy, Turbulence, world famous Bboys Do-knock & Ronnie of Supercrew and the Jabbawookeez, BMX Icon Ricardo Laguna and many others… from what I’ve learned, you’ll never know who might show up!
14. What does one do with themselves after designing? Is there a bigger picture for you or do you always want to be a designer?
After designing I plan on teaching younger designers by creatively directing and collaborating. Graphic design is a constant learning craft. It’s a pursuit for perfection where no one knows what perfect is… It’s a god borrowed talent and the best I could do is teach others how to be happy and proud of design before I give it back.
15. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Permanently on a beach yelling at my kids to get out of my view of the ocean while I drink a cold corona and answering less emails and getting excited seeing the progression of graphic design and Kuma!
16. What are 3 things people don’t know about you?
1. I can still do a kickflip on a skateboard
2. My favorite wrestling move is the shining wizard
3. I’ve only been to universal studios once
17. If you could work with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I would love to work for the most famous Graphic design Milton Glaser just because of his vast knowledge of the art. He is a genius and a key to a treasure chest of graphic design superiority and ethics.
18. What’s your favorite nightclub and why? It can’t be at the Wynn or Encore.
haha That’s a twist of a question… I really admire all the new nightclubs in Las Vegas, but if I had a choice, I actually really like and miss the classic “whiskey” at Green Valley Ranch. It was ahead of it’s time and had that great level of experiential nightlife. It had an outside – inside dance floor & side room and it was great because people came to be there and to enjoy the music before the led lights, gorilla costumes and the confetti.
19. What do you think about the nightlife and how it’s evolved over the years.
Nightlife is an ever evolving machine that produces excitement and escape. It’s amazing where it is now and I can only see it growing due to the the rapid increase of the popularity of Electronic Dance Music.
20. What other businesses would you like to own someday?
Someday, I would love to have my own creative design boutique / mini ad agency where I can hire some new and talented designers and give them an opportunity to shine.
21. What advice would you give to those interested in being a graphic designer one day?
“If this is what you love (Graphic Design), never give up.” And always remember, “you’re are only as good as your last project, good art is not cheap and cheap art is not good.”