Adé Hogue: Creative Success Writ Large
When Adé Hogue enrolled in civil engineering courses at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, in 2007, most of his classmates hoped to build roads, bridges, dams, and airports. But Hogue was determined to design roller coasters. That career path was quickly derailed by subpar grades and by a realization that the world wasn’t exactly clamoring for roller-coaster designers. So Hogue pursued another field that combines technical expertise with creative flair—one with nearly as many twists and turns as a roller coaster.
After diving into graphic design and earning his degree, Hogue set his sights on Chicago. When a phone interview led quickly to an in-person interview, he skirted the cost of round-trip airfare and, instead, stuffed his belongings into his Chevy Malibu, drove north, and crossed his fingers. He got the job. Then he crashed on a friend’s floor for a few weeks until he was on his feet.
FINDING A CREATIVE OUTLET
Like many entry-level roles, Hogue’s job at an experiential design firm wasn’t particularly challenging, but that worked out well for him, because it left him with enough mental energy to dive into his first personal project during evenings and weekends.
“I was feeling a little uninspired, doing the same thing over and over again,” he says, “so I bought a bunch of brush pens and decided to hand-letter a word in a different style every day, for thirty days, which was about as long as my attention span could handle—and after a month, I’d established it as a habit.”
Hogue eventually landed at a large, big-name PR agency, which also proved to be rather sterile, but it introduced him to one of the lasting themes of his work: flowers. Surrounded by dozens of coworkers who seemed to receive bouquets nearly every day, Hogue started gathering up those wilting flowers when they were destined for the garbage can.
“At any given point, I had ten to fifteen dying bouquets surrounding my desk,” he says. “The people who sat nearby didn’t necessarily enjoy it, but I loved it.” Hogue recognized that a flower’s beauty was fleeting, so he decided to capture that beauty forever, using photography. With Pantone Flowers, he used paper frames to create still lifes of fading roses, daisies, and carnations from his coworkers’ “hand-me down bouquets.”
PUTTING HIMSELF IN THE PICTURE
That love of flowers is a repeated theme that’s also featured in Hogue’s cover concept for PRINT magazine, one of 15 created by people chosen as the magazine’s New Visual Artists for 2017. Hogue created a custom-lettered, 1:12 scale version of the magazine cover using flowers and acrylic paint on a massive piece of paper. He them jumped onto the canvas and photographed himself, a favorite technique he often employs to show that images are analog, not digital.
SHARING HIS KNOWLEDGE
This year, Hogue will be able to put off that Chicago chill for a few days while presenting at Adobe MAX in Los Angeles (October 15–17). There, he’ll lead a session delving into the ways he incorporates photography into his creative work. Teaching is yet another “accidental” skill that he picked up on the job: During his final two years at the University of North Carolina, Hogue worked at an Apple store, helping older customers navigate iPads and iPhones. Now he takes the same approach when leading classes in hand lettering and typography at DePaul University.
“When I first taught a script lettering class to undergrads, I was trying to show them a Bézier method, and it forced me to take a step back and start with the basics,” says Hogue. “It was such a foreign concept to them, I realized they needed more than one Keynote presentation—they need me to show them on the computer and to give them the opportunity to practice again and again. As a teacher, those moments really help you redefine and fine-tune your own process.”
It’s one of many unexpected lessons that Hogue has strung together over time, which prompts him to reference Apple again: “Just like Steve Jobs said in his Stanford commencement speech, you can’t connect the dots looking forward—you have to look backward,” says Hogue. “Whatever you do, take those experiences for what they are in that moment because you can never really determine where they’re going to lead you. I recently wrote a blog post about my two-year anniversary as a freelancer, and I said, ‘Freelancing isn’t for everyone—I’m not even sure it’s for me in the long run.’ Right now it’s driving me to create what I think is pretty good work, but in five or ten years, I may decide to return to an agency. Either way, I know that every experience I’m having right now is going to have an impact on what I do later.”
July 26, 2018
A frequent contributor to HOW, Communication Arts, and Adobe Create, Scott Kirkwood is a freelance copywriter and creative director focused on do-gooders, graphic design, and the great outdoors.