Juan Carlos Pagan: Easy Like Sunday Afternoon
By Alixandra Rutnik on Dec 04, 2023
Sunday Afternoon Co-founder reminisces about his creative journey to — and with — The One Club
The creative journey is different for everyone; some people know their heart from childhood, while others take a more circuitous route to find themselves and their passions, learning that they can make a career out of what they love. Likewise, there are many different paths towards becoming part of The One Club for Creativity family as a valued member. Some seek a place to belong, while others discover membership by winning one of our awards and enjoying the ride.
And then there’s New York-based designer, typographer, and creative director Juan Carlos Pagan, whose relationship goes back over a decade through both the Art Directors Club and the Type Directors Club. He was named to the class of Young Guns 11 in 2013 and served on the TDC board before these organizations came together to form The One Club for Creativity in 2017. Since then, Juan Carlos has become the Co-founder, Partner, and ECD of Sunday Afternoon, and his connection to the Club hasn’t let up an inch.
As part of this year’s membership campaign, we asked One Club member and photographer Suzanne Sarroff
Throughout the years, you have been highly involved with The One Club, so what knowledge and experiences have you gained from being a part of the community?
The real benefit is being connected to other creative people. What we do can be isolating from time to time, or a little cerebral if you’re spending a lot of time in your own head. So it’s nice to have a hub where you can reach out to other creative people who are in the same headspace as you.
I can draw a lot of lineages that go back to ADC and The One Club. Young Guns was my first introduction to the club, but I wasn’t super aware of how prestigious the award was until I started working and realized all of my favorite designers who I looked up to had won it.
Some of the most important people in my life, and I say that without any degree of hyperbole, I met at the Art Directors Club, like the late great Kurt Haiman, who gave me my first job after I graduated.
“Some of the most important people in my life, and I say that without any degree of hyperbole, I met at the Art Directors Club.”
Share a story about how The One Club has positively shaped your creative career.
While I was at the ADC Gallery one day checking out the new art exhibit, this older gentleman walked over to me and asked me what I thought about the art. I told him I was a designer, and he asked for my business card– for some inexplicable reason, I had a business card. I was a college student. I had no business having a business card because I had no business, but I had one, and I gave it to him, and he said, “Oh, this is really cool. You should come by my office next week and show me your portfolio.”
As it turned out, it was Kurt Haiman, who was the ADC President at the time, and the art exhibition was his work. I didn’t sleep for a week, because I had to create a portfolio out of thin air in my dorm room. When I went to show him my portfolio the following week, I was so sleep deprived. He looked at my book and said, “You have great work. When you graduate, you have a job.”
Describe a breakthrough moment in your typography career.
In college, I remember attempting to draw really messed up versions of famous fonts in my projects. My professor noticed how bad they were and suggested I take a digital lettering class to learn how to draw type. A synapse went off in my brain in that class when I realized I love drawing fonts./p>
But then my professor James Montalbano told me, “You’re not drawing letterforms; you’re molding them.” And ever since I heard that, it has stayed with me because it’s so deadly accurate, it’s crazy. You’re taking vector shapes, nudging curves little by little, and molding letterforms into space.
In what ways has founding Sunday Afternoon helped you to become a prominent leader?
I did not start my company thinking about this, but it has become increasingly important to me that we bring on young designers, help them grow, become their cheerleaders after they leave, and help their career trajectory. That’s one of the most rewarding things as a business owner. True North is collaborating with your friends, making shit you love, and putting that out into the world.
“It has become increasingly important to me that we bring on young designers, help them grow, become their cheerleaders after they leave, and help their career trajectory.”
Connect. Learn. Elevate. Give Back. Which one of these membership themes resonates with you the most?
They are all important, so let’s start there. I’ve met so many important people at One Club events and collaborated with them afterward. I love giving talks, and judging the award shows is really great because you get insight into the work being made now, and it keeps you fresh.
It’s really amazing how The One Club has shaped my life. I was a part of TDC and ADC before I was even aware of The One Club. But now that it’s one house, it encapsulates all of these great people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had as a young person and designer trying to find my way.
“True North is collaborating with your friends, making shit you love, and putting that out into the world.”
After being established as a community of copywriters, The One Club merged with the storied ADC, broadening our community to designers. And in more recent years, has also taken the TDC under its wing to include typographers. With Young Guns honoring illustrators, photographers, and more, and One Screen honoring all aspects of filmmaking, there is no limit to the scope of disciplines represented within The One Club.
Juan Carlos shows us how, even though there are many communities within this organization, the power of having one club to call home and the opportunities that come with putting so many different creatives together are invaluable.
So, no matter how you identify creatively, are just starting out, or are the co-founder of one of the most successful design firms, there is a place for you here at The One Club for Creativity. We hope you’ll join us.