Young Guns 16: The Jury Speaks Out

By Brett McKenzie Posted on Jun 19, 2018

As entry deadline approaches, judges share what they'll be looking for in a Young Guns 16 winner.

As the clock ticks towards the final deadline for Young Guns 16 entries, all over the world there are hundreds of illustrators, filmmakers, fashion designers, typographers and other creative professionals putting together their submissions, hoping to be inducted into that exclusive community of artists.

Last week, we chatted with four of last year's winners, getting their take on what finally becoming Young Guns has meant to them. This time around, we reached out to members of this year's incredible jury. It's a very electic and diverse group, made up of 61 professionals, more than half of which persoanlly know what it's like to win this highly prestigious honor.

We caught up with nine individual judges and two duos — Illustrator and YG11 winner Eiko Okala; TBWA\Chiat\Day Executive Creative Director and YG7 winner Julia Neumann; POSSIBLE Group Creative Director Amy Boe; designer and YG3 winner Pablo Medina; 360i Chief Creative Officer and YG6 winner Menno Kluin; photographer and YG9 winner Jesse Rieser; Droga5 Associtae Creative Director Lauren Ferreira; designer and YG11 winner Juan Carlos Pagan; artists and YG12 winners Zim&Zou; digital artists Pinar & Viola; and Elephant Co-Founder Ashwini Deshpande. Since these are some of the very same people who will inevitably select this year's class of Young Guns, we asked them to share what they'll be looking for when casting their votes.


First row (L-R): Eiko Okala, Julia Neumann, Amy Boe, Pablo Medina, Menno Kluin, Jessie Rieser. Second row (L-R): Lauren Ferreira, Juan Carlos Pagan, Zim&Zou, Pinar & Viola, Ashwini Deshpande.

What does Young Guns represent, in your opinion?

Eiko: For me, and I think for many other winners, Young Guns is a platform that just changed everything. It lifted me up to another level instantly.

Julia: Young Guns is an incredible pool of talent, one that I'd naturally like to dip into and work with them.

Amy: To me, it represents the upcoming leaders of our industry, the forward thinkers, the ones I want on my team. They are a step above everyone else and are doing work that makes them stand out.

Pablo: The Young Guns jury process is super rigorous, so to make it through and be named a Young Gun means that you’ve stood above the many masses of creatives with true excellence.

Menno: It means that the people that you respect and admire become your group of friends.

Jesse: To me, Young Guns is a mechanism that acts as a unifying agent of the world’s top young creative individuals. Like many freelance creatives, so much of my work is created is in a solo experience, so it's incredible to have an almost fraternal organization for inspiration, camaraderie, feedback, and collaboration — plus the events are fun!

Lauren: Young Guns is about recognizing the best rising talent who will lead the industry where it needs to go. And with a new generation of thought leaders come new voices and new dimensions of creativity.

Juan Carlos: In simple terms, Young Guns identifies and acknowledges young creative talent, young people who are pushing the creative boundaries with new ideas and crafting those ideas at the highest level. To win Young Guns is at once a great achievement as well as a responsibility to continue to making great work.

Zim&Zou: More than being a creative family, Young Guns is also a signal saying that you’re on the right track in your field. Getting attention and acceptance from the talented people composing the Young Guns community is an encouragement to keep moving forward, to keep practicing and getting better. Being selected to help judge this year's Young Guns is a great opportunity for us; we feel privileged.

"Young Guns is an incredible pool of talent, one that I'd naturally like to dip into and work with them."

— Julia Neumann

What qualities would you see in a person’s work that would make you say ”@#$%, this person is going places!”?

Pinar & Viola: Eagerness, fearlessness and a higher purpose

Eiko: This person needs to have full confidence and passion in what he or she does, the kind of passion that comes from inside. You can’t force it and you can’t hide it. You just have to let it out. Then all rest comes naturally.

Julia: They would have to make me jealous, make me laugh, make me cry, make me think, make me marvel, make me anything.

Amy: Oh, when I say @#$%, it’s because someone has out-smarted everyone else. They take an idea and look at it from a different angle, from a different mindset and give us a point of view that no one has thought of before.

Pablo: Guts, skill, talent and intelligence. As Jerry Saltz said, “your idiot idea has to be there in your idiot art.”

Menno: A “ genius shines through whatever this person touches" quality. The ability to make something out of nothing, to amaze even if all this person had was a piece of paper and a pencil.

Ashwini: I want to see a designer's passion that's bordering on obsession, to convey the idea in its most powerful form. If I find someone with extraordinary skills, I may get impressed, but I rarely award anyone for their skill alone. It's the passion that makes me say @#$%!

Jesse: I'm looking to see something that’s not just new and fresh, but someone who has such a uniquely refined singular voice that when you see their work, you say “oh fuck, that’s definitely so-and-so’s work.”

Lauren: Someone who exemplifies great lateral thinking. Who doesn't even consider the same set of rules the rest of us abide by.

Juan Carlos: It’s really more of a feeling rather than a specific quality. I need to feel a mix of excitement with a pinch of jealousy when seeing the work for the first time.

Zim&Zou: We admire someone’s work when it makes us feel like seeing the world in a different way, a way we didn’t excepted. The famous ‘wow, I never thought of this before’ is something we’re really looking forward. Nowadays it’s hard to feel like being the first to create something, that’s why it’s so important to encourage people that make you discover any subject in a different and unique way. It’s a bit like looking into someone else's eyes, it makes you grow.

"I'm looking to see something that’s not just new and fresh, but someone who has such a uniquely refined singular voice that when you see their work, you say “oh fuck, that’s definitely so-and-so’s work.”"

— Jesse Rieser

Young Guns has always done a great job of introducing people to phenomenal creatives who they had never herad of before. Who is the most impressive creative person you know — Young Guns-eligible or otherwise — that you didn’t know a year ago?

Pablo: Melvis Santa. She has an ability to balance tradition with contemporary relevance.

Zim&Zou: Right now, we're in love with David Moreno’s work. As we’re working in the craft field, we're particularly sensible to this kind of artwork. What makes it incredible is that it’s frequently made out of small sticks. You can feel the obsession and time spent. There’s a kind of digital aspect but yet it’s real materials. The pieces we like the most are the ones who feel like not totally finished, as if it was disappearing in the space letting your imagination wander, a bit like a sketch. There’s a ‘work in progress’ vibe which gives the images something very powerful. And the different scales of the installations are also incredible.

Menno: I have a recent obsession with Joakim Ojanen, a ceramicist from Sweden. He goes from ceramics to painting to drawing to whatever so easily, and it’s all in his clear messed up voice. Love it.

Juan Carlos: Sadly I only discovered the incredible work of Hattie Stewart through Young Guns 15 last year. Her work is so fun, colorful, and dynamic. It's eye candy.

YG15 winner Hattie Stewart is a new discovery for Juan Carlos Pagan.

Jesse: My other answer would be the Yarza Twins. I love their surreal aesthetic with how they combine illustration, design and type, yielding a dope cyber punk vibe.

Pinar & Viola: She's just out of range to be a Young Guns winner, but Ines Alpha's masks are so future and carry so much deeper meaning on our virtual identity

Lauren: Emma Gonzalez is showing all of us the power of devoting your life, your creativity, your voice to something bigger than yourself.

"Stand out and be the true you. Work that tries to be like somebody else will get dismissed. Odds are that the person who originally did what you are trying to copy is part of this year's jury."

— Menno Kluin

As one of this year's judges, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give to anybody centering Young Guns?

Amy: Presentation is everything. We judge before reading, we judge before hearing, we judge on the littlest details. You spend so much time working on the creative, coming up with amazing ideas, and you'll want to spend the extra time making sure the entire collection is perfect. When you are up against the best, you need to make sure a little detail will not be your downfall.

Pablo: I have two bits of advice for two different types of creatives. To the innately talented person who makes beautiful work seemingly effortlessly: If you let your ego drive the bus, you will suffer in the long run.And to the person who struggles and might not feel naturally gifted all of the time: Mastery over one's craft takes years, sometimes decades. Put in the work. If being a creative person is your calling, winning or not winning awards doesn’t matter.

Jesse: I definitely like seeing a balance of personal and commissioned projects. I want to see what makes you tick. how you uniquely see the world by the work you make for yourself and how you apply that personal vision to a client’s directive.

Menno: Stand out and be the true you. Work that tries to be like somebody else will get dismissed. Odds are that the person who originally did what you are trying to copy is part of this year's jury.

Ashwini: Look at your work and ask yourself: is there an emotion in here? Does it have strong and universal appeal? Would you use this exact idea even if you had all the resources in the world to convey the same emotion? Does your work have ‘never seen before’ vibe? If so, you just might be Young Guns material.

Pinar & Viola: Be yourself, as anybody else is taken

Juan Carlos: This may seem obvious, but I would make sure each and every entry is strong. Your portfolio is as good as the weakest project, and it will be judged as such. Remove any entry you don’t feel represents your talent in the greatest light.

Zim&Zou: It’s very important that you know what has already been done, not only to feed your imagination, but also to avoid making the same things over and over again. We want to be surprised when we see your entry.

Julia: Don’t be boring. Don’t ever be boring.


The final deadline forYoung Guns 16 is Saturday, June 30. Entries submitted after the June 15 first deadline will be subject to a $50.00 late fee.



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