Target, Willie Nelson, and St. Elmo all have one thing in common, Keith Davis Young.
In a naturally lit studio on the East side of Austin, freelance designer Keith Davis Young works on projects for both national and local brand names.
The Baylor alumnus made his way to the Austin scene nearly 14 years ago. His journey as a designer began when he accepted a position as an art director for an ad agency. “I didn’t know I wanted to do design, I only started noticing when all of the things that inspired me were design work.” said Young. “I wasn’t interested in selling stuff, but more interested in building an identity for the product or visually communicating something effectively.” Young said.
From that point, it wasn’t long before the designer made the jump to full-time freelance work. “I went freelance 07 or 08. From there I hopped around a bunch of shops with a lot of friends. I toggled between photography, design and music..because all those things fed design for me.” said Young. According to Young, his background and interest in music have been a driving force in his interest in the arts and his motivation to continue.
Although music and culture feed his inspiration, Young’s ultimate focus, he says, is work that found him. The designer behind St. Elmo, Civil Goat Coffee Co. and Spicy Boys visual branding — Young says he discovered his love for brand identity development and design through his work with St. Elmo. “It’s been the longest working relationship I’ve ever had because they really worked with me from the very beginning before they even had an actual venue. They really relied on me to build that identity from the ground up. Now they’ve given me full creative liberty.” said Young of his long working relationship. “I think having that kind of trust and validation is what makes me love projects.” Young said.
Of course, success never comes without a few bumps in the road, especially at the beginning of a freelance career. “I was so poor it was my fat ass bulldog and me in this cheap apartment. I was living off of ramen and PB and J’s, but I was screen printing all of this stuff and taking a bunch of photos. It was the poorest but the happiest I’ve ever been.” said Young of his humble beginning.
Gradually, navigating the Austin scene became easier over time. For Young there is no formula, “I feel like a lot of artists have a hard time with the vulnerability of putting their own work out there because they’re afraid of the response. I think putting as much work out there as possible has helped me grow and refine what I was doing” said Young.
According to the designer, showing the work you want to do is the best way to get the job you want, coupled with working hard on any project — big or small and taking any opportunity to grow.
As for the future, we’re excited to see what upcoming projects and collaborations Young will be a part of next. •
By: Caitlin Rounds
Photography by: Caitlin Rounds
Caitlin Rounds is a third-year student at The University of Texas at Austin studying public relations.