Justin Dennis – a graphic designer for the people

Above, Justin Dennis and his eight month-old son Jonah enjoying a hike.

Above, Justin Dennis and his eight month-old son Jonah enjoying a hike.

by Shelbie Ladue

Every business needs a branded visual identity that is distinctive, consistent, and effective. Justin Dennis is the creative mastermind behind JDDesign, a signage company based in Shelburne that creates such identities for small businesses and companies. Formerly of Connecticut, Dennis moved to Vermont in 1999 primarily to spend more time on the mountains. “We had a huge hill on our property growing up and I was able to practice [snowboarding] on that.”

His love for shredding the gnar inspired him to spend some time as a ski bum out in Colorado for a year after graduation from Champlain College in 2002 with a degree in Multimedia and Graphic Design. His mother Barbara is a stay at home mom and his father Bruce now manages a family machine tool shop in his home state. His sister Tori is a special needs teacher in Boston. During college, Dennis lived with a young woman named Rachel. “I always called her my dream date,” Dennis smiles. They’ve been married for six years now and have an adorable eight month-old son named Jonah.

In the decade following his graduation, Dennis worked as a snowboarding instructor, taught at Vergennes High School, at Burton doing graphic design work, and finally doing graphic design and production work for hemp clothing companies, including Burlington’s Hempest, a company Dennis continues to work with. In 2005 Dennis moved to Shelburne where he opened his own solar-powered graphic design business.

“I started JDDesign in February of 2009,” Dennis explains, “as a graphic designer with an itch to ditch the desk and work on more projects that allowed me to be hands-on, and in the business of designing things, making things, and working with people face to face.” From branding, logos, design, and layout to installation, Dennis has succeeded in making JDDesign a one stop shop for every signage need. When the business was first getting its legs, Dennis would accept any work that came his way. “A lot of advertising was – and still is – word of mouth,” he says. Dennis works with other small businesses to build a strong network, and face-to-face with clients to create a solid working relationship.

Dennis created a custom logo, vinyl decals, and business cards for Stone Dog Inn, as well as large format, vintage styled hand-painted lettering for Bluebird BBQ, custom installation work for RL Photo, and logo design and branding for both Bluebird Coffee Stop (in conjunction with Kelly Clear Works in Metal) and El Gato Cantina. He’s even completed work for Shelburne’s own Archie’s Grill. JDDesign offers business packages that include web design, banners, flyers, advertisement materials, vector illustrations, photography, vinyl decals, business cards, and much more.

Why is this business so successful? “I put quality before everything else,” Dennis says. “It all comes down to design, whether it’s being cut from vinyl or processed with the water jet and cut from metal.” Although Dennis uses Adobe Creative Suite, a lot of his work is hand drawn, giving it a distinctive home-grown vintage quality. JDDesign studios house all of the equipment necessary for a signage company: vinyl plotter, saws, water jet, and various other metal, vinyl, wood, and painting paraphernalia.

When not working, Dennis enjoys hiking, cocktails, exploring swimming holes, and snowboarding. “I have a place in Montgomery… A tree house, actually… I keep trying to move my way closer and closer to the mountain.” He enjoys burgers (either grilled at home or, even better, from Archie’s), comedy, and working closely with a variety of people.  “I don’t usually read,” Dennis admits, “Unless it’s a manual on how to fix something.”

JDDesign strives to keep everything they produce clean, simple, and high quality.

According to Dennis, his goal is to “make every design process exciting and fun for my clients and myself. Because in the end, if you are not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.” To learn more about this graphic design business visit www.jddesignvt.com.

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