Q+A with Jane Hall, Google Product Marketer + Curious Creative

As fellow Tar Heels, Sarah and I were super lucky to know this week’s Featured Muse, Jane Hall, in college. There, she had a reputation for being energetic, creative and colorful. While her work and creative pursuits have taken her to incredible places, these adjectives still apply. Jane is a bright and beautiful young woman, full of confidence and the drive to activate her potential.

These days, Jane walks a fine line between art and technology as a Product Marketing Manager at Google. In her spare time, you can find Jane exploring and expressing her creativity through a variety of outlets. The most notable? Instagram, where she’s known as @jpegjane. She’s a whiz at the photo-heavy platform, clocking 6,000+ followers and tons of engagement with her community of friends and co-conspirators.

In these answers, you’ll hear her heart, her ambition, and her curiosity.

The Basics

  • Age: 24
  • Location: San Francisco, California
  • Education: UNC Chapel Hill: Advertising major, Entrepreneurship & Information Systems minors
  • Field of Interest: Lots! (See next question.) Currently a Product Marketing Manager  at Google.
  • What’s Your Favorite Thing About Yourself? I’m a very curious person, and as I grow up I’m trying not to lose my childlike-wonder. It’s easy to become specialized in your career and therefore let go of other interests. I work in marketing at Google but love fashion, outer space, Japanese street culture, videography, neon signs, French pop music, color theory, modern art, politics. I’ve accepted that there will always be people who know more than me about each of those things, but that I should keep asking questions, keep exploring, keep learning.  I still stay up past my bedtime daydreaming about going to space, and I think that’s a good thing. The world needs more curious adults!

09172015 | 💫

A post shared by Jane Hall // J P E G J A N E (@jpegjane) on

  • What Inspired You Today? This morning I went to my favorite coffee shop and read about International Klein Blue (Pantone 286), which is my favorite color in the world (see: #pantone286jpeg). I am extremely inspired by aesthetics. Whenever I need a boost I watch this film about Michael Wolff. I found this in 2011 when I was in college and was going through a phase of creative frustration. Michael’s point of view became a source of constant inspiration – it was something I closely identified with. I used to watch this everyday, and I still find myself going back to it: “I see seeing as a muscular exercise, like I see curiosity… I am obsessively interested in everything.”
  • What Are You Currently Listening To On Repeat? I’m no longer holding my breath for a new Frank Ocean album, but that’s what I wish I were listening to on repeat. Most of my time is spent listening to R&B, especially of The Weeknd variety. I recently bought my first record player & bunch of girlpower vinyl (Banks, Haim, Adele). And it’d be a crime not to give Bieber’s Purpose a shoutout.
  • What Are You Reading That You Can’t Put Down? I love the idea of getting lost in a book, but the pace of my life + my short attention span make it hard to focus on long-form reading (generally my free time is spent taking photos or making things). Lately I can’t stop reading poetry – particularly Human by Christopher Poindexter and Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur (both poetry compilation books). I’ve read them cover to cover multiple times this month. Last summer on a flight to Tokyo I read ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo, which changed my life. Everyone should read that. In my apartment I have an entire bookcase of traditional novels that I’ve bought..  I love being surrounded by books, but at this rate won’t get through those until I retire.
  • What Are You Currently Involved In That You’re Really Excited About? Last year I had an insane start to the year at work – we were opening our first retail spaces in London in February, so January through March were pure chaos, nonstop travel, lots of sleepless nights. I took a week off in April and stayed in San Francisco for a creative reset – which basically means I spent the week in my room and painted, took photos, made messes for 5 days straight. The week had such a positive impact on me that I decided to make it a yearly tradition, so this week I’m doing it again! One of the projects I’m inspired by is Elle Luna’s #100DaysProject, during which you commit to doing something creative for 100 days straight. Though I didn’t finish last year (it’s daunting to find a project that can scale 100 times!), I met some awesome people through it. One of my favorite things about these types of projects is that by being involved with them you’re instantly connected to a new network of creative friends (another favorite is Instagram’s Weekend Hashtag Project). I’m currently challenging myself to make one thing each day – whether it’s taking a series of photos, doing a painting or writing a poem. I’m excited about intentionally putting more of my energy towards being creative, and for making new friends along the way.

or at least on Saturday ✨ . . . #letterfolk

A post shared by Jane Hall // J P E G J A N E (@jpegjane) on

Questions + Answers

Your work seems to be a fine balance of art and science, education and exploration. Could you explain how all these influences find a home in your brain and work?

When I was growing up my parents said I was constantly “burning the candle at both ends.” As a result of my varied interests, I usually have one too many things on my plate …or these days, five too many things. I’m an experiential learner, so I’d much rather try something with my hands than read about it. That said, I’m also extremely interested in technology, and most of my finished work is digital.

My favorite projects involve making something physical (ex: a painting, a neon sign) and capturing it digitally in a creative way (ex: a stop-motion video or gif). Here’s a little video I made on my iPhone one afternoon – it’s a good representation of my working style: rooted in physical but hacked together & shared digitally (and perhaps most importantly, dependent on color!).

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Art, science, education, exploration – those are definitely all important, but ultimately my creative process relies on finding an environment where I can work on many projects at once, make a lot of messes, hack things together and ultimately share things with my community (usually via Instagram) to get feedback.

I need to be working on a couple creative projects at all times or I don’t feel like myself.

You spoke a little about the passion you have for your work. For those who may not know, what is a product marketer? It seems like your professional work has really allowed you to explore your creativity and curiosity – how have you found this fulfillment, and do you have any advice for those who may still be looking for a path that inspires them?

A product marketing role is responsible for translating a complicated technical product – such as Google Search or the Android operating system – into a story that resonates with users. During my time at Google I’ve worked on many products: Drive, Search, Commerce, Maps, Retail, Photos, Translate.. it’s been a crazy few years! I’ve been able to carve out unique roles, from building this Search campaign in New York to designing the window displays for Google’s first London retail spaces.

My advice for anyone looking for inspiration at work is to avoid doing work with medium impact. One of my previous managers taught me to choose projects that are either small & scrappy or big & game-changing – nothing in between! I think that’s a great filter to apply to your work, as it ensures you’re making stuff yourself but also constantly being challenged.

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Lastly, travel whenever you get the chance. The travel I’ve been able to do as part of my job has changed the way I view the world.

Looking at your Instagram account, your art, and even your responses here, color is a major inspiration and influence on your work. Could you explain why color is so important to you, and the influence it has on your creative process?

I have a deep appreciation for color – the way it impacts our emotions, desires, associations. I’m fascinated by visual texture, which is a common thread throughout my creative work. I love to experiment with combining different colors & mediums, as shown in my mixed media artwork and photography. But there’s much to be said for appreciating color outside of the traditional “art” world!

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Getting dressed is my first creative exercise each morning. I pick out my outfit based on what I’m doing that day – the meetings I have, what setting I’ll be in, the type of energy I want to give off. I’m hyper-aware of the colors around me, and try to find inspiration in everyday places. Red shoes on green grass, a blue neon sign flickering against a brick wall, a gold sequined outfit against a black chair.. the list is infinite. (I have an Instagram series called #jpeginfrontofwalls that captures my fascination with fashion + surroundings.)

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Playing with color, light and texture is very therapeutic for me. Most of my creative process revolves around playing – combining unexpected things and seeing what happens. I recently shot a series of self portraits using acrylic plastic panels and harsh light. Last year I learned how to make neon signs, which is a pursuit that’s similarly fueled by color + light (see: #jpegchasingneon). One day I hope to produce a large scale neon exhibit!

2015: a year of plastic obsessions & loads of stripes 💥✨

A post shared by Jane Hall // J P E G J A N E (@jpegjane) on

What’s one fascinating thing you learned today? What unexpected places has your curiosity taken you?

When I became interested in neon a few years back, I discovered Dan Flavin – now one of my favorite artists. I was fascinated by the Chinati Foundation – an artists colony in Marfa, Texas (a town of 1600 people located a few hours outside of El Paso), founded by Donald Judd with the help of his friend Dan Flavin. I got to go there in February and it was an extremely inspiring experience. After years of researching his work, being surrounded by Flavin pieces (in the middle of the desert) was unforgettable!

so blue, yet so happy. #jpegchasingneon #danflavin #pantone286jpeg

A post shared by Jane Hall // J P E G J A N E (@jpegjane) on

My curiosity about artists and their creative environments leads me to researching lots of places like this. Next on my list is Naoshima, a small island in Japan. I have a dream of living in Tokyo at some point in the next 5 years, so hopefully I’ll get to visit Naoshima then! 🙂

What’s your favorite thing about people? (Maybe this is your best friend, or maybe this is just people in general.)

I love people. One of my coworkers used to make fun of me for saying that aloud, but it’s true – I love people.

When I’m on public transit I find myself making up stories in my head about the people standing around me. One of my favorite things to think about during stressful days at work is that at that same moment there are people all around the world who are having the best day of their life – getting married, or having their first child, or having their big break at work. That gives me energy!

Who Inspires You?

My friend Dean Drescher, my mom, and lots of other amazing people!

+ Do you find Jane’s energy as infectious as we do? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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