Although he once dreamed of being a boat pilot, a chance purchase in Halifax changed 19-year-old Stephan Johnstone’s entire career choice – and possibly his life.

A budding graphic designer, Mr. Johnstone’s work has already won accolades in an overseas magazine, Life Imitating Art, which selected his work out of hundreds of others to appear in their latest issue. The piece which Mr. Johnstone sent to the magazine was entitled ‘Hands’.”I sent it away [last September 2002] and I didn’t hear back from them for a few months and then they got back to me. I was bouncing off the walls – I had a smile on my face all week. I was just surprised because they take thousands and thousands of entries in and they chose mine,” said Mr. Johnstone.

Mr Johnstone first became interested in graphic design a few years ago, although at that point his first career choice was to be a boat pilot. “I didn’t even want to go into graphics, I wasn’t even into computers, I wanted to be a boat pilot… then I went on Tall Ships from Boston to Halifax on a polish ship called the Dar Mlodziezy. When I was in Halifax, I was in a mall and I bought the scanner. I don’t know why I bought the scanner, I must have had extra money in my wallet, no lie. But I bought the scanner and I came back home and the scanner didn’t work – I was vexed. So I put it in the corner for about a couple of months and the programmes didn’t work or anything. So I got back to it and I took it apart, fixed it and I got the software and everything working. I just started scanning in every picture in the house and manipulating it. I was up till late hours in the morning and I’m been up every night since then and that was back in 2001.”

As his graduation from Mount St. Agnes drew nearer, Mr. Johnstone was still torn between career choices – whether to be a boat pilot or a graphic designer. A guidance counselor advised him to go away to college and make his choice there but after a year at Acadia University he decided to return to Bermuda to work at Washington Mall Magazines. While he was in Bermuda a friend’s father sent him an edition of Adobe Photoshop 5.5. He was so excited that he began using the programme every night. A few months later his brother’s friend gave him Photoshop 7 and after that, he says, everything just went crazy,
with people asking him to create designs and pictures for them.

He soon printed business cards with SJ Designs, the name of his company, and his logo on them. He handed the cards out to everyone he could, including people who purchased graphic design related books at his job, Washington Mall Magazines. Searching for a “faster way to get [himself] out there” he created portfolios of his work and now hands them out to anyone who expresses interest.

Mr. Johnstone and his cousin, Mario (who was featured in the Bermuda Sun on May 9), recently designed a poster for BermyNet together and plan to collaborate on more pieces in the near future.

Mr. Johnstone also creates advertisements and posters for companies. With plans to attend George Brown College to study graphic design in September (2003), Mr. Johnstone will stick to his company motto, “SJ-Designs Taking over the world 1 Pixel @ a time !!”

By Leah Furbert
Bermuda Sun (Local Newspaper)