Local graphic design firm SJD World is celebrating its 20th Anniversary, and founder and Creative Director, Stephan Johnstone, reflected on the past 20 years, and some of the highs and lows in business over the last two decades and what inspired him to move his business from Toronto, where he first started his career, to his homeland in Bermuda.

Looking back 20 years ago, what gave you the inspiration/ idea to start your own business?

SJ: While I was in graphic design school in Toronto a good friend of mine, Dennis Hall, launched his own DJ website. I was very interested in how all of this worked so he showed me how to purchases a website domain and hosting. I originally wanted sjd.com but it was taken at the time so I added “world” and sjdworld.com was born.

The idea of building something on the internet really fascinated me. So the site became an online outlet for me to post my digital art, photography, poetry and thoughts. Keep in mind, social media wasn’t what it is like today back then so I felt like I was literally building my own world online.

As the years passed I featured friends, family and artists in Bermuda and overseas. It wasn’t until the site got nominated for a Webby Award in 2005 and I was sharing this news to one of my design professors from college, that he told me that this could be my full time job.

The minute he mentioned this a lightbulb went off and I slowly shifted to evolving SJD World from a hobby to a business. From here, I completed design school, slowly stopped having features on the site and began growing my freelance clients while working for a Toronto Design Studio and print shop. So while there was never really a moment that I decided to start a business, this whole journey has been very organic.

Did you always know you wanted to come back to Bermuda to support clients or did that just happen organically?

SJ: It kind of happened organically. I got laid off from my full time job in Toronto in 2009 as they had to downsize. During this time, my Bermuda freelance work was just starting to grow. I decided to freelance around Toronto for a year before coming back home to Bermuda to start putting down a real foundation for the company.

Looking back over the years, how do you feel about making it to 20 years? What would you say has been the thing[s] you are most proud of during that time?

SJ: It feels unreal to make it to 20 years and it also feels like it happened so fast. I think I am most proud of the team I have built around me and the work we have been able to contribute to Bermudian culture.

Have there been challenges, losses or failures along the way? What did those instances teach you?

SJ: There have been a lot of challenges, losses and failures. In fact, too many to name. The most important thing I have learned from all of this is to look at every loss and failure as a lesson. If you don’t learn from it you will never grow or move forward. My goal is to study everything especially when things fall apart so that I know what NOT to do next time.

Your brand has won multiple awards and client acclaim over the years. What do you hope is next for SJD World? Where do you see yourself/ the business in the next 5 or 10 years?

Over the next 5- 10 years I see the company continuing to refine and evolve our print and web design service offerings. I also want to release more of our own projects and products to the world in hopes to becoming one of the most influential creative companies built in Bermuda.

Lastly, when is the exact anniversary date and what [if anything] are you doing to celebrate?

SJ: Back in 2004, my record keeping wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now so a lot of information from the first year was lost sometime ago. However, the second version of the website I built [which was the first version I actually uploaded to the internet] went live on February 29th, 2004. So I tend to count that date as the officially launch of SJD World.

To celebrate we are putting on a Gallery Show at Bermuda Society of Arts in City Hall, showcasing some of the projects we have worked on over the years.

The SJD World 20th Anniversary Gallery Show at BSOA will open on Friday, March 1st at 5:30pm. The show runs for three weeks until March 23rd.