The Daily Voice

Chappaqua Designer Traveled Unusual Road To Build Award-Winning Business

by Tom Renner

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. — Justin Negard discovered business success is part inspiration, part perspiration. He used a lot of each to establish his Chappaqua website and graphic design agency, Future Boy Design, into an award-winning and highly-coveted business.

Negard’s creativity begins with website development, where he has built sites for a wide range of companies in a variety of industries. His talents extend further into graphic design, photography and writing. “I like to work with businesses that need a complete re-imagining of their brand, ‘’ Negard said.

Negard’s path as a designer, however, took twists far from the usually traveled roads. The Somers native applied to art schools, but many of them did not consider his work with computer software programs as art. He turned to SUNY-Purchase and earned a degree in journalism.

“I was always the artistic kid in school,’’ Negard said. “At Purchase I learned a lot about photography, and now it’s a big part of my work. I didn’t really consider a career in journalism. A lot of it is the ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ mentality, and that’s not for me. I wanted to work for myself and be creative.”

In 2006, shortly after earning his degree, Negard traveled to California for a fresh start. His plans were not concrete. “I just thought it would be nice,’’ he said. “I wanted to leave home, drive across the country and try somewhere else.”

Negard landed in Los Angeles, where he continued to self-teach his graphic design and website development skills. He took a variety of jobs — “I delivered fabric and clothing in Los Angeles, and when I came back to New York I was delivering bread in the South Bronx at 2 a.m.,’’ he said — and struggled to make ends meet. “It wasn’t exactly romantic,’’ Negard said. “I just loved what I was doing and was hoping it would pay off.”

Negard learned to take a camera with him whenever he left the house and built a strong photography portfolio. He also knocked on doors and talked to anyone who listened. One of his first design clients was for a movie theater management company in Hollywood which restores classic theaters around the country.

“I just wanted to go see a movie, and I went to their site and it was abysmal,’’ Negard said. “I gave them a business card and tried to sound more important than I actually was. I couldn’t believe they called back.”

Negard retained the client, and others, when he returned to New York seven years ago. The movie theater company invited him to a private event in Manhattan but offered no other details. “It turned out to be a private photography session with Liza Minelli,’’ Negard said. “I felt totally unprepared. But I was also amazed that from handing out a business card, I ended up photographing Liza Minelli. From that day forward I always have to knock on every single door. You don’t know where things will lead.”

Negard’s skill and determination led him to tackle projects of various size and scope. One of his proudest achievements is a project for the U.S. Park Service called “Theodore Roosevelt In Color.” Negard donated his time to develop a social media campaign to increase awareness of Roosevelt and his Manhattan birthplace. He did so with bright, vivid colors and simple shapes and symbols. It won a bronze medal in the 2014 International Design Awards.

“I’m very big in simplicity,’’ Negard said. “In every step of the process. A cluttered website turns off a lot of people. So many people feel it’s important to put everything on the front page, and they present too many options. You want people to be intrigued to learn more.”

Several Westchester County companies have hired Negard, but he’s also becoming more selective in his work. “I’ve gotten to the point where I’m confident with my style,’’ he said. “I want them to respect the work that I do. So many people want a designer to just put it in a machine and make it look nice, and hurry up. I like to learn about the company and what they do. It’s important that we work together in that way.”

Negard takes time to craft his work, particularly websites. “It’s not a one-size fits all business,’’ he said. “It’s the difference between a 5-star culinary chef and a cookie cutter approach. The most important thing is accessibility. If people can’t access the site or design comfortably, everything else is pointless.”

Negard said he came up with his business name from watching “Back To The Future” as a boy. “I thought it’d be cool to have a business with that name,’’ he said. “It was just a silly thing at the time.” He has thought about re-branding, but has already developed relationships and contacts. “Now I’m sort of screwed,’’ he said. “I’ll be 72 and I’ll still be known as Future Boy.”

Negard found a successful career path, and it certainly was not easy. But he did it by following the tenet that always stuck in his heart.

“I just found my way piece by piece,’’ Negard said. “I firmly believe people should pursue what they love. It’s not always quick. But if you pursue what you love, everything else just sort of falls into place.”