Maker Profile: Joey Neill

From punk rocker to designer, Joey flies a Black Flag under St. Pete’s blue sky.

Joey Neill never planned on becoming a graphic designer.

“It’s kind of like a DIY punk thing. I came up in the early ‘90s playing in bands, and I was always the guy designing the flyers.”

He originally set out to become a paramedic, but the chance to make a living exercising his creativity, and helping other people realize their visions, was just too great to pass up.

Joey still brings that punk passion to his work, including his take on the St. Pete city flag, which swap’s the original’s colorful horizontal bars for the stark logo of one of the most revered punk bands of all time. He says he sold a healthy number of the shirts to friends, before finally deciding to offer it here on St. Pete Threads.

But like any dyed-in-the-crust punk rocker, he doesn’t give himself too much credit for creativity.

“The shirt was kind of low-hanging fruit. I thought it had already been done, but I asked around and it hadn’t.”

Whether or not it’s innovative (we’ll give Joey more props than he gives himself), it’s deeply rooted in two loves – love for St. Pete, and love for punk rock.

“I never got to see Black Flag live, but I grew up listening to them. And I grew up going to punk shows when St. Pete was nothing. But now it’s huge.”

Joey’s unpretentious, punk-rooted approach to design has helped him succeed in a career he never planned for. He cut his teeth designing sports t-shirts and memorabilia. Then, five years ago, he landed a dream gig as the house designer for Creative Loafing, Tampa Bay’s alternative newsweekly.

“I already knew about 90% of the people there, from being in the music scene.” He had already played in bands regularly with editor Scott Harrell.

That sense of tight-knit community is one of the things he loves about today’s St. Pete, after watching it develop since moving here in 2002.  “It’s so great, just that we have restaurants that are worth going to now. Five or six years ago there was nowhere to get a good taco. Now you’ve got options.”

Joey says that with more reasons to get out on the town, the art and music scenes have gotten more active. “Everybody’s more accessible now.”

“You wind up meeting people in St. Pete all the time, just from going to a bar, going to a show.” Being visible has helped him land a steady stream of freelance work, from band t-shirts for friends to branding packages for new restaurants. “I wouldn’t call it networking, though, because I don’t really go out with that mentality. I just go out to meet friends.”

If you want to bump into Joey, he has a few predictable haunts. “You’ll always catch me drinking at Old Key West Bar and Grill, or the Blue Goose.” For food, his top picks are among the city’s new blood – Red Mesa’s Mercado on Central, and The Mill downtown.

Joey was in bands steadily for 20 years, before hanging up the bass two years ago. He insists it’s temporary, though.

“It’s nice to take a break, but I am definitely jonesing to get back into it.”