Robyn Miller • Sunday Gleaner Writer
At a time when many young men were still trying to figure out what to do with their lives, Howard Moo Young, at the tender age of seven, had his all sketched out.
He had discovered what the deft stroke of his pencil could create, a skill which would later evolve to photography, and which he harnessed at every opportunity to leave a trail of excellence on the creative landscape.
After more than 50 years in the business, Moo Young has become a national treasure. The talented and sought-after artist and photographer has copped numerous awards in the advertising and art industry, earning the respect and admiration of many, both at home and abroad.
It didn't hurt that as a young child, Moo Young's mother worked as a calligrapher. While she inked old photographs back to perfection at Morais Photo Studio on Charles Street, her young son would watch her with studied intensity. Art ran through the Moo Youngs' veins and so, informal lessons also came from his father's excellent drawing skills, a love which Moo Young has returned to in recent times.
"My first real love is drawing," said a nostalgic Moo Young.
The eldest of seven boys, Moo Young lived at Manchester Square at the top of Duke Street in downtown Kingston where his father also operated a grocery store.
By the time Moo Young got to Wolmer's Boys' School, he was already fully immersed in art. He signed up for evening classes at the DaCosta Institute, where he was exposed to life drawings, and two- and three-dimensional art. Among his contemporaries were Edwin Todd and Cecil Baugh.
At age 14, Moo Young discovered his new love: the camera.
"After I won a scholarship to Wolmer's, my mother's boss, Mr Morais, gave me my first camera - a Kodak Brownie. I used to go down there (the studio) and watch him take photographs behind the big 4"x7" and 8"x10" … those cameras that you used to have to put the big black cloth over your head and focus," Moo Young recounted.
By this time, a bold Moo Young had approached his headmaster for assistance with his first love.
"When I went to Wolmer's, I realised they didn't have art there, so I decided to go to DaCosta. So when the time came for me to do Senior Cambridge in 1960, I went to the headmaster and told him I wanted to do art."
Moo Young went on to sit the exam at Wolmer's Girls' School, passing it with flying colours.
In 1960, after Wolmer's, Moo Young headed straight for the bull pen. The bull pen was known then in the advertising business as the place where all the commercial artists worked, and Jerry Dunlop and Associates was his first stop. There, Moo Young, under the tutelage of well-known art director Jerry Dunlop, learned all he could.
"When I went there, I learned to do everything by hand, hand lettering, illustrations, drawing with pencils, I used to do Bata shoes, I used to draw bottles like the Wray & Nephew bottle ... I really learnt from the bottom up," he said.
A year later, Moo Young moved to top-rated agency McMillan Advertising and, by 1962, had won his first major award.
That was the year the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC), then the sole TV station, launched an islandwide ID signal logo competition. Moo Young entered the competition in its dying moments, beating out over 300 contestants.
He remembered how he got the news: "One day, while I was working, Carmen Dunlop, the wife of Jerry Dunlop, rushed into the art department, excited, 'Guys! Guys! I have good news for you. Howard, where are you? You know that you have just been chosen the winner over 300 persons?'
His winning prize was a Zenith black-and-white television donated by Worrel Samuels Manufacturing. He appeared on JBC TV the first night it went on air with the station's general manager, Merrick Needham, who made the presentation.
After a short stint at home, Moo Young packed his bags in the exodus of the '70s and left to find work in New York,
There, he worked with art directors from Germany, Canada, and some of the biggest names in the business.
He went on to study commercial art at New York University and, by his second year, had successfully applied for a scholarship.
A straight-A student, Moo Young began to get noticed for his outstanding work in advertising. Among those who got his attention was his professor, Ed Benghardt, who invited him to work in his private studio.
But with the Vietnam War on in earnest and the likelihood of being drafted once he was no longer a student, Moo Young reluctantly turned down the offer. Instead, he told Benghardt, "I'm going back home."
It was a tempting proposition and one that, at US$400 monthly, most would have jumped at.
"I saw that (the offer), but I also saw the guns of Vietnam," said a reflective Moo Young. I didn't want to be shot in any friendly fire, plus I'm Chinese, I look like a Vietnamese, so it was easy for them to kill me," he said.
In 1970, after completing university, Moo Young was among a group of four young artists recruited by McCann Erikson, US.
Reality struck soon after when one of the men was drafted in the war. "Three months later, he was missing in action."
Moo Young packed his bags that same year and returned home.
Brimming with knowledge and experience, Moo Young set out to establish a name for himself in the advertising industry. His next move was to open his own business.
A year with the local arm of McCann Erikson was all he needed to make an instant impact.
On his very first account, Moo Young had to create an advertising campaign for Gold Label Rum. Unknown to him then was the fact that the agency had already made three proposals to the company, all of which had been rejected.
Moo Young nailed it on his first attempt. His slogan, "Enjoy tonight, have a good day tomorrow", was a big winner with the client, opening the doors to further success.
By the time 1971 had rolled around, he had started Moo Young Butler. It was a partnership that saw many successes and Moo Young cementing his name among the elite in the advertising business. But that also had its fair share of difficulties, winding up acrimoniously some 20 years later.
Throughout that time, Moo Young conceptualised the advertising campaigns for some of the country's biggest corporate clients - Victoria Mutual, National Commercial Bank and Creamy Corner, to name a few.
He designed the logo for NCB Keycard, a job which was unveiled with much pride by the bank's then managing director Jeffery Cobham. Since then, he has gone on to create many more impressive logos for JMMB, Pan Caribbean, Jamaica Broilers, Guardian Life, Burger King, Juici Patties, McDonald's, and countless others.
With a boyish twinkle in his eyes, Moo Young related how the rebranding of Barclay's Bank to NCB in the late '70s became one of his most arduous but satisfying tasks. The job saw him working overtime, alongside Sign Craft, to rebrand and replace - within a week - signage bearing the bank's new name at its 44 branches islandwide.
For Moo Young, the thought that "customers left a Barclay's Bank the Friday and returned to NCB Bank on Monday morning" was, indeed, something to smile about.
Next week: Moo Young stamps his class on the Jamaican advertising landscape and signals his foray into photography.