Jackson “JZ” Zechnich was only 22 when he passed away from a sudden and unexpected cardiac event in June 2021. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, he graduated from Sunset High School and attended Western Washington University. Jackson loved sitting around the fire pit with his family, teaching himself the guitar and drums, listening to classic rock radio while tinkering in the garage, designing stickers, tattoos, and tags, and everything he could do outdoors - climbing trees, building trails with his trusty chainsaw and his buddies, and sleeping in the back of his Honda Accord with the trunk popped so he could see the stars. He felt most alive while mountain biking, and when he was not biking, he was working on bikes or talking about them. We are forever grateful for the time he shared with us, his sneaky sense of humor, the sincerity of his smile, the brilliance of his creative energy, and the joy he brought to those that were lucky enough to adventure with him. He showed us that it’s okay to take your own path through life, which he always did thoughtfully and with love for those around him.
Jackson was fortunate to be exposed to Design in high school and earned a BFA in Design at Western Washington University. Jackson is remembered by the Western Design community as a genuine soul, someone who was effortlessly both gentle and super cool. His work reflected his creative attitude towards life. Jackson was noted by the faculty as having a special talent for pushing the assignment briefs to the limit, and ending up producing innovative and unexpected design solutions that fulfilled their purpose beautifully and expressively. He aimed to create moving and impactful work through storytelling and emotion, and was inspired by zine culture, quirky typography, and analog methods and experimentation.
The Design faculty and students are deeply grateful for having had the privilege of interacting with Jackson during the past four years. His joie de vivre and wisdom are best described in his own words:
“We are always on the clock. As each second goes by, we make choices on how to spend it. Someday the clock will run out and we will have to be satisfied with how we have spent it. It is a constant battle to spend our time with significance—yet not to live too fast. This makes me realize how I would like to govern my life. It makes me realize that, when I create, all of those seconds are well spent.”
Jackson’s family requests that remembrances be made in the form of contributions to the Jackson Zechnich Memorial Scholarship. Jackson was admired for often choosing an unconventional approach, and wanting to use design for social good. Therefore this scholarship will support community-focused students with financial need who are willing to push the envelope in experimental approaches and innovation in the Design program.
Our initial goal is to raise $25,000 which will allow us to endow the scholarship and honor Jackson's memory in perpetuity. As the amount in the scholarship fund grows, the amount of scholarships we are able to award out of this fund will also increase.
Thank you for honoring Jackson's memory in this meaningful way.