Typography is something that I was born with. As a child, I sketched logos in elementary school down to noticing letter spacing. I feel like I was always aware of type but knew little about it. My interest in typography has changed over time. I went through my Swiss fascination in the late 90’s and got over it when I realized how easy it was to make Helvetica look amazing and admitting to myself that I was just being lazy. Now I am more interested in using type as an object and do new things.
Sometimes I ask myself why I like typography, especially half way through designing a typeface. Creating type takes months and is difficult to do correctly. I stop a lot of typefaces that would be great to complete early in the process because I realize the amount of work that would be required to pull it off correctly. That type of dedication is not something I have right now. My day is filled with distractions and that is not an environment to create typefaces.
I think that leads me to one reason I like type, I like the luxury of time and solitude. When I used to make typefaces, I would get an idea and start on a Friday night, continue through the weekend and call in sick sometimes to work on Monday so I could finish the font when I had a 9-5 job. There is nothing like being able to follow through a family of glyphs when you know all the details of the typeface fresh in your head. Coming back to a typeface can be a difficult task for many reasons.
I like typography because it contains math, geometry, creativity, and form in a logical and consistent path. The fact that type is created out of rules and restrictions is also something interesting and appeals to the designer in me. It is also about freedom and endless outcomes. Those two sentences may seem contradictory, but they are not. People think that when you have rules set up, it is a constricting outlook, but actually that is a very productive and efficient way to create. At that point, it is the designer working within a system that they established.
Like most of the arts, you always are learning and seeing new things.
Matthew Carter: Everything he has done is superb. Bell Centennial would be my favorite out of the lot though. I told him this once and he replied jokingly, "I'm sorry!" I think that Bell Centennial is technically a great idea. The font has such dramatic ink inlets that become invisible when printed on newsprint. His font Walker also is amazing how you can attach serifs by hitting key commands. He is also a very humble and kind man.
Cyrus Highsmith: He is a prolific designer and also a great guy. His fonts have changed the look and feel of the way people design modern type. His font "Stainless" is a perfect example of his impeccable style.
Naming off individual fonts would be very hard as I change favorites often. My all time favorites are: Univers, Didot, Adobe Garamond, and Futura. I think Futura would be my favorite font even though the ascenders are too tall as well as other issues.
Yeah. It's so wild to think when I got online you pretty much could have text and maybe a 4k gif if you were cutting edge. My first site was early 1996, an all-text site telling about who I was and how you could hire me. I thought it would be impressive to the design agencies, but it was not, as most of them had not even been on the Internet.
Being in the thick of the internet growing, it really seemed to flow pretty fast and seamless. Every month someone would do something that would blow you away. It is hard to totally explain but it consumed my attention.
I never set limits and that is a blessing and a curse. A project is done when it is “done right.” The hotter projects don’t afford me time to rethink things a lot.
There are few visual elements that you can use in 2D design; color, images and type. When I was going to school, we had to draw a typeface by hand with a rapidograph pen on mylar. We also had to learn the names of 20 typefaces by sight. This is nothing though. In the 60's most design students had to learn how to draw that many faces with a pencil and brush so we had it easy.
My first design job was working for the University of North Texas on a primitive Macintosh in 1995. We had ten fonts and Aldus Freehand, which I knew like the back of my hand. I would basically redraw the typefaces for display use by hand or alter them on the photocopier. Eventually, I started to compose letters in Freehand and use them on random projects.
Around that time I also was reading books like Typographie by Emil Ruder. Those books really expanded my mind about what design was. I had never really learned these things in school and it impacted me. I would just stare at the pages and began to use the things I learned in my design.
In 1996 I moved to Minneapolis and started putting my work online. Back then, there was one design related site... chank.com. He was doing design and making fonts, exactly what I was doing. I submitted some 'remixes' of his fonts to him and he posted a couple. From then on, I would release fonts on his site and my own, CinaHaus. All of the new design sites online at that time were typography related.
I first got involved with art in elementary school by drawing sports team logos on my folders. Minnesota Vikings was my favorite one to draw. In high school, I would always do covers for books, band fliers and draw band logos on my folders. When I was a kid I remember even noticing spacing and kerning but had no idea what it was. I was heavily involved in all of the arts but had no idea what graphic design was.
In 1990, I went to college for advertising. To be honest, I thought that advertising was also part of design. I thought you came up with concepts and then designed the artwork. So when we got to our projects, we were just doing 'slogans' and thinking of ideas but we would never make visuals. When it came to the big end-of-year project we had to design it too. We were not taught how to design or anything, but we had to create the finished artwork.
I was extremely excited about that part and discovered that there was a profession called graphic design where you created artwork, laid out type, and did visual concepting also. So the next semester I left the advertising program to start studying graphic design.
This may sound obvious to everyone now, but graphic design was not a profession that was "glamorous" or was even mentioned as an option to kids in high school. It was not a highly regarded profession.
It really started hitting in 1997 because design was getting more unorthodox (tDR and David Carson) and there were not a lot of players on the internet. It costs thousands to print up design matter, but posting work online was free. There is a lost history on graphic design online from 1995-2000 that was just prolific and exciting. If you were around then, you know what I am talking about.
The whole 'design scene' was really just a bunch of type designers really. Back then, people were dissecting design and there was a strong community of people that engaged in healthy competition. If someone like Jay David redid his site, I would send him an email saying nice job. But I also felt the urge that I had to outdo him with posting better work. We used to have design battles back in 1997-8.
At that time, designers started flocking to the internet and they would see this and websites started going wild. There was the Chank Army, Swank Army, and Design Posse. By 2000, pretty much anyone that had a design website was starting to get hit hard with bandwidth. It was a mess. I remember linking people's site on k10k.net and it would bomb servers. You could push 5000+ viewers to a site within an hour.
If you look at anything from the constructivist workings, avant garde typography, down to the Reid Miles covers, or even Niklaus Troxler posters... you can see how words and jazz mix. There is a rhythm in how people speak and can relate to music as well. So if you take how people talk, you can express that visually with the letters. Or even capture the mood or emotion of the players, much like Reid Miles did. I don't think he captured the music, but more the feeling of the players. There are a lot of new books coming out about album cover art, so I think that is a testimony that music does inspire design.
I believe they are two different occupations. The act of creating art is a personal exploration who’s voice and approach comes from the first person. Great design is done by speaking for another party in a tone that is honest and appropriate. I do believe there is this new form of work that is being done that merges both, but often it is lacking in one of the two categories (art or design).
My career has been unique in two ways. I have always been involved in the fine arts and that is what lead me to graphic design in the end. My career has also been paved with me making many sacrifices to afford myself the time to do both.
Art has always played a part in my work, even some of my first website designs. In the last three years I have been able to have the luxury of having a client (Ghostly International) who I can explore some of these ideas with. This has opened more space for me to explore.
All that being said, I don’t see boundaries within the arts. This month I have worked on hundreds of wallpaper designs, motion work (corporate), packaging design, two typefaces, website design, LP covers, corporate rebrand (though an agency), art direction for a company, illustration, painting, creating my own product, and writing a forward to a book. It’s not not an easy task to juggle all of this.
Led Zeppelin - Presence (Hipgnosis)
This was the first album cover that had a huge impact on me. I remember looking at that object and wondering, what was it? As a child, there are a lot of things you don’t understand or know about, so you are more curious. I asked my parents what this was and they told me it was a made up object. That only made me more interested.
VA - Lonely is an Eyesore (Vaughan Oliver)
This was one of those albums that I bought in high school. I’ve always liked compilations because it opens you up to hearing new bands, and as a fan of 4AD (Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, Clan of Xymox, etc) this album was a no brainer to get.
What I got out of this was discovering that there were people under the moniker 23 Envelope making these awesome covers. It was the first time where I made the connection that people may get paid for this kind of work. I also knew that I wanted to know more about 23 Envelope.
Pat Metheny - Rejoicing (Barbara Wojirsch)
If you record shop, you see ECM covers. They have such a distinctive, formal look to them – yet they’re all unique. ECM has been a huge inspiration to my work. Art and typography merged together… where else would this happen?
New Order - Power Corruption and Lies (Peter Saville)
Peter Saville’s work on a whole has been a frustrating one to work up against. He laid the path for me to travel down as a designer, but he also took a lot of the good stuff along the way with him. More often than not, I find myself having to push new work in different directions, because I realize that he did something similar to whatever I’m working on.
This piece contains a color alphabet that he created, which I found when I was searching for alternate writing systems. This perfectly demonstrates his genius of humility and subversion through art.
"Power Corruption and Lies" is probably one of my favorite titles for an album cover ever as well. Very smart.
Various Covers by Reid Miles, Ronald Clyne, Mati Klarwein, Mark Farrow
It is hard to pick just 5. There are so many amazing people to point out. If you are interested, look these people up: Derek Riggs, Barney Bubbles, Mati Klarwein, Farrow Design, Andy Warhol, Rudolph De Harak, Reid Miles, Josef Albers, Tom Hingston, Ronald Clyne, Type Records, Ben Drury, tDR, Neville Brody, & Robert Flynn. They all designed album covers… and there are so many
We were introduced by some mutual friends about some music and design interests. Mike and I started talking online (he was in Washington D.C. and I was in Minneapolis) because we were the only people working at 4 a.m. in the morning. We started collaborating on some projects and I had been wanting to build a store to sell my typefaces. Mike also was working on a typeface also and it just happened that we started doing client work. It was when the dot com bubble burst and companies were collapsing left and right. So we started WeWorkForThem, trying to get clients based on personal work. The general reaction was that we were crazy. We both had been working for some nice clients already, so it worked out by combining efforts. The visual work was really odd.
Back in the 90's there was this phrase that went around that made the grandiose claim "The End of Print." I don't know how most people took it but it meant to me that the internet would end up killing printed material. I may have even bought into it once or twice for a short time. Being a book and record collector, I could never see it being an issue for me. I love books. I love the smell (new and old). I love the spines. I love the way they lay on the shelf. Nothing can replace seeing the ink, the texture, etc of the real thing. I actually got into collecting the 'actual object' that was pictured in the books until I realized that I would need a lot more room and a lot more money to keep that habit up. That collector mentality mixed with a love for rare design books was dangerous on the wallet, but it was the only thing I spent my money on besides food and rent.
In 1999 it was getting impossible to find the "classic design" books, so I did a little searching around and contacted the publisher of some of the rare books I was looking for. I would order one copy of each book in a catalog, from publishers like Niggli, 010 and some others. One book in particular, Grid Systems, was going for 200 dollars used at that time. It was impossible to get a new copy, as Niggli had no representation in the states. I would import 10 copies and sell them at cost to friends. At the time getting one copy of that book was a luxury. Things used to be different.
When Michael Young and I started YouWorkForThem we launched the site with some typefaces, some shirts, and some designer goodies. I thought "maybe I should get some books and sell them online." I think we had like 14 copies of Grid Systems and 6 copies of Typographie and they sold hours after we had put them live. It was pretty obvious what we should do next, order more and try some different books. We did well with them, as we were the only people who sold them new online. It was my goal to sell hard-core typographic books so that designers could grow in their field and we stuck to that goal for a long time.
As time went on, the age of "graphic design" books came to a rise. YWFT had the best selection of rare and essential graphic design books online. Period. We sold many books for 40 dollars that now sell for multiple hundreds of dollars. In a short amount of time, we started seeing more publishers rise. The amount of design books multiplied as fast as you could keep up with them. The crap titles also came out by the truckloads and we steered clear of them. I ran the book's like it was my art gallery of books.
Sister Corita Kent is extremely inspiring to me in many ways. She was an amazing person, author, and artist. My graphic design inspiration would have to be Emil Ruder. His ideas and work in graphic design are extremely interesting, but he was an odd character in his personal beliefs. The people who usually inspire me are just normal people that do extraordinary things in life, normally not related to work.
Normally I keep a sketchbook with me and try to record as much info in there as I can.
A lot of agencies want to appear to be cool, relevant, and exciting. Agencies in Minneapolis will get video games, pool tables, kitchens, etc. They also expect you to live there. When we work here, we work hard, but the atmosphere is light. Normally we are able to leave before 6pm every day as well. Working is not too glamorous and on a visual and surface level is very boring most of the time.
What I try to encourage is creativity and hard work. Being creative takes work and intent. You have to apply yourself to really push your personal boundaries or you just do the same things over and over. I think it is pretty obvious that what we do is effective if you look at the amount and the quality of work we produce.
As a graphic designer, my work was well known and I have always seen a high level of respect for my work. As an artist, my work took off like wildfire. I have pieces that have been reblogged many thousands of times. That isn’t even counting views. I don’t really think about it a lot because I don’t have the time or care to.
I do know that you constantly have to “one up” yourself and keep producing the best work possible. I have people who collect my art but in the “art world,” I am unknown because I don’t play the game (show work in tons of galleries, etc). It is interesting to me, I feel like the level of respect I get is more honest. People blog my work because they love it, not because it goes for a lot of money or it is following the latest trend. Abstract work is harder for people to understand and I feel fortunate enough that is is speaking to people in a real way.
The new Matthew Dear was a lot of fun because the main objective was to paint a portrait. I knew what I was going for, something a bit darker and “off.” The process of creating the cover soon became a short movie shot in NYC. Then there were 4 singles off the record that needed covers.
I got to paint my first painting with my son, Solomon and we used it for the Her Fantasy cover. The video for that single prompted two 18′x4′ pieces that were used as a backdrop for Matthew. I ended up creating a custom font for the cover and credits because nothing else was working right. The backdrops were cut up and used as images for the back cover and inside sleeves. It was a very abstractly fluid process.
It is all ideas and form in the end. Very few visual people I know only like only graphic design or art or photography or architecture or product design or… In a sense, they are all the same. I have always been in the arts and really concentrated on design for a long time in my career. Through a series of events, I started sketching regularly and then painting regularly.
I don’t consider difficulty producing an idea a “creative block.” When working on a project, I think of it as playing a game of chess or uncovering clues. I know I can create an appropriate solution and the only way to do so is by working hard at solving the puzzle.
My first big road block was not knowing where to begin. I would spend hours concocting grand ideas but nothing would really progress. You have to start doing “something” even when you don’t know what to do. A sketchbook is an essential companion for this. The best way to get ideas is to sketch concepts quickly with a pencil, recording everything, especially the horrible ideas.
The second type of obstacle I face is getting stuck in the middle of a project. Whenever I am waist-deep in a project and find myself not moving forward, I immediately take a break or work on something else. It is amazing how your subconscious works through the problems. Having a lot of projects means you can easily work on something else and refocus. If I hate the job, I allocate small amounts of time to work on it.
Sometimes when I see an employee stuck on a project, I will ask them to toss the file in the trash. This is highly unorthodox, but it works. Occasionally you need to just allow yourself to start over again. You would be astounded at how quickly you can do something exponentially better in a fraction of the time after starting afresh.
The third block that I have is the “bad day”. We all have them. If I wake up and don’t feel well because I am getting sick, I will work on tedious projects– things that require a small amount of thought and a bit of effort. These days are actually valuable because I can organize my work and get things done that I would not want to waste time on during creatively productive days.
For me, the key is to stay in a creative state. Recently I took a week-long vacation and came back to heaps of work, tons of email, a dirty office and some heavy deadlines. The little projects were easy to complete but the larger ones loomed over me like dark, intimidating clouds. It made me wonder if this particular block had to do with fear of some kind. After sorting out as many extraneous issues as I could, the ideas started flowing again and I was able to work in peace. Sometimes a block may not even be caused by the project you are working on, but by external pressures inhibiting your creativity. I work best when I can relax a little and enjoy what I am working on.
The best thing you can do is pay attention to your workflow and see where you get hung up and make amendments. Hope one of these ideas can help.
My main goal is to do bigger and better work, all around. Really push/stretch myself further in new ways. To do that I need some regular clients that want to do great work together. This would seem like an easy task, but it is not. A lot of designers go under the notion that if they had a client like Ghostly (or whomever) they could do great work, but that is not true. You can do great (or horrible) work for anyone. It just takes trust, faith (in both parties), and a drive to push beyond the mundane.
Both corporations and clients seem to be scared or they have a lack of trust of designers, but it is the companies that take that leap of faith are the ones that reap the rewards. Ghostly could want to do mindless and trendy covers but they invested in art and design. Older brands like Braun, Olivetti, Container Corporation, Geigy, etc took that leap of faith by trusting design to work for them and it did. You see this today with Apple, Nike, and a couple of others, but it is not quite the same.
I am trying to find someone to represent me and my work. That has been a big dream of mine. I would like to be admitted into the AGI. It would be great to speak at the college I dropped out of. I would like to have a solo show at a large gallery next year. My main goal is to get another larger client though. Any takers?
I think to make wonderful things, you have to be naive to a certain aspect. I think the reality of any project can be overwhelming at times. The dreamers, the people who don’t know their limits, are often the ones who succeed. To get into typography, there is a LARGE learning gap and it is like that with a lot of things.
In the end, all three support each other to me. I have modeled my career around this model, it is not for most people. To me, it is somewhat seamless at times and other times the furthest from that. Right now I am working on a rebrand for a cable company, a rebrand for a sports cable network, and some font work for a sports network. On the side I am doing a little painting, designing everything for a documentary (title through poster), three cd covers, flying to NYC to do a large painting, rebranding/website for a travel company, working on a couple of start ups, just handed off an article for Creative review, and finishing up a font. I also have a blog, thenewgraphic.com that I update pretty regularly. So yeah, it is a juggling act. Of course not all these things are at once but they are all active. I want more work right now too.
I am trying to hit a lot of different thoughts and ideas all at once and it is difficult to capture that. The music was finished and I got a copy that I had listened to a couple of times, shortly after that I got the brief on what Michal was thinking when he made the music. The album name was Glimmer and that was the main approach to follow. Four other guides to go by were “golden fabric, glimmering light on the golden surface, wind, and disappearing horizon.” He also wanted something flat with no dimension, he was very specific about this. Some of the descriptions negate themselves so I started thinking about what I would do for a week or so.
My original idea (shown on inner sleeves) was to take some earth and bind it to a canvas so it would have low contrast. I painted everything black and then bound gold leaf to it. The texture of the earth broke the delicate surface of the gold leaf. The final results were photographed over a period of time to get the different light of the day captured against the surface. In the end, I thought it was good, but something was missing. A month passed and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
One day I was working on some art and I painted black over two paintings that I had been working on, let them dry, then bound gold leaf to the surface. I never really thought about it before I started, it just felt like what I should do. The final results are what you see on the cover and labels. I think it fits his descriptions quite well accounting for all the considerations there are making an album cover.
I showed the ideas to some of my friends and a couple of responses were “looks like human skin” and “an Arvo Part record” and I thought that was the perfect cross section. When Michal saw these he was very happy with the results as well.
It definitely gives the viewer a perfect visual analogy for the music—beautifully fragile with darkness at the edges. I feel like the best album packaging design does that, it supports the content. I feel like even the typography kind of pushes the viewer toward the music—delicate and subtle. What led you to choosing the sans serif for the cover?
Yeah, the music is very ambitious and serious. I think delicate and subtle applies very well. I feel that is what makes good typography, it adds to what is being said through the design and text. I try not to “over design” or clutter the work with meaningless noise. If you are really saying something, you have to figure out how to say it. I prefer the straight-no-chaser route.
I used Founders Grotesque on this cover. It is a typeface that Sam Valenti and I chose at the beginning of 2011. We felt it was unique enough to embody what we were seeing for the year. What I like is that Founders has a real light weight and odd proportions. The uppercase C is a little too illegible for my tastes but besides that, I love it. It still captures a bit of that naive craftsmanship that I am lead to.
Founders fit perfect into the Jacaszek cover, probably my best use of it to date. I tried some different and bolder approaches but they didn’t really work out too well. I worked on around 50 other type layouts before coming to this. It really matches how I picture the music sounding.
Recently I have been thinking about this topic. I feel that design is an exploration of semiotics, the visual language of what all images say (typography included). That is my main guidepost for producing an album cover. I am trying to use album covers as a mode of communication.
A lot of times I start with visual ideas and more often than not, I leave type towards the later part of the process. I can do anywhere from 10 to 100 visual ideas, so by that time, the image becomes a little more elevated in its importance.
The typographic aspect of the project is usually me getting myself out of a corner that I put myself in by not thinking about more about the typographic aspect. I use type sparingly on a lot of covers, but I am always aware of what it is saying.
Recently I started on a cover using typography as the main element. After two hours of working on it I ended up doing a cover with no type on it at all!
Learn as much as you can from whomever you can. Read. Learn how to think and ask informed questions. Spend time working on yourself. Do as much work as you can and help others along your way.
For sure. When I decide to take on a project (I only take projects I believe in), I give it everything I got. I have always had a very strong work ethic.
Education also plays a big role as well. I have always been a big book worm and started collecting books in college. Lately I have been reading almost two books a week on top of juggling 10 jobs, painting and having a family. I invest everything I have into my work and life.
Gerhard Richter’s career is both prolific and varied. I highly respect his work and strong vision. Gordon Terry’s work is just amazing. He is a master. Yago Hortel (doing a dual show with him later this year) work is so free and calculated. I really admire his work. Ivan Seal is probably one of my favorite artists right now. I don’t know why, but I really like how he uses everything around him to create his artwork. He has a very strong vision.
Each painting is different, I feel like I do so many different works with different mediums. It is all about the merging of ideas/emotion with process. I have learned how important process is with painting. When I am painting, I am always observing what is happening and making mental notes. A lot of painters sit down and methodically plan what they are going to do, I never do that. The most planning I do is mix some colors of paint I want to use. Color is very important to me. Exploration is also important. To me, painting is about being in the moment and responding to what I am seeing.
When you make work all the time, you just stay in this creative state. It is hard to explain without sounding odd. If I am feeling a little lost or stale, I will make something new without any intent. For every one good painting I have over ten okay paintings.
I also have learned to love to be uncomfortable, if I feel like I am repeating myself, I do something new. Right now I am listening to a lot of audio books. By barraging your mind with information, you can’t be stale or complacent.
I learned from a professor in college to sketch and I have not found any better way of creating ideas than that. It is fast and efficient. It also is loose and abstract so you can misread things and get new ideas. You can make mistakes. A lot of my process is making mistakes and learning from accidents. I welcome them.
Each design project is different. When I first get a job, the client will brief me on what they need. I listen to what they say or infer and I take notes. From there I boil the information down and focus on that. When I have time to start on the project I will start by sketching and concepting ideas. It depends on my schedule, sometimes I am able to work on the piece right away, sometimes it takes a day or three. From there I develop most of the ideas out and those will produce more ideas. After that first round if nothing is working, I go back and sketch a bit more and repeat the process until I get it right. A lot of the time, a new idea will stem three other ideas and I can keep expanding like that until I get hundreds of ideas. From there I will present the concepts to the client and normally I hit the project on target. If not, I will start over and try a new direction and don’t stop until I get it right.
I used to think that the creative process was something that you stumble upon, a stroke of luck. A couple of years ago I realized what being inspired is and it is very simple. You work and you work hard. And you also have to be able to focus on your work. By doing that, inspiration will come to you. It may not happen right away, but it will eventually. My early design work was not that good but I knew that I had something and I had a lot of ambition to make it happen.
With graphic design it took me almost ten years to really develop my eye and work how I wanted to. It was a struggle but that is how we grow. I believe this is how you become inspired because you are looking for things all the time to apply to what you are doing. It is a bit different from the traditional definition of inspiration, but this is how I am “inspired.”
I needed a new route to explore. Running a company doesn’t allow a lot of time to work in the creative field so I got out. Since then, I have been able to push my work farther than I ever have been able to.
Every city has its own charm. I really thought I would like Italy but I ended up falling in love with Spain. I love it there for so many reasons, it just feels like home. I have been three times now and I loved every city that I have visited. I Love their pace of life and how mellow it is, it feels like the land that time forgot.
It has opened doors to opportunities and visibility. It also allowed me see a lot of the world, show my work there and experience different cultures. Traveling the world really changes the way you see things. I don’t think I would create the work I do without being able to travel.
I originally thought I wanted to be in Advertising because I thought you came up with the ideas and then visualized them. Graphic design wasn’t ever presented as a profession that someone wanted to go in, so I knew little about it. When I started talking advertising classes I found out that we were never going to visually communicate our ideas and that was graphic design. So I switched careers that week. The moment I did that I knew I was in the right profession.
The only hitch was that I wasn’t as good as I thought when I started out. We were taught without computers (they wouldn’t let you use them) and we had to learn how to concept and draw everything. It taught me about detail and how to really come up with good ideas though. After two years in the graphic communication program, they advised me to look into another profession. I took that as a challenge and worked harder. My work got a bit better but I was also djing out 4 times a week and it took a toll on my schooling. I dropped out after almost completing my degree. Ironically, at that time I was a designer for the college as my full-time job.
After doing that for a year I wanted something more so I moved to Minneapolis to get a design job. I really got serious then. All I did was work day and night on design, taking any jobs I could. I also got online and started doing what I called “personal design” for my website that featured the typefaces I had built. It was great because there was no client and I could do whatever I wanted. This really helped put me on the top of my game because I was one of the few designers online at that time. It was a prolific time for me because all I did was work.
If someone needs to make a living solely from art, they make decisions based on that tension and will usually gravitate toward a commercial outlet. Art can be a way for people to sincerely interpret the world around them and and how they interact with that world. I am able to do client work to support my explorations in the fine arts but a lot of people don’t have that luxury. We are starting to see a tidal change where artists are moving beyond the traditional structure of the gallery. Artists are taking more risks and making things up out of lack of opportunities to communicate their ideas. There are a lot more questions than answers at this stage.
It has been an extremely exciting time to be an artist and a designer. A big change is germinating. There is a substantial shift in ideas and technology transpiring right now and it’s great to be in the middle of it all.
Thoughtful art is not easy to do. To me, I analyze the big picture. Is the form solid? Does it have a refined maturity? Is there thought involved? What does the artist’s full body of work look like? What is his background and what is he trying to communicate? And so on.
In the end, work either communicates something to the viewer or not. That is the long and the short of it. Great work can do something without saying anything. It touches the heart and soul. You can look at an excellent Rothko in a book and dismiss it, but when you see one in person, and it doesn’t touch you, you are dead.
It is hard to really pinpoint how it all began, it was really organic. I remember talking with you shortly after Ghostly began. I had some Ghostly releases and you just hit me up after a nudge from Will Calcutt. We exchanged emails and you sent me a big stack of records. A couple of years passed and you were stranded in Minneapolis, so I took you out to eat. Then, out of the blue, you contacted me because Ghostly needed some help on the Dabrye single for Get Dirty.
Looking back, the timing couldn’t have been better. Ghostly was becoming a force to be reckoned with and I was starting in a new direction. We now feed off of each other and it’s about as good of a working relationship as one could ever hope for.
Every interest that you have manifests itself in different aspects of your life. Music plays a huge role in my daily life. I use it as a source of inspiration. Whatever job I am working on, I will find music that will complement it.
I enjoy music that embodies the creative struggle. You can’t listen to someone like John Coltrane and not hear it. He was looking beyond the mundane; he was exploring. My work comes from that same struggle. I push myself harder than anyone could ever push me. I create more work than I could ever show on my own.
It was simply the act of getting back into art again. At first it was awkward and foreign. When I began, I would stay up after my family went to sleep and just draw. It was great because I had no direction, no goals, no pressure... just doing new work. It felt so good.
Eventually fine art began calling me more and more and I would spend more time working on a piece. I was experimenting with different materials and the work was slowly coming together. I started painting again right at that point and it just clicked. It was at a really challenging point in my career, so that helped fuel the fire. I was in the process of starting my new studio, and more importantly, we were expecting a new child, along with a long list of other things. A lot of change was happening at that time.
When I got into graphic design, the baton was being ripped out of the past generation’s hand. It was a silent takeover that went under the radar. A lot of people did not perceive the undercurrents of design in the late 90s on the web and unfortunately it was never documented. The Internet provided a free publishing platform to use however one wished. Previously the only format for design was print which cost thousands of dollars.
The Internet gave designers the freedom to make whatever they wanted, unconstrained by a client. So yes, it was a new art and we see the evolution of it today. People still don’t know how to address the new wave of work going on.
I have a lot of thoughts on this. The Internet has created a level platform for people to share, and recent technology has made it more open than ever. Your voice is equal to anyone else’s now and the rules for art and its boundaries are being completely rewritten.
Four months ago one of my images was featured on a multitude of blogs, but it was never credited and I never saw any traffic from it. Recently one of my paintings [Burning City, pictured below] was featured on an art blog and it went viral--about 25,000 people “liked” and reblogged it from the tumblr platform alone, not to mention the other art and fashion blogs that picked it up. This was all done without a gallery’s assistance or representation. Is this the death of authorship or is it reformation? All of this is so fascinating to me on so many levels. I think it is a new form of authorship that somewhat ties to how our society is starting to value information.
I feel that artists should have no boundaries when it comes to medium. If you look at the crew from the Bauhaus, they were working in every arts profession and excelling in them all. I think when you work like that, each medium you explore influences the other. It is an artist’s role to use everything at his disposal to push thought and limits. I feel capitalism has changed that aspect of art. If you look at the difference between artists today and artists 70 years ago, you will see stark differences in their body of work. Artists used to be so robust in their interests and exploration, and that is what excites and inspires me. We are in an extremely pivotal time where the public is taking back art. This will be a huge shift for every aspect of “art.”
I rarely look back. I am looking forward to getting some new client work and also getting ready for a gallery show later this year. I just got signed by a really amazing new gallery in San Francisco called Artifact. They are people from Shooting Gallery, White Walls, Giant Robot, and Upper Playground’s Fifty24SF. It is my first exclusive (to San Francisco) gallery representation. They really know what they are doing and I feel honored to be on the list of people they are signing. It’s a humbling collection of artists.
I love music. It is such a part of my life that I can’t even begin to explain it. I have a vinyl collection that pushes over 13,000 pieces. My cd and digital collection isn’t too shabby either.
Music is such a powerful medium, mixing stories and music. I often get on kicks and right now I am re-discovering music of my youth, 80s rock/pop mainly and enjoying some drone. Some of the bands I overlooked and some of the bands just sound great now. Its nice to be able to pull out a Swans or The Fall record you bought as a kid and hear it again for the first time. My main two genres are Jazz and Soul, but I listen to everything.
I get very excited to work on big projects. Sometimes at the very beginning of a job I get a little nervous still. At that point, I don’t know how I am going to solve the problem at hand.
Last year I worked on a lot of things, but two of them were huge projects and feel that I executed them both really well. Both were for agencies and they don’t want me to show the work that I did for them. I have a lot of projects like this. If I could tell all the work that I have done “behind the scenes”...
Personally, I am not so good at is finding work. I am used to companies coming to me and that is more and more rare these days. It is forcing me to handle things differently and spend more time on personal projects. I don’t think a lot of people even know I am on my own now and doing creative work. I have never contacted a company besides Target, normally they all come to me after seeing my work.
There are so many blogs out there now. I can’t count the amount of opportunities that I have had to start one. It just felt good right now, there is so much information out there, but where is the educated authority and curatorial eye? I want a hand full of sites on one topic that I can trust and respect.
I am still feeling out the format but the main focus is what I consider proper design, new and old. It also will feature art, random things and quotes as well. I have a small crew of designers and co-workers that are chiming in as well.
Because I have such a love and passion for design, I get frustrated sometimes. First, let me say a couple of things. I do not associate myself with the academic school, I think you can be anywhere/anyone and do great work. I highly respect anyone with a unique vision and voice. One of the things that bothers me is the relentless trainspotting and the viewers who don’t have the discernment to tell the difference.
Any direct form of borrowing from someone is bad design, no matter how well it is done. Bad design is not knowing and understanding the rules of design. Bad design is not knowing why you do what you do and the history behind it. Bad design does not move you.
There is a difference between illustration and design. Design is not art. Design involves a client of some form. Great design takes risks. Great design understands color, form, imagery, and typography. Great design uses composition/layout and impliments hierarchy. Great design uses negative and white space well.
I tell college students all the time that this is what design is. You have an image and you have a viewer. What design does is connect the viewer and the piece in a calculated way. Good design should move the viewer in which way the designer intends. Bad design is not seen and forgetful.
I don’t really care about trends, they rotate on a programmed cycle.
This is a really hard question to answer. You have to look into my past to see why this is somewhat logical. In college, I went to school for graphic communication but I also completed a fine arts Bachelor of Science. Before that my high school was packed with fine arts classes and before that I had a fine art scholarship to an Institute of Fine Arts in elementary school.
My whole career has been spent developing a personal voice, even in graphic design. I have always made up my own design projects and always push myself. In the 90s I worked for a non-profit by day, and by night, ran my own personal site and a small type foundry with two other guys. After that, I went out on my own and then started my own type foundry, YouWorkForThem and my own design company, WeWorkForThem. I moved on last year to start my own agency, Cina Associates.
This is normal for me but don’t fool yourself into thinking there is a seamless balance. It is a tightrope act.
The owner, Sam Valenti, hit me up once because he was going to pass through town and he never did, but he had my phone number. Months later he got stuck in Minneapolis and I took him out for dinner. This was around 2005-6. Late 2007 they were looking for a new direction and needed someone to work on a Dabrye cover, so I did. They loved it and wanted more and more. I now art direct the label and almost everything goes across my desk now.
Every day I am thankful to have a client like Ghostly International. I dream of having more corporate clients like this. I work closely with Sam Valenti. He is just as interested in the art as he is the the music. Sam has the art background and taste to validate opinions, so I can easily respect his concerns and ideas. They let me go my own direction and I work hard at getting it right for them. I love that they respect what I do, it shows. It is rare to have a client really respect what you do to the extent that they have with me. Everyone at Ghostly is extremely supportive and cognizant of my career and other clients as well. They work around my schedule.
I read a lot about people honing their schedules down to a science, and I admire that. My schedule is quite different. I keep a sketch book and paper on my desk and write down things I need/want to do that day. That is the most structure my day affords. So I am going to talk about today.
Normally I bring at least one book or record into work every day. They usually relate to a project or a kick I am on. Today I brought in 6 books on Typography. I am a coffee enthusiast so I normally make myself a cup of coffee. Today I had some amazing espresso my mom brought back from Israel. It’s very unique. I ate two pastries from a local Mexican bakery.
I checked my email and I reply to what I can and flag the rest so I don’t forget them. Then I normally get distracted in some way, normally looking for music to play. Today I made a playlist of some of some great rock from the 80s. Echo and the Bunnymen (I saw them in concert in 1986), Talk Talk, The Blue Nile, Mark Hollis, Gang of Four, Prefab Sprout, Red House Painters, etc.
From there I watched/listened to some interviews while working on a typeface. Took some calls, wrote to a client, worked on a business plan, sketched some ideas, finished handing off a big job from last week, did another interview for a magazine, collected work for it, surfed a list of blogs that linked up my work and then finished two paintings. It is 2pm now. I am going to work on another painting after I finish this and start working on a logo.
Normally I work on client work and art “back-to-back.” It is really tricky and it’s just how I work now. If I get stuck on one part of a project, I will get up and work on a painting I am in the middle of, then go back to design. I have my own studio so it is really nice to be able to have the space to do all this.
I am a huge book and music fanatic. Last night I ordered three books and two records. One on Alexander Calder, a German book on International Corporate Identities, a Japanese design annual, the long awaited Supersilent "10" and The Alps "Voyage" on vinyl. The problem with being a book and music fanatic is that the books and records start taking over your house, then your office, then you think about getting another office to store everything. It is a bit excessive but I am addicted to new thoughts, ideas and imagery. The internet lets me down on quality of work and content.
I am more and more obsessed with finding and focusing on quality things in my life and spending time with that, rather than letting "just anything" in. I am able to do so much because of this. It is essential that I am always evaluating what I do to make sure I can do what I want to. This means a lot of sacrifice with my schedule. It also means that I am able to surround myself with things I feel are important. Healthy food, music, people, community service, books, art, family and spiritual pursuits.
Lately I have been working so much that I have to be precise with everything I do. Three weeks ago I was working double days. I would wake up at 6AM, go into work, come home around 1PM and go back to work at 3 and come home at 10PM. Things have slowed down since then but I am starting up a massive job that will consume a lot of my time.
I can list off a lot of artists from the 1960's and 1970's and say they are influential and that is true. The same goes with graphic design, but with a wider scope of time. The real influence in my work is achieved through hard work. It does not necessarily even have to be the same profession. Sometimes working on a Trademark can bring ideas for painting and vice versa. It is a fluid exchange. When I am most inspired is when I am in the middle of working and working a lot. Seeing how a painting comes together, what works and what doesn't is a huge part of my work. I experiment with a lot of materials, like using alcohol instead of water. This is creating in the moment, making mistakes. The most planning I ever do before a painting is selecting a palate.
I have been fortunate enough to be friends with some established artists. I regularly speak to Gregory Euclide and he has been a tremendous influence as well. There are also artists out there like Ivan Seal whom I admire greatly. I started a blog called "the New Graphic" where I curate what I am into along side my colleagues. Recently I featured Alexander Kroll, Roma Publications, Ruscha, Klee, along side people like book designer Joost Grootens.
As of late, I am dividing up my time between art and design. My art was my main focus for three months and the next three months design will win out. Then I will return to art full time. It is a balancing act of great proportions.
In a larger scope, my main focus is doing the best work I can and exploring. That is very important to me, that I am constantly learning from myself and others. This year I signed to the new gallery, Artifact, in San Francisco and will be having a show there. It will be my only show of the year unless something major happens in the near future. As far as design goes, I have never had a better year.
The two books I feel are fundamental is Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Muller-Brockmann and Typographie by Ruder. From there you can expand and expand. I have thousands of books on design alone.
It is different every time. First you have to listen to the client and hear what they are really saying and what they really need. This is an art and takes years to perfect. Every client wants something amazing, sexy, fun, etc. Those words mean nothing. You have to pull out what they are looking for exactly.
After that I sketch around 100 or so ideas and then start drawing. I did this today. I just think what is appropriate for the project and what symbols lend to what they are needing. From there I develop the decent ones out and refine and refine again. Normally I am pretty on point.
I am most inspired when I am in the middle of working on a project. Outside of work, I am constantly inspired by textures, colors, motion, light, shapes, accidents, nature, reflections... basically anything that has to do with the visual realm.
Paul Klee says it best...
“Nature is glamorous to the point of confusion, let the artist be truly taciturn.
Moreover, in order to be successful, it is necessary never to work toward a conception of the picture completely thought out in advance. Instead, one must give oneself completely to the developing portion of the area to be painted. The total impression is then rooted in the principle of economy: to derive the effect of the whole from a few steps.”
What I take out of this is that you bring your thoughts and ideas into the middle of creating things. We all plan a little before we start, you know you have the tubes of paint, you know you have your brush and what you are going to paint on. This is all a form of planning. I think he is saying the real creative act happens in the middle of the creation process. You are able to make decisions, good and bad, in the middle of working. It is the same in art and design for me. When I work on a logo, I sketch things out but the real act of creation happens when you start drawing it and things go wrong, you are able to take those mistakes and turn them into something amazing. Same with painting. I normally pull the colors I want to use and the rest is up in the air.
I have always had the passion to create things. It has been with me since birth. I can’t explain it, but it is what I do, all day every day and it never gets old.
In college, I went to school for graphic communication but I also completed a fine arts Bachelor of Science. Before that my high school was packed with fine arts classes and before that I had a fine art scholarship to an Institute of Fine Arts in elementary school.
My whole career has been spent developing a personal voice, even in graphic design. I have always made up my own design projects and always push myself. In the 90s I worked for a non-profit by day, and by night, ran my own personal site and a small type foundry with two other guys. After that, I went out on my own and then started my own type foundry. I moved on last year to start my own agency, Cina Associates.
The more I know myself, the less I know what I do. I like being uncomfortable with what I do. Last year I started up my own studio in Minneapolis, Cina Associates. We have done a lot of great work for ourselves and other larger design firms that need our expertise.
I create typefaces, paint, brand companies, design in many different mediums, etc. Lately I do whatever I am interested in is what it comes down to. I am a fan, I love learning, I love making things.
I don't really like talking about my work, I have had great opportunities to work on some great projects and I feel fortunate for every job that I take. In the end, I give anything I do 110%.
Inspiration is everywhere. I find inspiration from everything I do. I think that mainly inspiration comes from working. In the past, I used to think inpsiration came to you from some magic time where many things lined up at once. Now I feel that it comes from hard work. If you work all the time, you are inspired all the time. If you are not inspired, then start working.
Yes, both. I went to school for Graphic Communication, but I also completed the full studio arts program on top of learning graphic design. I took multiple painting courses, tons of art history, lithography, screen printing, many drawing classes. For a student, I got my fair share of accolades, had some pieces travel, had a solo show of my lithographs, got in an arts magazine.
I dropped out of school with 15 hours left to complete. The classes were mostly extracurricular and I couldn’t stomach it. I had offers from some great companies but I passed them up, threw away all my art and moved. In 1996 I arrived in Minneapolis and started doing design full time. I was consumed by it.
I don't even know what the best piece of advice would be. Most of what I learn in life is by making mistakes, not so much advice. My life is a path of mistakes. Listening to what other people say is hard for me to do.
I do know to get to new areas in life, you have to let go of other things that hold you back. I just focus on what I am supposed to do. Today, you get a lot of bad messages that are focused on "ME" and what I want. It's not all about me, if it was, it wouldn't be about you then. Right?
If I had to say, I would say I am a hybrid of a Modernist and Post-Modernist by default. Every project I do, I give it 100%. Overall, I think you are only as good as your last project. I don't concern myself with sticking to one idea, as there is so much to explore. I am a spiritual person as well and that plays a large part in what I do and how I do it.
Peter Saville had that grace that you just can't deny. His work for Factory still holds its weight today. I appreciated that he understood typography but also had a larger vision that was not really celebrated until decades later. Neville Brody is also a master, but he pushed the "experimental" envelope a bit more. His work is better seen in a historical fashion.
All of nature contains patterns/math at the structure. There really isn't much in nature that I don't like looking at, that is one of the reasons I live in Minnesota. As an artist, all I am doing is ripping off what nature has already done 1000x better. Last night I was just staring at my books that compare nature to design and it is always mind blowing and humbling. I don't know how anyone can look at these areas and see it as 'chance' because it is all designed meticulously.
All design require a designer.
Let me start by saying that ECM, Factory, Blue Note, 4AD overall did no wrong.
Lee Morgan - "The Rumproller" An absolute classic typographic warping.
Led Zeppelin "Presence" Seeing this as a seven-year-old kid, it rocked my world. I spent hours of my life staring at this cover and thinking about what that object could be and why is it so important? I asked my parents what that object was and they didn't know. Hipgnosis really were artists that happened to do album covers.
Howlin Wolf's - "This is Howlin’ Wolf’s new album. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either." It was pretty daring for Cadet to do a series of all text records, it fit in with the advertisements of the day. It also says he didn't like the lp on the front cover. A true recipe for success! (also see Muddy Waters "Electric Mud" and Section 25 - ST )
Various 4AD Compilation - "Lonely is an Eyesore" This album just rocked my world when I saw it. I didn't even know what design was when I first bought it, but I knew this was perfection.
Dave Liebman - "Drum Ode" If you forced me to pick one ECM cover, it would be this. They are all amazing, especially the earlier they get. Looking at them all now really makes me see how much they have influenced me.
Design: Emil Ruder, Wolfgang Weingart, Wim Crouwel, Bauhaus School, Muller-Brockmann, Karel Martens, Jacqueline Casey.
Art: Rothko, Reichter, Rauchenburg, Keiichi Tanaami, Twombly, Warhol, Christopher Wool.
I see typefaces as math, and I see design as a visual puzzle. There are totally different skill sets and knowledge required. Typefaces are about consistency and structure within a large system of letters. I do not see them going hand-in-hand, besides the point that designers know what they want out of a typeface. That is the main advantage. I do them both so often, no gears need changing because they are both creative endeavors.
Sam Valenti is a visionary and I respect what he is doing 100%. When he asked me to do some work for Ghostly, Sam just said to do what you feel. He has stuck to his word this entire time and really is an advocate for design. As a designer, when someone says "do what you want," it really means "do what you want, but after I see it I am going to give you a list of changes." That has never happened. Overall, it is the most pure work I have done to date.
With Ghostly, I normally have the music in hand before I design. I normally listen to it, think about what it would look like or how to represent it. Then I go on my path. I don't think I have had one job come back negative when I ran it myself. On occasion, the "artist" has a strong opinion or "concept" and those sleeves are normally not as good. I have dropped a couple of jobs because the musician was tooling around in the design department.
Recently it has been all modern classical, drone, ambient kinda stuff. I really work well when I can concentrate. I really hate it when music distracts you and throws you off. Sometimes you don't even know its the music. Right now I am listening to Ethernet but the last two weeks I have been enjoying Loscil, Fjordne, Supersilent, Deathprod, Steven R Smith, aAirial, Ben Klock, Sight Below, Kirby Leyland, Mokira, etc. Overall I listen to everything, I am a music fanatic.
Wolfgang Weingart. Alive.
I am in the basement of a clay warehouse. The floors have generations of dust on them that will permanently stain clothes on contact. The ceilings are 30 feet and there are three small windows. Half of my office is well organized and proper and the rest is little piles of chaos. I am working on my organization skills, but it is a hard habit to keep up with. Paper seems to be my worst enemy because some needs to be filed, some needs to be trashed, some needs to be worked on, etc. "Work in progress" is always the hardest work to deal with, and I have a lot of that. Too often, artwork will be filed away and I will rediscover it again.
I need shelves, art materials, computers, music and an espresso machine. Besides that I am good. Good lighting helps too.
Totally. I struggle a lot without being 'loose' enough in my design. It is easy for me to work with structure and grids. When you do art, you have to be loose and the media fights against you. Its a wonderful process because, unlike design, your work has to be perfect how it is. You can't just tweak the colors in Photoshop or move something over a little. A painting is final. I learn a lot about typography/design through painting.
I think being an 'artist/designer' you always ask yourself this question. "Is my work any good?" or better yet "What am I doing?"
These are two questions that are always spinning around in my head. When my work started getting into books and I saw my website stats, it helped see that I was getting a lot of traffic. I never let any of that sink in. At times I don't even know if I "get" what I am doing. I like to change things up and really push my work. Being uncomfortable with your work is both magical and frustrating. In the end, you have to trust that your vision is best and keep on pushing forward.
There are many. The first is ratio. I will draw 5 or so letters and realize that a curve is wrong or the metrics is bad. I redraw everything again, maybe 5 times again, until I get it right. If you don't start over, your typeface will not turn out how it should and you resent it. This is something that took years to learn, you ALWAYS fix mistakes. After that, it is either the lowercase or uppercase. If I start on lowercase letters, I don't know how the upper will look really and that stumps me. There are different proportions and looks too, so you have to get past that. Then how many weights are you going to do, or any at all? Alternates or not? I always want alternates.
Then you have to finish the full font. All 250 or more characters for a basic latin set. That is the largest obstacle as it is just a chore. Then exporting can be a royal pain as well. So the full process is an obstacle. Sometimes I really wonder why I do it until I see people use it well; that is probably the biggest payoff. The money sure isn't there to justify the time spent. Right now I am actively working on 10 fonts, and its far too many. Insomnia is to blame!
Normally I will get a brief and just sit on it for a day. Let it float around in my head. Sometimes I have an idea right away, and normally those don't work out. Sometimes I sketch, sometimes I write down words. The main prerequisite for success is knowing what the client wants or knowing where it should go. That direction always leads me to good results.
(Check the date, pre Avatar)
Emil Ruder was my main source into proper design. Before I dropped out of school, I picked up a paperback of "Typographie" for 7 bucks and read it over and over and stared at the images. That book showed me ways to think and approach visual ideas that I was never taught. All my life I have wanted a real mentor, someone like Wolfgang Weingart, or Wim Crouwel would do.
Work harder (this is both good and bad). I should probably just read, but I seem to work until I get something going. Another good route is to just start over or just stop working on the project. There is nothing better than deleting a file that has troubled you.
I am a visual junkie of any topic. I collect images and never look at them again. I have a disarray of folders full of work that I pull because I will check it out again... someday. The most fruitful source is reading though. Whenever I read, I come up with a good idea or thought that I can't seem to let go of.
I have always been attracted to maps, diagrams, the cosmos, patterns, typography. I don't feel my career is based on a specific style like a lot of artists and designers.
Yes, I studied "Graphic Communication" and did horribly. I was djing in Dallas at the time, but djing more than doing school work. I slowly dropped out of college after 5 years and djed for a year until reality woke me up. The most important things I learned is to work hard, be meticulous, and never be late. In school they would have you do 400 or more ideas for just a logo, the final had to be drawn exact (rapidograph pens and mylar) and there were no late projects.
I grew up in many different parts of the United States with a nomadic family. Before I was 4, I lived in 6 different cities. My early childhood was Cincinnati, a short stint in Dallas, Kansas City (high school) and then I attended the University of North Texas for college. I now live in Minneapolis.
2010 is going to be an interesting year for me, probably the most interesting in the last 10 years. I am changing roles in my work and will be starting a studio at the beginning of the year. I have one project that I am starting on soon with an up-and-coming fashion designer that is getting a lot of attention in the states. Ghostly International is on my heels about doing more work with them soon. Lately I have not been able to sleep so I have been working on a lot of new typefaces, so expect to see a lot of typographic work. If anyone needs some work, let me know!
I seem to really learn from "mistakes." That is my biggest teacher in life. It is nice because there is always a distinct lesson to be learned in everything. I am also spiritual, so God plays a large part in my life. When you put the two together with insight, you can learn a lot.
This is as best as I can do.
John Coltrane's work from 1965-66 (huge fan of Alice too)
I listen to a lot of Jay Dee (Dilla) by default
Ambient/Modern Classical music has been working well lately as it doesn't distract me. (The Sight Below, Type Records, etc)
I would say that is very accurate and insightful. When I would paint for this last show, I would often listen to John Coltrane as it felt right. A lot of the strokes are direct results of what I was listening to. On the sketches, I would often be watching documentaries or listening to music and somewhat blind sketch. Early in my design career, I would "design sounds"... as in sounds would become shapes in a design.
There are very few things in life better than music to me. I am a vinyl purist though, that is all I buy unless I am forced to buy a CD because it never was pressed on wax. I love shopping at my local shops, I love the people, the hunt is never-ending, discovering new music and musicians, taking the music home and reading the liner notes, staring at the typography and covers, listening to the work for the first time and wondering what they were trying to say. I love hearing different players play/work together and how that affects the outcome of the music. Also there is the collecting part... I love that as well but I hate how much space it takes up. My basement is a library between my book and lp habit.
My main two loves are jazz and boogie/funk, but I listen to everything. That is part of my problem. Most people only collect jazz from a specific period or style, but my doors are wide open. I buy country, gospel, soul, jazz, experimental, hip-hop, vocal, rock, house, classical, electronic, and I buy new stuff too.
The creative process is a funny and sometimes cruel thing. Some of my best pieces either take 1 hour or months to complete. One of the most simple paintings in my last show took the longest and probably appeared to be a quick work. So that question is a hard one to answer.
Normally how I work is a little bit at a time, so I may only spend 15 minutes on a piece, but I let it rest for a day and come back to it. This gives me time to think about what I am going to do next. It is not very efficient, but it has worked for me.
When I approach something, I either have a set direction (normally sketches) but when I paint, I free it up and let whatever happens happen. That way my work stays varied and fresh. One of the things I do not do is stick with a style and replicate it over and over for years like most artists. When I feel comfortable, that is not a good sign so I change things up. It also perplexes people who see my work because it is hard to pinpoint a look.
I am an inspired by many things, including art. Rauchenburg, Rothko, Reicher, Twombly, Duchamp, Klee, etc, etc, all play a huge role in how I see and do art. The outcome, I feel, is original and personal. In the end, it is all very personal or I would not waist my time.
Like any kid, I did art in school and it never occurred to me that anything I did was "art." My mother loved my work, and I assumed she liked it because she was my mother. In middle school I got a scholarship to the Art Institute of Cincinnati for a piece I did on energy conservation. That was my first work that was recognized with an award... I must have been around 8 years old. In high school I was your typical artsy guy. I won a lot of awards for my photography and art but never thought much of it all.
It wasn't until college that I started doing some work that I felt was original and interesting. My college teachers really took to my work and I also won some national awards and had a solo exhibit. When I dropped out of college, I gave and threw all of my work and left it behind, until recently.
I have a really bad book habit. I love many different kinds of artists. One of my favorites is Paul Klee. I love how he thought about painting, I relate to him very much so. I am a huge fan of the Bauhaus and Swiss Design.
Artists/Designers that didn’t follow one area of practice normally interest me.
I think all my projects have been exciting in one fashion or another. When I work on a project I go all in, I don’t believe in producing okay work. Developing typefaces for Disney was very exciting, that has been one of my dreams so it was pretty exciting to see that happen.
I have a lot of ideas for many different occupations. I enjoy cooking a lot. I could see me doing something with a restaurant. I often think about concepts for different kinds of places to eat.
I can see me owning a record store too.
Really I can see myself doing a lot of different occupations. I want to consult at companies to advise them on how to do things better. Especially in the design department.
I used to see inspiration as this magic force that either happens or doesn’t happen. As my career has matured, I think it has to do about staying inspired all the time. I work all the time and that keeps me in the moment. Reading really inspires me for some reason. I try to read every day.
I know nothing is changing with the route that Ghostly is on, it will only continue to expand. Sam cares as much about the cover art as he does the music. When I design an album, I think about it as something more than what it is. I would like for people to buy the albums I design just for the cover alone. Music is a very important part of my life and I treat the work I do for it as important.
Thank you. Yes, that has been something we have addressed a lot. It would seem foolish to let something like that change the way I work, but it is also not wise to ignore the fact that it will be a thumbnail. Typography is almost meaningless when you reduce the image to a small icon so it is often minimized. I still obsess over what type I put on it, but I approach it differently now.
First and foremost, I design for the 12” LP cover. It is the superior format for art. So if vinyl is involved, the focus is always that. If I have to design a CD/Digital release, I just imagine it being a full sized LP cover. The fact that it will be reduced to a tiny icon is always a factor but who wants to design under those circumstances?
It is less a conscious decision and more organic in nature. A lot of the times it is either Sam or myself sending links back and forth. I have a long list of people I would love to collaborate with and we talk a lot about how to get them more ‘active’ in creating something. But that something has to materialize or match up.
Sam Valenti had a vision for the label to have a strong aesthetic, so that integrity goes to his early vision for art and design to be a strong label focus. Even more than that, everyone at Ghostly cares about design and they fight for it, even if it makes their job more difficult.
A lot of the work since 2008 was done by myself, often due to time or project restrictions. I do collaborate from time-to-time as well. If I collaborate, I will come with a concept and then find someone who fits the direction of what I am going for. I really care about the integrity of the label a lot. It has my name attached to it and I believe in the company. I am a control freak, but I am also reasonable.
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