David Croy
Chicago, IL

One of my earliest memories is also my earliest memory of design - specifically, typography, although I didn’t know that that’s what it was at the time: I used to draw the masthead title of our local paper, The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, which was done in a unique blackletter style. Then, I’d try to determine the rules that made up the letter construction and apply them to the rest of the alphabet (everything but THESTLOUIGBDMCR and A) to make a coherent typeface. Of sorts - I was very young, probably six or seven. I have no idea where this obsession came from, but there must be some inherent attraction for me to the shapes of letters, that these shapes are letters and not just shapes, and that they do something - communicate words - so they have a unique set of constraints, like legibility.

During a stay at the University of Missouri, I worked at the student design center, which was a brilliant concept in a mostly otherwise uninspiring (for graphic designers) academic environment. It was set up as a functioning graphic design office to create posters and collateral for student activities. There, we learned (by doing) everything from client meetings, creative reviews with design staff, and comping, to making mechanicals and working with printers. There, I also leaned of the existence of The Portfolio Center in Atlanta, GA.

After a few years of working as a layout and production artist, I finally was able to attend P.C., and I arrived at a fortuitous time as it coincided with the tenure of legendary type teacher Rob Lawton. He was able to answer the myriad questions I’d always had about lettering and type, and to shape my education with firm (very firm) yet inspiring teaching. Whatever success I’ve had (and by that, I mean creative success) is due to his knowledge, experience, and inspiration. It was at P.C. where I first attempted typeface and Spencerian script lettering, along with a lot of other more or less successful experiments. Eventually, I won some regional awards, some school awards, and helped Rob out in Type 1 class; and then got my first “real” gig doing illustrations for posters to coincide with the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, via Ogilvy & Mather, for Sports Illustrated.

In LA I met the amazing illustrator Charlie White III (see the book “Overspray” for more on CWIII), and wound up working on EGD for Walt Disney’s California Adventure. Charlie and some of the folks at his studio also worked or collaborated with The Jerde Partnership, a global architecture firm located just a few steps up the Venice boardwalk. I ended up working full time at Jerde, doing graphic design and some signage and EGD projects with them. Since then, I’ve been freelancing with EGD studios including Hunt Design and Romero Thorsen, and on my own, working on brand identity (both print and EGD) for mixed use, entertainment, retail, and educational projects in the Los Angeles and the western United States, Dubai, Japan, and China.

Recently, I moved from Los Angeles to Chicago where I'm looking forward to truly terrible winters.

EGD and Spencerian script have been a kind of binary focus lately, because they both embody my approach to design in endlessly intriguing ways. Design is, in one sense, constraints: speaking in the voice of the brand identity and visual language, budget considerations, deadlines, all of these things shape the design. Constraints make for work that is more engaging and challenging (to me) than, say, fine art where anything goes. In built design, there are even more variables to confront and utilize: architecture, user experience, materials, fabrication.

Similarly, but on the opposite end, the challenges of Spencerian - of wrangling a single line into a coherent and legible, but beautiful word will - always be one of the ultimate constraints, and an endlessly fascinating puzzle.

When I say “constraints” it can sound negative, but to me, generating a great solution (which includes effectively selling it to the client and finally realizing the finished work) is a playground. Just like it’s no fun to run around on a level field with nothing to climb over or tunnel through, having no constraints can be almost boring. It’s much more fun to have a crazy jungle gym to scale.