Would you elaborate on one project that changed your career?
The Helvetica cake which I baked/designed with a couple of other designers has given me quite a lot of publicity. It always seems to impress people when they see it. it was recently published in a book called ‘tactile’.
As long as you care about what you do then every job, even the bad ones (especially the bad ones), have an impact. Once you stop learning and questioning what you do, you might as well give up.
It’s not a project, but when I decided to leave full-time teaching and become a designer full-time (at the walker).
I had a really low paying design job in Boston for many years. I eventually got laid off and decided to try to be a freelance designer. One of the first jobs I got was to design a book cover and the paycheck definitely helped pay the bills.
Design Can Change (www.designcanchange.org) is an effort we started to unite designers to combat climate change. The effort has received a great deal of support from designers around the world. I think it’s one of the most meaningful projects we’ve worked on.
Its been a pretty steady snowballing effect since my first job. I have a feeling that sometime in the future I will start working for a very different client base, but until now its all been music and entertainment.
In 2000, we designed the catalog for ‘Elysian Fields’, a group show curated by the fabulous Purple Institute. The exhibition took place at the Centre Pompidou. Next to the catalog, we also designed the sign system, all kinds of printed matter (invitations, press releases etc.), and a large mural that was part of the exhibition itself.
It was a huge deal for us. We worked really hard on it, and were really glad with the results. We were looking forward to the opening, hoping to get a sense of satisfaction from our work.
When the opening took place, we had the awkward sensation of feeling completely detached from the exhibition. Our work was featured prominently in the exhibition, people were enthusiastic about it, but we really felt disconnected, as if we weren’t really part of what was happening.
That’s when we realized that our position as graphic designers is very much that of being outsiders. We understood that we would never be able to really feel part of the project as a whole. Many designers believe that designing is about being engaged with the subject, but on that day, we felt something that was quite the opposite. We suddenly realized that, through designing, you are actually removing yourself from the subject; you are creating a psychological distance. Or at least, that is what we experienced that day. It didn’t really change our career, but it did change our ideas about being a graphic designer.
Face is the project that is letting us have a real output. We can put our ideas out there and actually make a good living out of it.
Flip Flop Flyin
Well, the one thing that’s made the most difference was beginning doing the Minipops portraits. It began a snowball that began with my friends actually choosing to look at my website rather than being badgered into it; to getting a few links on other sites; then in the music press and on and on until they became well-known enough for a publisher to want to do a book.
Skywalkers was a magical procession on the beach during Art Basel Miami 2006, we created 18 giant blimps that charmed and delighted all the people of Miami for a moment and we filled the sky with the most beautiful and magical characters and ideas that it’s a very unforgettable moment in our adventure.
As a 15 year-old, in my first year at the High School of Music and Art, in a basic design course, we were asked to experiment in non-objective design by ripping off Paul Klee and Josef Albers and Mondrian and Malevich. First a design of triangles, next a composition of circles, then rectangles, etc., week after week. In our last class that term, our instructor asked us to design, on 18 x 24 illustration board, a composition using only the rectangle, calling it a final exam. Been there, done that. So I didn’t budge for 90 minutes as my fellow students cut and pasted and sweated. My teacher was furious. Before he picked up my empty 18 x 24 board, I signed my signature in the lower left hand corner – and handed him the ultimate rectangle design! I had taught myself (and my instructor) that great design had to be fresh, different, seemingly outrageous. Today, I recognize my ultimate rectangle solution as the epiphany that signaled that I would spend my life, not merely as a designer of form, but as a conceiver of Big Ideas.
Many projects have shaped my career but I believe there are two projects changed my career; designing the MTV Top 20 packaging, and the Santología Style Guide. Working for MTV some 4 years ago was interesting because we have always done print design, so we had to figure out how to introduce the time factor into our work. Plus we tried to do something completely different from what was on air at the time and did everything by hand. This took a lot more time than what it would have digitally but the end result was very satisfying and the spot stayed on air for about three years. Working for MTV pays little cash but gives you a good portfolio. Doing the Santología Style Guide was interesting for many reasons. We got to know and work with Hijo del Santo, the son of the most important Mexican wrestler of all time. We did our first major project for a company that was not Mexican, Cartoon Network. We did our very first Style Guide and got to understand better how everything works marketing wise. It was very educational and eventually helped us land other Style Guide projects for other clients. Currently we are working on Santología3.
The real change was when I realised I wanted to do more of my own ideas and do the things that wouldn’t get commissioned.
Writing the “How To Land Your Dream Job” feature article for HOW Magazine was a big turning point for me. When I wrote it I was just a green, punk-ass kid who could barely get a job with Landor. Why would anyone want to listen to me? I wasn’t an expert in self-promotion or anything else for that matter. When I realized that I had some answers that many people were seeking and that my story was inspiring to others, that was a major shift in my attitude. That was when I decided to engage others in a dialog about design and take some responsibility for helping others.
Not exactly. I was very interested in science and history. Later I realized that the things I loved learning about the most involved human communication and the nature of understanding. I see design and photography as a practical extension of that.
My first thought is the Mexico’68 Olympics, but I remember an earlier experience that prepared me for Mexico. In 1962 I was the assistant designer, in charge of designing the graphics, for a US Department of Commerce exhibition in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. The theme was “Constructive Use Of Leisure Time”. I designed an hour glass logo that suggested day and night time activity, and applied it in three dimensional ways throughout the exhibit. The experience changed my approach to design because realized I could combine industrial and graphic design to effect an environment. Living in Zagreb for three months during the cold war helped me to be open minded when working in a different culture. I loved working with the people there and I know when that happens, it helps my designing.
Working for Vaughan Oliver at v23 for 2 years helped me immensely and gave me some publicity that helped pave the way for getting work.
Starting NY Magazine with Clay Felker.
Please Let Me Design
We received an award for the Best book design from France this year. We hope this will bring more book or magazine projects to the studio.
The introduction of the ESSE line of paper in 1989. It proved that I could trust my own sensibilities and they would guide the project to an original conclusion.
With any interesting client, but I did not have them so much until today. Perhaps I am not social enough...
I won a D&AD Student Award for an ethical branding project I did. As a result D&AD rang me up asking if I wanted to design the next issue of their magazine ‘Ampersand’. Frost Design London designed each issue. As the forthcoming issue was all about the Student Awards they wanted 4 students to design the issue. We had to come up with an idea for how it would look and put it together in a week. By the Wednesday only 2 of us were still turning up. On the Friday Vince (Frost) asked me whether I wanted to do another week as a freelancer. I left 3 years later.
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