Heroes of DesignHeroes of Design

We derive a lot of inspiration from people. Here’s some of our favorites. Designers, architects, weirdos, fashion folks, musicians. Our heroes.

While we’ll typically have posts about the aforementioned lot, we’ll also have stories about people you might not expect. Sometimes, our heroes and the folks who greatly affect how we work have no real direct connection to design. But – still – they’re heroes.

So, while this is technically called Heroes of Design, it’s really just more about our heroes.

They’re awesome!


charley-harperCharley Harper is freaking terrific. In his words, his design style is “minimal realism,” which equates to being very graphic. Since that’s what I do for a living, his goods really ring a bell for me.

Harper’s work has a way of boiling things down to their absolute base shapes and forms, which is the very essence of graphic design. Simplicity is such a difficult thing to design – and Harper had a real knack for the simple. Even in his more complex pieces, he never loses that sense of simplicity, immediacy and grace. He does a tremendous amount of animals (especially birds,) but some of his less popular works (landscapes and people,) are really beautiful.

Harper’s an interesting fellow, humble and super-soft spoken. Check out the video below to dig a little more. You can also check out a wonderful array of his works with a simple Google search. Dig it! I know I do.

*Photo of Harper in studio came from here.
Raymond Pettibon Design Hero

Raymond Pettibon Design HeroIn high school, I was a “punk.” Well, as punk as you could get while living in Leicester in the ’80’s and attending a reasonably rednecky high school. I really dug a lot of heavy metal and punk rock (and, much to the chagrin of my friends, Bob Dylan.) I really gravitated towards punk style and music, as I felt that I didn’t quite fit in with the metal heads (I was a little too artsy,) and I certainly didn’t fit in with the normal crowd (a little too not normal…)

Black Flag was one of my go-to bands. Still are, really – but back then, Black Flag was gold. Rollins hollering, Ginn destroying guitar convention and the whole vibe was just perfect for my testosterony boyishness. Another thing they had going for them, which really fed in to my aforementioned artsy bent, was their record covers (yes – vinyl records.) Largely illustrated by Raymond Pettibon, Greg Ginn’s brother, his art very much matched up to the aggression and disillusionment of the music that the band produced. Angry, ugly, weird and very base-level human. You could almost smell the sweat and puke when you looked at his scrawlings. In My Head, Loose Nut, My War, etc., – all had these great covers that were simultaneously sad, angry, sick and beautiful. I loved ’em – and I’ve really enjoyed seeing more of Pettibon’s work through the years. He’s got a very wide style – lots of weird human stuff, but also a lot of great landscapes, waves, abstracts and still-life.  Check out the man’s site. Great stuff. Then, learn a little more about the man in an interview by Kim Gordon by clicking here.

In My HeadAdmittedly, my work these days doesn’t have a tremendous amount of punk angst to it – but Pettibon’s work remains a real marvel to me. It’s not perfect (his anatomy is a bit of a train wreck,) but there’s an immediacy and motion to his style that is really, really sweet. Unpretentious, challenging and playful – but in a horrible, sweaty, pukey way.[divider]

If you’d like to get a feel for the way the music and the art work together, here’s a great video from “Off!,” which is a band formed by one of Black Flag’s earlier singers (pre-Rollins,) Keith Morris. Featuring Pettibon doing his thing, Morris doing his thing, and the music doing it’s thing. Brilliant. Turn your speakers WAY up. Happy Monday, y’all!

Photo of Pettibon Hat Tip | “In My Head” Cover Hat Tip

Bauhaus (both the band and the movement,) have been around my life and work for a long, long time. Bauhaus (the band,) were one of my favorites in college (hell, still are) and Bauhaus (the artsy bit) has always had a heavy influence on my design style, beginning in my days at SCAD.

Bauhaus (the band and the movement) are sleek and sexy and minimalist. Daniel Ash’s guitar was stark and lean and angular – much like the actual Bauhaus compound. Cold and very Germanic. Sweet.

Check out this great video (the whole “Design in a Nutshell” series is pretty brilliant) about the Bauhaus school and movement:

Then check out Misters Murphy, Ash, J and Haskins doing their thing in a song concerning (I think,) over-aged prostitutes while still living at home with mummy:

What does this all mean for you? Not much. Learn a bit about something artsy, something about goth tunes in the 80’s. Consider it school. But more interesting.

Design Heroes - Antoni Gaudí

Design Heroes - Antoni Gaudí

I don’t think I need to say too much about Gaudí. I’ve always been a big fan of architecture as an art form – and this guy takes that notion to the absolute limit. The Sagrada Familia (the roof of the nave shown above,) the Park GüelCasa Batlló and the Colonia Güell all stand as masterworks of a man who understood the power of architecture and who knew how to think “outside the box.”

I’ve never been to Barcelona. Hell, I’ve never been to Los Angeles – but experiencing this guy’s work in person is ABSOLUTELY on my bucket list. His organic style is really something to behold, and the motion and fluidity of his lines are incredible. What else can be said other than this guy was an incredible artist with an eye toward the future – but not in a strictly modernist way. His work transcended modernism then, and it holds up even today.

Check it out. You’re going to spend a LOT of time looking at his stuff. Time very, very well spent.

Heroes of Design - Al Jaffee

al jaffee studioI grew up with Mad Magazine. Not sure how it started – or when, for that matter, but as far back as I can remember, Mad has been an accomplice and an inspiration. Maybe that’s not such a good thing to admit – but, it is what it is.

The illustration in Mad was generally pretty great – Aragonés, Berg, Martin and Drucker (and the Usual Gang of Idiots) kind of painted the backdrop of my childhood. Almost without exception, though – when I picked up a Mad, I went straight to the back and checked out the Fold-In by Al Jaffee. Gorgeous color, impeccable layout and topical humor, plus the added fun of “hidden” info made the Fold-In one of my faves.

Al Jaffee painted all these gorgeous works by hand – and at age 92, he’s still going strong. Without the aid of a computer, he still does things the way he’s done them for a long, long time. And – you gotta admit – they’re freaking awesome. And, according to the man himself, he never sees the folded version until he sees the actually newsstand copy. Amazing! Here’s a link to an interactive fold-in gallery. Take a few minutes and check it out. Best time you’ll waste all week!

Lest you think he was (and is) a one-trick pony, Jaffee did a lot of terrific black and white stuff (his inventions series is another favorite, along with “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions”) and some terrific political commentary. Click the image below to be taken to a Google search of some of Jaffee’s mind-blowing stuff. There’s also a little video down below that’ll introduce you to the man you wish was your grand-dad. No folding required…

Heroes of Design - Al Jaffee

*studio photo hat tip: this guy