Monday, October 25th, 2010
Do you get your inspiration from anything other than graphic design? Like furniture? Or fashion? Or paper mâché sculptures?
Yeah, totally. I mean, colors and shapes and spatial relationships can really happen by way of being exposed to great interiors, nature, fashion, etc. I especially keep up with a lot of style mags and blogs. What people wear is such a personal and emotional statement, and I don’t think you can get palette and dynamic inspiration from anything with such a broad spectrum of culture. I’m also very inspired by comedy—early and mid-to-late nineties SNL, Kids in the Hall, Monty Python, Caddyshack, Dr. Katz, Larry David, Mitch Hedberg, Eddie Murphy, Louis C.K. … I could seriously go on forever. Writing jokes is really similar to being a designer. For me, Farley and Dangerfield are way more inspiring than [Milton] Glaser and [Paul] Rand. But I find myself getting more inspiration from experiences that don’t necessarily have aesthetic value, but somehow translate back to the design process. It’s like this kind of ambient intuition that develops…like when you’re doing something, such as making a wrong turn while driving, and you get that weird urge to hit Apple+Z, you know?
For me, Farley and Dangerfield are way more inspiring than [Milton] Glaser and [Paul] Rand.
Tell us about Show ‘n Tell.
It’s a seasonal design talk show I host, alongside my friends Zach Dodson (who runs featherproof books and Bleached Whale Design Studio) and his brother Seth (who is semi-professionally hilarious and foils all self-indulgent design speak with his “Spokesmom” character—a spokesmodel who is also everybody’s mother). We invite a handful of designers, photographers and illustrators to come on and talk about one project and its process. We try to focus on humor and humility in design.
I’ve always had a hard time working in the music industry as a designer (Renaud is a drummer in band Tiger Bones). Care to share some tips and or experiences?
It’s pretty common to get the majority of your work through personal connections, and I’ve been playing in bands since I was 13. Most of the friendships I’ve made have been as a result of playing music. Making tape covers at Kinko’s and flyers on MS Paint in high school led to screen-printing posters in college, and I guess it was just a natural progression after that. It’d be like if you lived in Donut Village and just hung out with people in the doughnut industry all the time and all you thought about was eating doughnuts and making doughnuts and just like doughnuts, doughnuts, doughnuts. And you kind of liked art on the side. Then you’d just be doing all of these doughnut boxes and websites by the time you were 31. But the smart-ass answer would be to join a band and work harder at that than design.
What is the most untraditional tool in your designer toolbox?
Alphabet Thesaurus Vol. 2 – A Treasury of Letter Design, which was published in 1960. I’ve scanned, traced, shot, re-drawn and vectorized so much stuff out of this thing it’s ridiculous. It’s hard to find, and expensive if you can track it down, so I feel like it’s this special little private thing I can access. I wouldn’t normally think it to be untraditional, but it continues to baffle me how many young designers don’t consider using or working with anything that isn’t inside of their computer.
Was there a specific instance in which your inability to have a perfect connection on a high five really let you down?
I don’t have that inability! There’s a trick. Look at the other person’s elbow. Just look at their elbow and it will always connect. Your insecure hand is gonna thank me.
What do you enjoy most about Chicago’s design scene?
What’s true about Chicago in general—the people here are selfless, hard-working and funny. Designers find value in collaboration, promoting others and advancing the craft before they find it in money or some kind of weird niche fame. We’re all really lucky.
Q+A by Chad Kouri