In the last three decades we’ve witnessed the demise of cassette tapes, the rise and fall of CDs, and the near end and now re-emergence of LPs. And through it all, Jeff Kleinsmith, creative director at Sub Pop Records, has pivoted at each turn, adapting and changing with the times.
He started at the Seattle-based record label when bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam ruled the airwaves. Not only was the music transitioning from hair bands to grunge, but the way music was played and packaged was changing dramatically, and it still is. Here, we talk to Kleinsmith about how his job has shifted and transitioned over the years, and what it’s like to work with musicians on their albums.
You’ve said that working in rock n’roll is a dream job some days and some days it’s the same as any other in-house gig. Tell me a little about that.
Well it’s funny. I do talks and I teach students, and I always get asked if this is my dream job. It is a dream job. I still feel that way after 23 years, frankly! But, I have to laugh at the notion that all we do is design album covers and go to rock shows. We’re doing a ton of behind the scenes stuff like creating very specific digital marketing tools or designing shrink wrap stickers, or editing catalog pages for a distributor. I think that’s not what these students are thinking of when they ask about the music industry. They’re thinking of Nirvana or Father John Misty covers or something. But that’s actually a pretty small part of our day-to-day job—creating the cover that is. Look, we deal with meetings, and last-minute crap, and clients not liking our mockups, just like anyone else. It’s the same stuff you would complain about if you were in a corporate job. Read the rest of the interview here.
As a guy who rose to popularity for his crude album cover designs for bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Sonics, and Mudhoney nearly three decades ago, Art Chantry is still trying to figure out the design world. In fact, he’s adverse to most design these days and resists technology as much possible. The man prefers to work with his hands, manipulating materials, images, and type in a way that the computer just can’t do, in his opinion.
Chantry is an outspoken critic of modern design and designers, but despite that, he’s being honored as a 2017 AIGA Medalist. The irony hasn’t been lost on him. It just goes to show that good work is good work, and you can be welcomed into the club even if you’re an outsider with a bad attitude. Even he couldn’t believe it when he received the call from AIGA.
Here he talks about what’s wrong with design today, his hoarding habits, and why he’s such a pain in the ass.
Do you like design today?
That’s a loaded question. I do like SOME design done today. But, frankly, I look at old design, not new design. Old design, pre-computer design—when the IDEA was the coin of the realm. I look at contemporary design annuals and see this incredibly high level of mediocrity. Page after page of beautifully rendered (crisp and clean) design that all looks the same. About every 10 to 20 pages one piece will pop out like a huge sore thumb. At first you can’t figure out why. Then you realize it’s because it actually has an idea being presented. Most graphic design today is not really design. It’s decoration. Graphic decoration. It just has to look nice, or pretty, or cool. It has to fit in to a very high standard of production values that only computers can give you.
Any design work that doesn’t look exactly like your ‘comp’ is pounded down like a nail that sticks up. Ideas are erased so fast in an environment like that. These are all things that I try to avoid in my work. Strangely, ideas are all I have to offer any more. Computers don’t have “idea” buttons (yet).
Read the rest of the interview here.
The crude, messy nature of screenprinting is exactly what attracted designer Ryan Duggan to his craft of making what he calls, “Ugly Art.”
In Chicago, where the temps are currently freeze-your-ass-off frigid, the print scene is hot. “We have more pro-level screen printers in this city than anywhere else in the world, and yet it’s not an ugly competition. Everyone helps each other out. I love it here,” says Ryan Duggan, a one-man screenprinting machine, churning out posters, invitations, and art prints in the Windy City.
He’s printed hundreds of gig posters since 2006, when he came to his senses after studying advertising copywriting at Columbia College in Chicago. “I realized I had zero interest in working in an ad agency,” he says. I’m sure his parents were thrilled. Fortunately, in high school he learned how to screenprint from a temperamental guy named Zim. Duggan recalls, “He would absolutely lose his shit if you called ink ‘paint.’ To this day, I cringe when people use the wrong term, expecting Zim to jump on a table and scream.” Read rest of article here.
Hot, Fresh, Wholesome & Delicious!
Handmade Tortillas, Fresh Baked Bread, Letterpress Posters? Yes, Please!
When Mi Rancho opened its doors in 1939 in Oakland, Calif., it was the only Mexican grocery store in the area, providing handmade tortillas and other specialty items. This family-owned business has since grown into a supplier to restaurants all over the country, churning out nearly 4.5 million tortillas a day. The owner wanted something special to commemorate the anniversary, so he hired designer Steve Epstein to create a poster to share with his vendors.
Epstein, who has been a designer since the late ’70s, starting as a print designer, then moving into broadcast design and animation working for ABC in Hollywood, then a CBS affiliate in San Francisco. For the past 14 years, he’s focused on photography and print design. Read rest of article here.