The year is 2005 and all I know is that I don’t want to be a paleontologist anymore. Not that I didn’t love dinosaurs anymore, but I felt that I was either going to need to spend a lot of time in the Gobi desert if I wanted to see Velociraptors, or a lot of time in a museum basement if I wanted to stay in the States. Jurassic Park still was (and still is) my favorite movie, but I felt like it would be cooler to make a living off of painting like James Gurney—author and illustrator of Dinotopia—did. I was doing reasonably well in art class, as subjective as that is to say, and I loved drawing dinosaurs much more than I loved walking for miles in the desert.
Anyway, drawing dinosaurs turned quickly into drawing everything, though the most fun I was having was when I was drawing logos. Letterforms are fascinating; like dinosaurs, having basic forms with individual characteristics. Once I got to logos I was hooked, and like a lot of kids that start bands and like logos, I was instantly all about creating designs for the album covers, a medium I had long loved but was unsure that was something one could do as a day job. I was looking at a lot of albums for inspiration. As it happened, I was far more interested in the album cover than the album, and was more interested in learning about people* who made album covers than I was in learning the bass. I listened to a lot of metal then and particularly a lot metal from a record company called Solid State Records, a branch of Tooth & Nail Records. The music was great, but the album designs were just as great and I eventually learned that some of the covers I liked the most were from a studio called Asterik Studio. Upon going to their website—the first design site I ever visited—I instantly knew what I wanted to do for my career: posters, album covers (as tragic as that sounds now), t-shirts, and anything that was both band and design related.
Asterik Studio (now defunct) was founded by Don & Ryan Clark of the band Demon Hunter—signed to Solid State Records, Greg Lutze, and Demetre Arges. They mostly designed packaging for albums, and gig posters, but they also had clients like Nintendo and Dreamworks. The design that ultimately motivated me to become a designer was their Grammy nominated album design for Norma Jean’s O’ God, The Aftermath (At the link, do yourself a favor and check out the rest of Asterik’s album designs). Eventually, they split to become Invisible Creature to focus on music packaging and illustration and Wonderful Union to focus on web and interactive design.
Since forming Invisible Creature album artwork has become less focused on because of software like iTunes and apps like Spotify. The Clark’s have expanded their repertoire to include more illustration and have since seen companies like Nike and Target added to their client list. I think that at first as I noticed the change in clientele I was really disappointed, after all, IC had designed some amazing album packaging—and were nominated for three Grammy’s in three consecutive years in the process—but ultimately, what I learned is that a successful designer has to be flexible to survive. Trends change constantly; wait to change for too long and you’ll find that potential clients have passed you by.
A lot of artists, designers, and musicians have inspired me over the years but Invisible Creature still excites me more when they come out with a poster (or new snapback hats!) then anyone else. It was IC that ushered me into design and the world I found turned out to be much bigger than I was aware of; there are lots of others who have guided me on the way, and maybe that is for a different post, but Don and Ryan Clark have certainly influenced the path that I am on as a creative and have been a huge source of inspiration to get me where I have been. I do not know if they will read this (a guy can hope, this is still a small blog) but I thank them for the spark that began this whole process; they are an integral piece of the puzzle that is shaping up to be my artistic career.
*Check out Peter Saville, Stefan Sagmeister, Storm Thorgerson, Vaughan Oliver, Michael Cina, and Aesthetic Apparatus.