I recently had the pleasure of corresponding with Bay Area designer, illustrator and all around good guy, Javier García. I had seen Javier’s work floating around the internet but was reminded again of his awesomeness at this years Art Crank event in San Francisco. The day after I took one of his posters home I got ahold of him for an interview about his work, his obsession with modernism and his Viking collection.
I loved the poster you did for this years ArtCrank in San Francisco and was hoping you could tell us a little about your process for developing it.
I ride a bike to work every day and this is just how I feel when I ride it, cars chase you and cut you off all the time. I actually started designing this poster for the year before but I ended up submitting it to the 2011 event. It went through many changes since but the integrity of the concept was the same.
I always start by doing sketches, sometimes I go to the computer and even come back again to sketching. I tried different things, some made it to the screen and some didn’t.
Most designers I know are collectors and you obviously do a lot of design “digging” in search of material for your blog, No Barcode. Where do you find the work you post and how do you manage the physical collection you’re building up?
I go hunting at garage sales, estate sales, antique stores and ebay, etsy, etc. Usually stuff is just stored in dusty boxes in people’s garages. I have a dresser with drawers stuffed with ephemera, they go by sizes from top to bottom drawer. Sitting there and going through stuff just keeps me inspired. Packaging stuff is displayed on shelves at my little home office.
What are a few of the most prized pieces in your collection?
Most of the value of these things is inspirational but I do value my Alvin Lustig record collection a lot. He is one of my main inspirations.
Do you ever have long forgotten illustrators contacting you about something you posted?
Most of them have past away but I did get an interesting email from a person who had worked with designers by the likes of Alvin Lustig among others. He was on the record label of some of Lustig’s album designs and he thanked me for keeping them alive. I even spoke on the phone with him, very inspiring! That type of stuff just keeps me wanting to share on the blog.
I saw that you have a small Viking collection going. Do you have any other collections you’re working on outside of the material for your blog?
Many, Vikings is probably the most specific but I’ve been collecting vintage modern furniture, pottery and small collectibles. A lot of Danish and Swedish stuff, west-German Pottery, etc. I also don’t post much of it on the blog since his covers are pretty much all over but I do have a good collection of Jim Flora‘s records.
What got you interested in vintage modern illustration and design work? For some reason I imagine you growing up in a setting not unlike Esquivel’s Space-Age Bachelor Pad and judging from the authenticity of your work it feels like that era is something that’s deeply engrained in you. How did that happen?
I grew up in a modern house in México with modern furniture in it, my mother was a painter and had a taste for that kind of stuff but I didn’t really notice it until after I came to San Francisco and went back and found stuff like starburst clocks, danish teak pepper grinders at my mom’s and grandma’s place. In fact my grandparents were from a town outside the city and their place was a time-tunneI filled with 50′s goodies. The whole town is like that. I guess you tend to ignore that when you grow up seeing it every day. Now my mom likes to come with when I go hunting for modern treasures.
Is their a piece of furniture or household item that you would give your left arm to have?
I’d love to have some Evelyn Ackerman tapestries around.
What are your top 5 favorite albums from that era?
Music-wise: (Mostly late 50′s and 60′s) Esquivel – Other Worlds Other Sounds, Martin Denny – Exotica, Arthur Lyman – Taboo, The Seeds – A Web of Sound and The Ventures – Walk Don’t Run. I actually do listen to this stuff. I love exotica, surf and garage rock among many other genres.
Cover-wise: Alvin Lustig – Vivaldi, Jim Flora – Collaboration, Alex Steinweiss – Beethoven “Symphony No. 5″, Erik Nitsche – Schlusnus Sing, All Blue Note Albums (Eric Dolphy – Out to Lunch, if I have to pick one). The music on all these albums is fantastic, as a matter of fact, I do pop in all the records I collect even if I bought them for the cover, just to see the relation between the artwork and the music.
You started out studying industrial design. How has that informed the graphic and illustration work you’re doing now and what made you move towards the latter?
I think it goes hand in hand in many ways and I learned a lot from it. I learned to see things more 3 Dimensionally. Industrial design helped me understand how to sketch objects, shapes, etc. and it’s also how I developed a passion for modern furniture. I actually designed some furniture at school but the program was a mix of graphic and industrial design and I found out there that I was more interested in graphic design.
What artists inspire you now and how has that changed from who inspired you when you were developing your talent?
I think stuff was very different when I was in school. In early 2000 and from what our instructors pounded into our heads (at least in my case) was all 90′s designers like Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko, Neville Brody, David Carson, Erik Spiekermann, etc. which is absolutely wonderful and a great part of the history of design but as time progressed I narrowed down my taste and just fell in love with Modernism in all its forms. I get inspiration not only from Graphic Designers and Illustrators such as Alvin Lustig, Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Ladislav Sutnar, Stefan Kanchev, Wim Crouwel, Olle Eksell, Jim Flora, Alice and Martin Provensen, etc. but from architects/furniture designers like the Eames, Eero Saarinen, Paul McCobb, Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Alvar Aalto, Robin & Lucienne Day, Alexander Girard; Pottery from Gustavsberg (Lisa Larson, Stig Lindberg, etc), Upsala Ekeby, West-Germany; Glass works from Iittala, etc.
My list can go on forever and you probably lost half of your readers by now but I see everything as a graphic whether it’s the shape of a chair, the brushing on a piece of pottery or the logo of an old fishing reel. I research everything I find so I learn a bit of history with every piece I own and that includes artifacts at home or the stuff on the blog. In other words I like to be surrounded by modernism and get inspired by it in every way.
Are there designers or illustrators (alive or dead) that you think people should know more about?
Joseph Low and Jerome Snyder were two wonderful illustrators also I think most graphic designers don’t know the typographic work of Norman S. Ives since it was a framed work of art more so than design on the shelves.
Your personal style and the style of your day job feel so different to me. How do reconcile both worlds and how does the work you do on a freelance basis differ from the work you do at Nimbus? Do they inform each other at all?
I was trained to be more of a corporate designer. Usually a client comes into a studio after seeing previous work and wants something similar, so my personal style might not fit in that studio’s portfolio. There have been times when I’ve been asked to bring my personal style to the table though. Now most of my freelance clients come to me because of my personal style but I don’t mind either of them. I like design in general so I can adapt to watever is needed.
How do you balance your time between work-work, freelance-work and the rest of your life?
I don’t think I have that figured out yet but if I am very into the project, I tend to spend more time than needed. I hope I get that figured out soon though.
Just out of curiosity what does a typical day or week look like for you?
Every day I work 9-6 come home, check my personal email, eat dinner with the wife then work on freelance stuff for 2 hours (sometimes that is replaced by a movie or a TV show with the wife). I get most of my freelance work on the weekends and Saturday morning is usually my design hunting day.
I’ve only been surfing once but I watched “Riding Giants” like 20 times which definitely qualifies me to ask questions about surfing. How did you get into it? Has it inspired or influenced your work or your outlook in anyway? Is it something you do on a regular basis?
I wish I surfed more. I don’t think I’ve surfed that much in the past few years. I used to go way more when I lived in México. I also skateboarded for about 10 years. So definitely being in that scene has inspired me in many ways. Since around 8th grade I dreamed of designing graphics and logos for skateboards and surfboards. There were sketches all over my notebooks.
Outside of illustration and design what else gets you up in the morning?
My wife, my family, my dog, fresh air, the beach, and it might sound corny but I do enjoy sitting and looking at the stuff around my living room while I drink some hot tea and play some records.
And finally, what’s your favorite thing about being a designer in the Bay Area?
It’s great to be around so many talented people down here, it actually inspires me. It’s also pretty cool that the beauty of San Francisco brings a lot of designers to visit and we get to meet up with them.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us and I’m sure I’ll see you around soon! Get your hands on prints from Javier at http://www.etsy.com/shop/javiergdesign. His ArtCrank Poster is available now with some new prints coming soon.