If you stopped by the Austin Convention Center during SXSW this year, you might have noticed the artwork of Flatstock 48, which filled the exhibit hall like tiles in the world’s greatest mosaic.
Before the kind officials asked us to leave, we visited the booths of several incredibly talented illustrators to film their opinions on design and inspiration. Among them, we spoke with Tim Doyle, Rosie Lea, Aaron Eiland, Justin Santora, Dirk Fowler and Sean Mort. As a fellow group of makers, we were curious how these creative powerhouses continue to inspire and perfect their craft. More than that, we wanted to hear firsthand what they considered to be good design.
Designers are a different breed of people. Slouched in their chairs with often glazed over expressions, these unassuming figures came to life the moment they were engaged. Although exhausted from days of travel and conferencing, they were more than happy to spend a few minutes chatting with us.
One might have expected a conversation about good design to be centered around art theory, aesthetics or proper technique. It wasn’t. They weren’t concerned about following rules as much as they were about working intuitively. This is a rare ability and for me, it seemed almost superhuman. To these creatives, it seemed, good design is more about purpose and self-expression than it is about catering to established traditions or, for that matter, anyone. For most creatives, this kind of way of living is a luxury. Perhaps, it is one we give away too easily.
For most, I suppose, SXSW is a two-week bender of music, film and, of course, free Miller Lite. For us, it was that, but it was also much more. The wonderful artists at Flatstock reminded us of our purpose as creators. It encouraged us to take creative risks and to challenge ourselves more. We’re thankful for that.
As Justin Santora told me off camera, “I hope that I don’t come to a place where I think I’ve learned it all.”
Below is the manuscript of each artist.
“How do I inspire myself? I just draw a lot. I have three kids so my kids inspire me. I just make things. I’m interested in making things. Being in this room is inspiring. Look around. If you can’t be inspired by what you see then I would question that.”
“Alcohol? Lack of Sleep? Caffeine? I don’t know. My brain’s been wired that way for so long. When I was a kid, I was always drawing and creating stuff.”
“[It’s] the things that inform my world view. Politically, culturally, ethically. Those all factor into what inspires me as well as the technical level of trying to keep up with my friends, who are just really gifted and talented people.”
“Well, I read and listen to music as much as I can. Obviously, doing gig posters you have to listen to music.
“By listening to music, watching films or pop-culture. The kind of things that are really in front of me, really. I just feed on it all.”
“A lot of times, if I get a commission from a different performer, I’ll look at their previous posters and the previous work they’ve put out and try to do something that’s different from anything else they’ve done before. I want them to have a unique voice for that particular show and not just have the same thing over and over again.”
“What is good design? For me, good design is just something that makes you think. It doesn’t have to give you all the answers. It’s something that attracts you and [makes you] want to spend some time with it.”
“I guess good design is an intersection of conceptual and visual, where it stirs the proper response with the intended audience.”
“You know, I’m slightly OCD so things have to look balanced or else it bothers me. It’s like, everything in its place and a place for everything on the page. As long as I feel calm while looking a piece. It’s like, ‘well, that, that works.’ I can’t tell you, ‘this is what good design is!’ because it changes drastically from decade to decade. You look at stuff from the fifties, it doesn’t look like stuff from the seventies. Stuff from the seventies doesn’t look like stuff from the nineties. I will say, bad design is whatever happened in the nineties.”
“Anything that has some sort of unique voice and communicates some sort of idea or message, in my opinion. The difference between fine art and design, I would say, is that there’s always a purpose or a message to it. I think anything that achieves that is considered good design.”
“It’s always good when it shows something about yourself. It’s something personal and genuine. It attracts people’s attention, makes people happy and creates something visually pleasing. It makes people go like, ‘oh, that’s so nice!'”
“I think it’s so personal. That’s the thing. For me, good design is just being able to look at something and fall in love with it straight away. I like the subtleties of things. I like to be able to look at something over and over again and see different things in it all the time. I think it’s so different for different people and that’s what a show like this shows you. Because, there are so many people who aren’t into my kind of thing or the next thing, might fall in love with the next thing. I just think it’s so broad, the spectrum of it. That’s what I love about it. Good design for me, is just whatever speaks to you personally and for me it just so happens to be this kind of work.”