Champion Studio Geoff Mcfetridge Contact      
+81 Interview vol. 36 Summer 2007      

+81: Can you tell us your recent projects and activities?

(GM): Just this week finished a video for the Whitest Boy Alive. The video is based on the album packaging I did for them. It is made from hundreds of drawings that was shot frame by frame with a camera, like traditional stop frame animation. And now designing interior graphics for a café in Harajuku Tokyo, which is mainly interior surface design using ecologically sustainable materials like cork, hemp, and paper made from limestone instead of trees. It’s going to be called the Sunshine Studio and is really aimed at young designers as a meeting place. I am also designing for Patagonia the outdoor wear clothing company. I have been doing it for 2 years, I create graphics for their surf & ocean lines. I am finishing titles for Aaron Roses new documentary Beautiful Losers, and working on graphics for Spike Jonzes film “Where the Wild Things Are”. I also just designed a new logo for Jack Johnsons record label Brushfire.

+81: What made you start graphic design?

GM: I was always drawing and interested in making art, and having a middleclass upbringing I felt I had to have a job. As a kid I knew there were architects who drew and got paid for it, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I heard about graphic design, and it was then that I started gravitating towards that, because it was like a profession, and I could have that as a job. I was involved in Skateboarding and Snowboarding, and I designed some graphics for people’s boards. But it was really making zines that I found that doing graphics was actually more interesting than the drawing. I found it an interesting creative contuerpart to just inventing things with drawings

+81: How is the Skate culture that you grew up with affecting you and your work as an adult?

GM: I still have involvement in Skateboarding and stuff, and most of my friends are people I met through Skating. I think in some ways Skateboarding exposes you to a really advanced visual culture. It’s a culture that’s changing faster than most other cultures and it has it’s own sophisticated language. I think from a young age you’re speaking in this advanced graphic language that kind of continues with you. It exposed me to a lot of culture really quickly, and also if you’re involved in something like that you have a reason to make or create something everyday.

+81: Can you explain a bit more about the unique language that the culture has?.

GM: I grew up in Canada where I was quite isolated. I was going to punk shows and seeing bands and being exposed to all the Skate boarding companies coming out of CA. It was like Skateboarding was interpreting the culture around it. So it was taking music and youth cultures and adopting the best aspects of them. There’d be a board company that had a spread in a magazine that was all about Rock Steady music, or you’d have a page that would be people who were influenced by surfing. So within a few pages of Thrasher Magazine you’d have a condensed index of what hip and interesting things were going on. They were marketing, so each brand was trying to take a piece of the pie in this growing culture. It gets dubbed as this really expressive creative culture, and when I was getting involved in Skateboard culture it was like some of the first moments of implementing youth marketing which was done at a very grassroots, wholesome and good spirited way. It’s kind of the essence of what people perceive as youth marketing presently. It was taking the best of the language of youth culture now and condensing it into a product.

+81: How has the LA scene changed since it started about 10 years ago?

GM: I know a lot of things are going on, but I don’t really know just how involved in it I am. In LA there are many independent people, it’s like independence upon independence, in as much as there’s an overlapping of peoples’ independence. It’s like you’d run into someone you know and they’d be on their way to do a show in Europe or Japan. I think what’s great about LA is it’s scene is that it is so autonomous and there might be something interesting going on in the same block that is quite different from another. It’s not about this shared zeitgeist for one thing that’s going to be happening.

+81: Can you tell us about your turning point as a creator?

GM: Possibly the poster project for the LA Freewaves video festival. I’ve never really been happy with the traditional way of graphic design, like you do 12 different things and then pick one and then it’s done. I wanted to just work on one thing and make it good. The idea of making 12 variations is just contrary to the way I feel about things, and doing variations that you don’t really like. For me that poster was getting me out of that situation, where I knew that if I do things that come from me I can be me wherever I am. It’s not like I was just doing an art piece and saying this is good for you, I was taking my voice and applying it to different projects which gives a momentum and consistency to what I’m doing.

+81: Having done that, do you always submit just one very good idea for a project?

GM: Well no. But I don’t actively go out looking for projects. Instead people come to me, so they’d have to already know my work a little bit. So they’re coming to me really for what I do, so it’s kind of like I’m inventing the rules. The thing is that I may be submitting more than one idea to the client, but they’re all come from me. I don’t Art direct for a magazine or record label where you may have to come up with a diverse range of work. I am in a position where I can do a consistent type of work, which comes out of doing Art shows, animations and graphics. It was like I wanted to do a very narrow set of ideas in a very diverse range of projects and I’ve stuck with that way of working.

+81: So in all these aspects of art going on in your life, is there something that you can say is like your policy or philosophy?

GM: Yes. There are definitely rules that I work within myself. As you work on different projects things do change, but there is a general economy. Like when the process is good that positive energy you put into in it becomes transparent in the final stage of the project. For example through all the layers of making a film, the script is strong, the cast is good, the shooting goes well, the editing and post production is positive, if every step in any project, be it animation, film or graphics, is positive, then it becomes transparent in the final product.
Some people may want to hold conflict in the work they do. I want even my simplest work to be a window into the good energy, where all the layers seem to be working well, in harmony.
The goal is to create work that is giving and not oppressive, and that is a complicated thing. I like seeing work that looks easy, but makes me wish I had done it. Work that really gives something to its audience, that doesn’t demand to be looked at, but makes people want to look at and can interact with. I think my best work is more about the viewer reflecting rather than me projecting something.

+81: Would you say that your work is like your identity?

GM: Yes my identity is present throughout, although at different levels because I do so many different types of projects.
I still have sketch books from six years ago and if I look in them I can find stuff that’s similar or the same as something I came up with a couple of days ago. There are ways of looking at things and talking about things in the world and I feel that this personal language that makes up my identity, a nd is consistent in my work.

+81: Do you always carry your sketchbook around with you?

GM: Usually I have a sketchbook, but I don't like a lot of stuff in my pockets. I am not religious about it. I’ll always write the date at the beginning of the book and will be working on different projects through out. So sketches will appear in the same order as the projects worked on. So my sketchbooks serve as a kind of filing system for me; I don’t have a great memory, but I do have a good memory for ideas I had, so I can remember “oh yeah. I had that kind of idea back then” and go back into my sketch books and find things that may be relevant to a new project.

+81: What projects have you got coming up?

GM: I have a bunch of larger scale projects coming up that will be challenging. I’m working on a proposal for a large installation this coming winter for the Seattle New Sculpture Garden, and I have a larger show coming up at the Mu Museum near Amsterdam this summer. All the pieces in the installations will be based on posters, but will hopefully take form in such a way that they seem like they have moved towards realness.

+81: Can you tell us a bit more about these installations?

GM: Yes. A lot of the shows I have done were based on poems that I had written, they were really the basis of the show. I’d then turn them into posters or designs. I then play with the designs and try to turn them into objects. The shows for me are a way of approaching deisign in a different way in order to create an installation in which the ideas become real in a way that people can physically enter them .Like if a logo made you dance.




















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