The idea of working at Studio Number One, the design studio headed by by Shepard Fairey is probably a dream for tons of West Coast students. Zach Gibson is a graduate from Philadelphia, who moved to L.A and made the dream a reality before heading back to school to start a masters. Obviously not one to be daunted by a bit of hard graft, the results are there for all to see and we were keen to catch up with him before everyone else did too.
Hey Zach, really nice, varied selection of work you’ve got… Can you tell us a little bit about you and your work in general?
In 2006 I received a BFA in Graphic and Interactive Design from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, and I’m currently in my second semester of the MFA Design program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.
After my undergraduate studies and a brief internship at MTV, I packed up and moved to the opposite side of the country, to Los Angeles, where I lived in my brother’s walk-in closet for a few months. I eventually landed a full-time job at Studio Number One, the design agency founded by Shepard Fairey. This was an ideal place for me to learn and grow as a designer, really a dream job. The studio consists of a handful of super talented designers and artists, and I gained a lot from working with everyone there. In the three years I worked at the studio I earned opportunities to art direct, design, and initiate a few excellent projects. In August 2009, I left to head back to school.
It’s tough for me to discuss my work in a general sense, because there are different themes, or feelings, or goals, or points of focus, or clients that I’ve aimed to please in the various aspects. I like to keep these areas separate, so at any dull moment I have a place to pick up where I left off.
Generally, there is a tangible characteristic in the images I create, and achieving this tactile feel comes from my design process; creating letters out of junk mail, cut paper, play-doh, or sponges for Nothing Fancy Volumes dot com; putting up a thousand post-it notes for a Tim Brown lecture; building the set for the IMAGINE postcard; printing out the California Constitution on a single sheet of paper; or just cutting up sheets of grid paper and finding interesting cross-sections and relationships when you put them together. It’s the details that come from using actual objects that make people pause for a moment and look at things a little closer. In my drawings and investigations, I’m interested in exploring intimacy and awkwardness, and finding a sense of place.
Your latest project on the constitution looks interesting, what’s it all about?
This was something I did for a Contemporary Issues course I’m taking right now with Karen Fiss, and something I’ve recently found great interest in. Our class focuses on what many Californians consider to be the contemporary issue right now in our state: an overly complicated, excessively amended state constitution. Specifically, the course will focus on a ballot initiative being considered, that challenges our current system of democracy. If your interested you can find out more at www.californiansfordemocracy.com (a website that aesthetically highlights the current relationship between politics and design).
That being said, I’ve just done a simple, non-partisan experiment comparing the constitutions that govern our country and our state. The United States Constitution, when set in Times New Roman at 8 points on paper 8.5 inches wide, the length of the full text is about 6 feet. The California Constitution is about 45 feet long. According to Wikipedia, the California Constitution is the third longest in the world, behind Alabama and India.
If there is a California Constitutional Convention on the horizon, I am curious to see if designers will be part of the redesign, or if we will leave this up to the same policy makers, politicians, and suits that got us into this mess in the first place.
What’s next for Zach?
I have a ton of little things here and there that I’m working on. In April, I am leading collaborative project with a few artists, designers and strangers at a Levi’s pop-up shop, thanks to Adam Katz. Maybe a trip to Egypt this summer. I’m getting married next summer. Nothing Fancy Volume v10? Considering a thesis project. An RRR submission for Scott Massey. Vain is Awesome 2. I am student-teaching a design class and I’m planning an image making workshop with the students. I’m working on a publication about strange incidents in a local SF park. Screen printing some posters. Collecting succulents. Riding my bike. Paying rent with student loans. Reading, writing, thinking and making.
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