We’ve cheated a little with our final student of the Graduates 2009 feature. Ben Tousley technically hasn’t graduated yet but with a portfolio this good we could hardly say no, and he does graduate in December so we’re well within the 2009 deadline.
Born and raised in Zionsville, Indiana, Ben is currently attending Indiana University and will graduate with a BFA in graphic design. Currently 22 his first big freelance client came about when he was just 18 when he designed Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House. Having worked with several clients internationally over the years since then, Ben has gained invaluable experience for any young designer, let alone one yet to graduate.
“Regarding almost all the music packaging, particularly with Grizzly Bear projects, I’ve also been completely in charge of designing all related promotional materials. For example, with their newest album Veckatimest, I’ve done all the web, print and poster ads that you might see. This has included billboards, stickers, buttons, everything… That’s definitely been the largest and most all encompassing project I’ve ever worked on. And it was taking place at the same time as my thesis semester.”
Currently working on a new project for Rounder Records, in-store artwork for the Rag & Bone flagship stores in NYC as well as art directing NY based record label Twosyllable Records Ben certainly keeps himself busy. After all this he also aspires to gaining his MFA in design, but not until some “real life experience”. Wherever he goes we’re confident Ben Tousley is a name you might see a bit more of in the near future.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was little, it was between being a meteorologist (but strictly the kind in Twister) or an architect (but mostly like the kind in a Frank Lloyd Wright book my aunt gave me). When I really had to start thinking about it, I was pretty sure I’d go into journalism. I was very involved in my high school’s newspaper all four years and was an editor for three years. As an editor though, we also had to design our own sections. And although I really had a love for journalism, I think I gradually realised I was more interested in visually communicating the stories rather than writing them.
In reflection, how bad was your work in the first year?
Of course there are definitely things that I wish I could go back and change or details I wish I’d paid more attention to, but I would never say any of it was bad. I actually think it’s fun looking at the trajectory of it and seeing how certain aspects did improve with each project. Part of my BFA thesis show at IU was gathering every bit of design-related work I’ve ever done and displaying it all at once. Parts of that feel like maybe it should be embarrassing, but the idea behind it was to show that every little thing you make, no matter how small or trivial, is an opportunity to practice and improve. It almost feels cheesy to say because it’s such a generic idea, but I think it’s especially true for designers.
If you could show a piece of your folio to one person, what piece would you choose, and who would you show it to?
Tough question! No matter what people come to mind, I can’t think of anything I’d actually want to show them without feeling embarrassed in their presence. I’d love to speak with the guys from Non-Format, if only so I could tell them how much they made me want to be a designer in the first place when I was in high school. I think it’d really help me to hear them talk about how boring and unimaginative my work is in comparison to theirs.
If you had your own business, who would you employ and why?
I’d love to own a record store with my friends. I worked at a great record store in Indianapolis for several years and it’ll probably always be one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had. We always tried to make sure it was a very special and positive environment for everyone. Sometimes I feel like there is little better than listening to music with your friends and meeting nice people who enjoy doing the same. As long as I could keep designing at the same time, of course.
If you’ve got any left, what will you spend the last of your student loan on?
In reality, I’d probably end up spending it on ridiculous amounts of things I don’t need like records or eating out. And it would happen without me really paying attention. That and/or I’d treat myself to another special road trip to California.
Where will we find you in 12 months?
I’m not sure, and I’m not sure I want to know just yet! I graduate in December, so right now I’ve mostly decided to pursue some jobs in New York, if only for a little while. Otherwise I’m excited to go anywhere and everywhere at this point.
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