When we came across graphic designer Austin Redman’s work we were struck by the recent grad’s ability to bring together a hotchpotch of typographic styles while retaining the outward impression of simplicity.
Austin’s work moves between book design, installation, identities, posters as well as less expected forms, an example being his collaboration with guitarist/vocalist JooJoo Ashworth which subverted the usual music/design process by making the album cover first and the music afterwards.
Having recently completed a spell as the Typographic Fellow at the HMCT (Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography) working alongside the Werkplaats Typografie during their 6-week design residency, we caught up with the graphic designer to learn more about his background.
First things first, tell us about your background: how did you get into graphic design?
I found out about graphic design through a sort of skepticism of the field but also through a bit of naiveté on my end. Really before I was a graphic designer I had nearly no idea what one was: the only design I was aware I was coming into contact with was logos. And I was aware of them because they have always made me really uncomfortable. In cases of larger corporations/institutions I was — and still am — distrusting of the space or dissonance between the visual representation of such entities through logos etc, and the actual ethic upheld by the company. Initially this was something that got me really interested in involving myself with graphic design… Mostly as a means of strengthening my own visual literacy so to leave me sort of immune from the effects of branding. On the flip side as I’ve worked through my own practice I’ve actually become really very interested in this inherent fiction which is so essential to graphic design.
As far as a timeline, I began studying design at a local community college near my hometown in California, and then transferred to SAIC in Chicago but moved back to LA after only a year to study at Art Center in Pasadena. At different times throughout my time studying I ran a discussion group at the school, worked an internship with Brian Roettinger and did production assistance with my good friend Ben Schwartz for Simon Johnston, who was also our mentor at the time. I’ve just recently graduated from the program this past December. Really glad to be done! It’s nice to have some time to myself.
What would you say defines your design style?
I can’t say exactly. But I think in this same thought about the space between representation and ethic I really try and recognize that the work I make really is just a story I’m making up. I just extend this notion as much as I can. So the premise or cognition of this fiction lets me sort of twist my practice into a lot of different shapes than it would if it were just purely rational or representational. For example I did a project my graduating term with a good friend of mine who is a musician, Joo Joo Ashworth, where I designed out all the necessary content for a band before any music was made. He took all the stuff I’d created and shaped a sound from it. It was this weird instance where for the time where there was nothing attached to the project but the image itself, no purpose for it existing, it was sort of empty, but it was putting ideas into Joo Joo which eventually led to seven full-length tracks. We then performed a show once the tracks had been worked out, and it was a total fiction! But it was real, and was effective in producing all the results expected from experiencing something real: emotions… I even got a drink sponsorship for it! It was really strange. Since this project I have been really interested in creating these types of purposeless images. I’ve started a blog with a few friends where we post them to, it’s been a really great space to test out some of the more ineffective ideas.
In contrast to this fiction I am also very interested in confronting the ethic. In the same term at school that I did the music project with Joo Joo, I also did a branding for the Animal Liberation Front. I’ve been vegan/vegetarian for a good portion of my life and have always been really suspicious of the industrial meat complex. Like if all this graphic design I’ve talked about so far is not so much real as representational, what is actually real? Well in the corporate sphere, It’s stuff like what’s happening in these factories. It’s a really sad by-product of capitalism. Yet we aren’t really faced with this reality at all. The A.L.F. has always been one of these entities that I feel has a real significant role in the vegan movement, it produces content that gives people resources to become educated and to find a way to act on it once you realise nobody else is gonna do it for you — not that I do any of these things myself. So also I’m really interested in using design as a means of calling out these types of behind the scenes behaviours and giving as strong a representation – if not stronger to the opposition of it.
Are there any key inspirations beneath your work that we should know about?
Yeah, I think the motivation has always been about refining and expanding my ability to articulate both visually and verbally. Finding out that I’ve been thinking about something from a really specific POV and then being exposed to other ways of looking at that same situation. That feeling when a bit of your world caves in on you, but from that feeling is just a lot of growth. This type of identity or thought expansion keeps me really engaged. Outwardly a lot of my inspiration comes from the mentors I have had over the years. Both in graphic design and outside of it. My grandma put me in touch with her friend Bill who is this guy who meditates for hours each day, hosts workshops on topics surrounding consciousness, health and science and is also a really proactive vegan. All of this and he is nearly 80 years old! This sort of energy and interest in expanding is really a huge source of inspiration for me. Also friends, UFOs and family, definitely.
What’s been exciting you lately?
Aromatherapy socks, smoothies, Joe Rogans podcasts, Marfa Texas, ginkgo biloba, denim… I’m currently reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson and I find myself returning pretty frequently to an issue of F.R. David I recently purchased. Getting to read the books I’d put off during undergrad has been my main source of excitement probably. I’m also really excited to see so many of my friends coming out of school and already doing some really big things. It’s a huge motivation. Since the project with Joo Joo I’ve been trying to get myself to make music. It’s a real struggle — so far I know how to play one song on guitar and it’s made up of like two chords.
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