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Work / Graphic Design

Designer Brodie Kaman on how creative outlets can help control mental illness and addiction

We’ve long admired the work of Australian graphic designer Brodie Kaman, with its DIY aesthetic and experimental, dogged visuals. Based in Los Angeles the last time spoke to him, the designer has since spent time in London, before recently settling in Berlin, and has begun to explore self-discovery and human individual suffering within his personal work, both as a coping mechanism and a creative outlet.

“I’ve been wanting to live [in Berlin] for a while now – a beautiful studio space and a room in a friend’s apartment simultaneously popped up, so I jumped at the opportunity,” he tells It’s Nice That. Born from a process of constant experimentation, Brodie has spent the last year working with musicians, fashion and record labels across everything from flyers and records to textile design and branding.

When it comes to his self-initiated projects, mental health and addiction have emerged as themes within his personal practice. Both have informed his work “from the moment I put pen to paper,” he describes, “but in more recent times, I have started to further expose myself. Mental illness and addiction run rampant in my life if left unchecked, they’re chronic conditions which have to be worked at on a daily basis; they’re never far away.”

Earlier this year, Brodie created Shocking Wreck for These Days in LA, which encapsulates a rocky moment in the designer’s life. “Low times can inform my best work,” he explains, “and I’m thankful for those times in retrospect.” Printed on Risograph, the zine utilises this notion, turning a “self-imposed isolation” into a series of poetic, visual elements running alongside Brodie’s writings. “Mental illness affects so many of us – within the creative universe and beyond – it can be debilitating and sometimes fatal if not addressed. By shining my own light on it, I hope to further open up the dialogue around such issues,” Brodie explains.

Although graphic design forms the majority of Brodie’s creative practice, he works across various mediums. “I have a lot of gratitude for self-expression,” he remarks, “without trying to sound like an asshole, poetry has been a great source of motivation for me when I’m hitting a wall – the written word is powerful!” The same applies to music, which the designer uses to “douse the spark” or redirect his energy whenever he’s feeling deflated. In this sense, Brodie’s creative outlets inform each other, creating a synergy between whatever techniques, processes, concepts or motifs he works within.

Despite having clear-cut ideas on what it is that helps keep him inspired, when it comes to his process, “I try to avoid a systematic approach,” he explains, “I wouldn’t say that there is a blueprint for my practice.” It’s this spontaneity which produces some of Brodie’s most exciting work, even on commercial projects. When producing the artwork for Promiseland’s 7”, he allowed the music itself to inform his outcome. “I was listening to the tracks super loud and messing around with all these different images and elements one night until the resulting graphic felt done,” he recalls.

Whether working on personal or commercial projects, design gives Brodie a reason to be “mentally, physically and spiritually fit,” he explains, concluding that “When I notice I’m vulnerable or foresee myself falling back into old patterns, creating gives me a reason to step back and regain composure.”

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