Designer John Christian Rose on how he turns mess, chaos and clutter into art
- Ayla Angelos
- 19 June 2019
“Oh my god, my process is a mess,” says New York-based artist and designer John Christian Rose. With a style that’s distinctively marked with bold colours, textures, “fucked-up type” and analogue elements, the way he gets to the end result is suffused with beautiful chaos. “I hate it when things get stale, so avoiding that at all costs is always my main goal,” John tells It’s Nice That. “I like it when things are fucked up. And that’s why I hate Illustrator – I like the effort I have to put in to clean up my mess.”
As a self-proclaimed hoarder, who has old iPhone images from middle school saved in the same folder as his invoice template, John’s process is an interesting and creative one. “I look at it in a good way because it keeps me on my toes,” he says. One day he could be collaging old files from mood boards he made in high school, and another he could be scanning in new hand-drawn type from his sketchbook – either way, his computer is his archive and his main point of reference.
John grew up in Dallas, Texas, and his parents “were all about business”. Having grown up with cerebral palsy, this affected his ability to be creative, whereby he couldn’t play instruments, draw, paint – “I just gave up on it for a long time when I was a kid,” he explains. Then when he moved to Austin and started school, that’s where his creative flair sparked alongside an obsession with his computer. “I got really into editing montages on YouTube. It was a really weird time in my life, but that gave me a place to let out my creativity. I didn’t have any real friends and the ones I did have thought the whole YouTube thing was weird.”
“I literally spent all my free time on the computer, I don’t know how I turned out the way I did,” he continues. However, by making, creating and collecting various things in the digital sphere, this positively moulded him into the designer he is today – he’s just completed an internship at Bráulio Amado’s BAD Studio and now works at Gander, a design studio in Dumbo. And when he’s making a poster, for example, he’ll simply go into his Dropbox and see what’s lying around to work with. For the Bateria Good Room poster, it came about “because Bráulio asked me to make something at the studio,” he says. “I didn’t have any ideas so I went digging in the archives and found some silkscreen tests I did in sophomore year. I just collaged some of those together and got the main shape for the poster through that.”
Another example is when he created the Ty Segall poster, which was derived from a Cinema 4D render of a Flight Club still – typically incorporating “stupid shit like that.” Although based primarily from new and found digital imagery, John’s work also takes cues from analogue processes. He explains how this blend came about from being overstimulated by my computer and digital culture, but also from a hunt for imperfection: “I’m not perfect, so the things I’m inspired by aren’t either.”
“That’s not to say that I don’t want things to be beautiful; I love it when design is beautiful. But beauty is subjective, perfect isn’t. Everyone finds beauty in different things, my interests just lie in clutter, energy, finesse and experimentation.”
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.