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Chris Burnett: Odd Future graphics

Work / Graphic Design

Odd Future designer Chris Burnett on his nuts work for the hip-hop collective

“Designing for Odd Future was a little bit like working for a bunch of slightly familiar homies, who have ridiculously awesome ideas for apparel and a lot more money than you,” says Chris Burnett, a Portland, Oregon-based designer who got in touch recently to show off his rather awesome site.

He hadn’t initially mentioned his connections to Odd Future. Scrolling through his site we were faced with reams of brilliant, and rather nuts work, and one image particularly caught my eye – a lurid pink, drippy donut that felt very familiar. Not because I’m a super-cool Odd Future superfan, but because my far more super-cool little brother has socks bearing said pastries.

For the uninitiated, Odd Future are an LA-based hip-hop collective, led by the very smart, very outspoken Twitter loudmouth Tyler, The Creator (here’s his endlessly entertaining Twitter feed. You’re welcome). Odd Future is the shortened version of the group’s full name – the snappy little moniker Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, or OFWGKTA, or OFWGK†Δ.

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Chris Burnett: Unicorn

Since Odd Future formed in 2007, their graphics have been an integral part of their aesthetic, from record sleeves, to apparel, to their very cool website, they’re consistently clever, weird, and very, very distinctive. Initially Tyler created the imagery himself, and indeed, designed the original donut. However, Tyler has since handed over the design duties, as he explained on Twitter:

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Tyler, The Creator tweets about his designs (sourced by Henry Coombes)

As such, we probed Chris more about working with Odd Future alongside art director Aaron Martinez at the LA design agency responsible for creating the group’s apparel, maintaining their website and online store and creating event graphics for shows, events and pop-up shops.

“The members of OF would come in and pitch us ideas for graphics, often turning into a hang out session with them,” Chris explains. “Some of the ideas were so ludicrous (like a dolphin smoking on the top of the Empire State Building), but those often turned out to be my favourite ones. We would jokingly recall what they gave us and do our best to try and visualise their imaginations, no matter how crazy. It was like a melting pot of craziness, some of the ideas were theirs, and some we would come up with on our own to show them.” 

Chris very kindly ended up sending us some wonderful insights into each of the designs, which you can read below.

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Chris Burnett: Drippy Donut T-Shirt

Drippy Donut T-Shirt

I’ve always loved simple illustrations with bold black outlines. My brother was always doing them when I was younger and the clothing line Icecream makes great use of them still. So knowing that Tyler and I were both big fans of the Icecream brand, I wanted to do a melting donut graphic in the simple bold style that we both seemed to like. I never found out what he actually thought of the shirt.

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Chris Burnett: Empire Dolphin T-Shirt

Empire Dolphin T-Shirt

Jasper Dolphin [one of the members of Odd Future] came in and had an idea to recreate a classic King Kong scene for a T-shirt, but with a giant dolphin on the Empire State Building instead of the giant gorilla. I jumped at the idea and created this entire image from scratch, finding lots of separate pieces and fitting them together. There’s definitely a Free Willy parody graphic somewhere too…

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Chris Burnett: Golfwang x Hello Kitty Collection

Golfwang x Hello Kitty Collection

The Golfwang x Hello Kitty collection would have been my ultimate dream project. Before I knew of its fate, I feverishly designed an entire collection in about two or three days, featuring Tyler’s original Shark Cat graphic and my own version of the Hello Kitty character. We were proposing shirts, wovens, socks, hoodies and accessories…But let’s just say, some Sanrio execs weren’t too fond of sharing in Odd Future’s cultural image after they did some further research.

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Chris Burnett: High Galaxy

Domo High Galaxy T-Shirt

I often liked how the graphics physically appeared on the shirts, more than on screen. This image is just a close-up photo of the actual graphic on the tee. There was such a nice texture to the printing techniques that made my multi-coloured illustrations come to life and feel even more tangible. Getting boxes of samples was like early Christmas. Not to mention seeing fans around the city wearing graphics that we all worked to bring to life was pretty fulfilling.

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Chris Burnett: Tick Toke

Tick Toke Woven Shirt

This is one of the very first things I worked on as an official full-time employee, and the first rendition was awful. It was supposed to be an all-over pattern with different clocks all set to 4:20. But when I finished the first time around, it was really childish with goofy smoke clouds and some toy watches. My boss wasn’t really into it, and told me to make everything all fancy and gold, “like Rolexes and shit.” It was a good call.