Having done work for a wide range of clients from Soundset Festival, Google, Bleacher Report, The Verge, to the art direction and animation for a tortilla segment for David Chang’s Ugly Delicious, Peter Steineck’s work often involves cheeky illustrations and eye-catching loops that display his mastery of motion design. It’s a medium he pursued under Joel Evey during his two-year stint at Urban Outfitters. “Someone recently said my portfolio is full of ‘nuggets of good stuff.’ I try to show everything at once,” the Minnesota-based creative tells It’s Nice That. It’s clear that he is in his element when working with these dynamic commercial projects, but it seems like Peter is not ready to settle down yet.
For instance, Peter’s more recent projects tend towards the abstract, honing in on a squiggly illustration style that was present in his earlier work. He tells us that he wants to create more physical objects, objects that people can enjoy for more than a fleeting scroll. The result of this is a series of ink drawings and also a woven throw blanket. The blanket, for instance, features similar freeform patterns and some symmetrical iterations of it on a red background. The figures depicted on the throw look almost like corals; organic yet structured, seemingly following formal rules that are invisible in the final product.
“Form is the focus. And type. I think even when I make cartoons, I use a baseline grid to see how things are read visually,” Peter notes. Another illustration, a liquid, shifting collection of black lumps on a red background has an effect similar to watching moving clouds. Upon a closer look, these lumps actually take the form of dancing humans made with the same set of rules: one head and four twisting, jazzy limbs.
This shift from the ephemeral consumption of digital work also means a shift in his creative process itself, not just in how his work is distributed. “I’m starting to think: how do I make physical objects that people would want to have and not just throw in a storage closet or on a bookshelf?” Peter says. “This is very different from how I normally think as a designer; creating attention-grabbing work that happens in a moment.” The question that follows, then, is how to stretch that moment. He lists some of his treasured collections – Cortney Cassidy’s anxiety watch, Bráulio Amado’s book, and a VHS copy of Surf Ninjas from his childhood that he had to stop watching because his copy is starting to fall apart.
Perhaps this has something to do with the origins of his creative journey, creating post signatures in the forums for the now-defunct G4TV. For the uninitiated, post signatures usually appear in the footer when a forum member makes a post as their personal signature, usually made by other members in the community who often compete to make these tags. In a way, it’s an early way of owning a piece of digital art that you get to enjoy every time you make a post.
A longer attention span on a piece of work also means a greater opportunity for constructive critique, something that Peter seems to value highly, especially in his own creative community in Minnesota. “All of those people who graduate with a degree in animation have their sights set on LA or NYC. People leave easily,” he says. “I want to give them a reason to stay for a few more years, or come back, or be jealous that they don’t live here,” he continues. Valuing experimentation as a source of growth, Peter gives some advice for these communities to provide this support: “Show up. Make time for each other.” From running projects like Hellavision Television to telling animation professionals that “we gotta play more,” Peter’s infectious creative appetite is something that other communities can learn from.