Shane Davis has a finger in many pies. An illustrator, designer and creative director, he’s also the founder of music and social space Public Records, based in New York, and hospitality consultancy Whitebox Collective. It’s a broad portfolio to say that least and one that beckons with style, but how Shane got to where is today wasn’t much of a simple journey.
“I drew obsessively as a kid,” Shane tells It’s Nice That. “It sort of defined me from a young age, which I think instilled a conflicted relationship with fine art and led me to study branding, then developing hospitality concepts.” In fact, it wasn’t until Public Records that he started to create public-facing work. “When we conceived Public Records as this DIY anti-brand, it didn’t feel right to hire an outside agency, so I started experimenting with the free jazz illustrative methodology that informs a lot of my current work and PR’s identity.”
Developed as a platform for providing “expression and experimentation”, Public Records is housed within 233 Butler Street, a historic building on the top of the Gowanus Canal. Here, the social space boasts a record bar with record collectors, alongside a food and beverage menu, a performance space with live music and vinyl leaning DJs, plus an all-day vegan cafe and magazine shop to match. “It’s really my outlet, as well as that of my partners in their respective disciplines – music, food and beverage – and many others in our community,” explains Shane. As for the identity, Shane and his team strived to elicit a “sense of levity” to break down the stereotypical pretensions that often come with music, and went forth with a poster program “that was non-derivative”. He adds: “The posters are meant to serve as expressive articulations as much as a vehicle to convey information.”
The collection of posters present an expressive illustrative style formed on the basis of distorted faces – an eye, the odd mouth here and there, simple line work and abstract colour blocking. “People have referred to the imagery as creatures but it’s never been my intention to personify in the conventional sense,” says Shane. “The lines, forms and colours are articulations of the rhythm and fluidity of the music; the eye (which is derived from the logo) represents the immaterial source through which the composition was created.” Consistent and punchy, this repetitive design element is a clever take the company’s identity.
When coining his plans and creating his work, Shane admits that he’s most productive while travelling on an airplane – “when I’m completely disconnected, immersed in music and locked into a field of thought and vision.” He makes sure to dedicate a substantial amount of time in order to produce multiple pieces in one sitting, as he finds that this is when you can witness the most interesting patterns in thinking that can then be applied in his work. Because of this, he has recently taken to the air more often than usual, “as we’re starting to explore projects in other cities.” Besides this, he spends the rest of his working day brainstorming new initiatives with the team and testing new products.
So what’s next for the multifaceted designer-cum-illustrator-cum-business entrepreneur? It’s simple: “I plan to explore the globe for more interesting buildings to activate through hospitality and music.”