Pop culture powerhouse Bryan Rivera's 2018 in graphic design


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New Yorker Bryan Rivera has had another huge year. A true pop culture powerhouse, his work has adorned some of 2018’s biggest records, with everyone from Post Malone to Nao being given a visual re-rub by one of the most in-demand designers working today.

Earlier this year, Bryan collaborated with photography legend Nick Knight on the title design for Kali Uchis’ debut album Isolation. Having designed the singer’s breakout cover single for Tyrant, Bryan returned to work with Kali for the release of her highly anticipated album released in the Spring. Bryan’s use of tightly kerned script exaggerates the letter “t” to resemble a crucifix, which in turn plays with the juxtaposition between the iconography of purity – seen through the title design – and Kali’s sultry portrait that exudes a cool nonchalance.

When we last spoke to Bryan in January, the designer discussed his early love for graffiti and an interest in “punk flyers as well as a lot of photography”. However the most influential design trait that has infiltrated Bryan’s work is the focus on imperfection. The designer “specifically finds work that has mistakes and a rawness that makes them ‘feel real’”. Mark making, aged paper creases and the scuffs accumulated over time are purposely kept in Bryan’s designs as an extension of the wabi-sabi school of thought: a traditional Japanese philosophy that appreciates the beauty of impermanence.

In the interview below, Bryan reflects on the last year with It’s Nice That, discussing the highs and lows of 2018, and the important things in life.

It’s Nice That: What was your personal creative highlight of the year?

Bryan Rivera: Post Malone’s B&B album. The Travis Brothers, Dario Alva and I spent so much time working on the roll out, once the album actually came out it was extremely satisfying to see people’s reactions. I think the artworks are very special and unique to the hip hop genre. This project also reminds me why I love working with my friends.

INT: What got you through difficult days in 2018?

BR: Taking extended breaks definitely got me through it. It’s easy to get caught up in work. Stepping away and focusing on other hobbies is a good way to reset.

INT: How do you go about defining a successful creative year?

BR: I think it’s up to each individual person to define their own success. If you set goals and achieved them, I think that’s a success.

INT: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in 2018?

BR: Taking care of your mental and physical health might be the most important part of design.

How does the music inform your design work when you’re working on an album artwork?

BR: If the album is provided, I listen to it. If it’s not, I find music similar to the artist and try to build the world in my head.

INT: What are your views on the current trends within graphic design from this year?

BR: I’m not concerned. There will always be trends and the best designers won’t ever be affected by them. I think as long as everyone is happy and having fun, there isn’t a real negative.

INT: How important is collaboration with the artist or public figure when you are designing work for them?

BR: It depends on the project. I love hearing artists’ ideas and feedback but most of the time, they end up micromanaging and it prevents good work from seeing its full potential.

How difficult is it to maintain a sense of creative autonomy when you work on high-calibre projects?

BR: I’m very selective with the projects I take on and I’ve been lucky to have clients that really trust me.

What do you see for yourself in the next few years?

BR: I see myself designing and working on personal projects. Creating work for my friends and people I care about on my own terms. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll be a pro gamer or end up in the NFL.

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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