"Invest in people."
Sometimes, breaking out from the norm and doing things differently is the best way to create something truly remarkable. Just ask John Andrew Spinnenweber -- his creative process is never the same.
The Huge Inc. art director sat down with us to share his favorite personal projects, why Cinema 4D should be on everyone's radar, and why we all needed to get into Viceland, stat.
DesignRush: What inspired you to become a designer?
John Andrew Spinnenweber: Skateboard culture. Complete disregard for design faux pas. Comedic one liners slapped on grungy imagery twisted up with a skewed perspective of something culturally relevant. Skateboard graphics are a big middle finger to the world of art, and it’s that transgressive attitude that got me into art direction. When I was a kid making my own designs, I didn't know the word for what I was doing, but I knew it was some form of artistic expression. Now, I understand that it was a rudimentary form of art direction.
Personal aside, I never imagined that the word “deck” (the part of the skateboard you stand on) that referenced the object that inspired me as a child would eventually reference the thing I’ve spent the rest of my life making. Decks for pitches. Decks for ideas. Decks for my ECD’s. Decks for the client. Decks filled with icy unicorn skateboard deck designs for Ice Breakers Mints.
DR: Take us through your creative process.
JS: Hmm, I’ve never done it the same way twice. There is no system. No steps. Sure there are tricks you develop over time. For a detailed list of those, I’d go grab the book, Hey Whipple Squeeze This.
My favorite space to play in right now is creating a spoof invention for a brand, then creating spoof advertising for the spoof invention. That’s my big middle finger to outdated traditional advertising. And it works. Someone who just did it was McDonald's with the Frork. It’s light. We all know it’s a joke but it’s entertaining and inventive. A fork that you put fries at the end of to scoop up your messy burger sauce. One could even say that’s genius, but it didn’t save the world. I like that kind of stuff.
DR: What are some projects of your own that you are particularly proud of?
JS: You are only as good as your last project, and the last one I worked on was “The Facts Machine” for the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Be proud of every project you conceive or you collaborate on. Every project deserves the best possible idea that you and your team can think up. Your work is a representation of you. Own it from start to finish. The best find a way to intertwine a bit of themselves into every project they touch. For all of the previous reasons, I am proud of my most recent work.
DR: What are a few of your favorite design tools?
JS: What, like the illustrator pen tool or the Wacom tablet? I’d have to say Cinema 4D, more specifically the world of 3D design. The stuff you can make with that program blows my mind. I’m currently into the process of making lo-fi 3D work. Like, the stuff that looks so bad it’s good; Oogachaka dancing baby kinda stuff.
DR: What designers or brands speak to you, and what projects of theirs are your favorites?
JS: Toiletpaper Magazine, Adult Swim’s weird page of games that changes names every time you re-click the tab on the website. Super Deluxe, anything the guys over at MediaMonks in LA are making. I visit Thrashermagazine.comreligiously. I am talking three times a day. Viceland. Viceland. Viceland. I find lots of new ideas by watching countless hours of anime. I also love the Instagram accounts @timandericworld and @timanderic.
I think that you can find a lot of inspiration in the toy aisle. Think about it. The toy aisle is pretty much the first contact little humans have with advertising. Actually, that might be a cell phone now. Hmm…
DR: You have the day off. What can we find you doing?
JS: It really depends on the weather. When the sun's out, most likely skating in a pool or building something with my hands. When it’s gray, I’m just sitting around thinking or wandering the streets of a new neighborhood without purpose, listening to passing conversations and feeling lonely. When it’s raining, I am probably shooting some artsy photos of a friend in the studio. When it’s the absolute perfect temperature, I am talking about that once a year perfectly, perfect day, I am riding to the beach on my motorcycle to go surf head high glass.
DR: Is there anything that helps you beat “designer’s block”?
JS: Fortunately, I work around tons of far more talented designers than myself and I can always reach out to the team for different eyes on something. Collaborate before the block comes into existence. Blocks are selfish. They happen to people that put too much pressure on themselves for the one solution. The solution to a creative challenge should always be made through a mutual discovery with your team. Everyone can’t get designer’s block at the same time. I think. Right?
DR: What motto motivates you in your work?
JS: Invest in people.
My father would always tell me I needed to invest in property. He is a smart, wealthy, kind and loving man. A good role model. But my mother and sister led by a different example. They invested in the quality of time spent with friends and family. Live life with transparency, honesty and invest in the people around you. It will take you to the end of the world and back. If work is a major part of your life and you apply this lesson, good ideas will seep into the work unconsciously and positively affect all of your projects. Good people make good work together.
DR: Any final thoughts, comments, or words of wisdom you’d like to share with someone in the industry?
JS: Listen to country music if you think you hate it. Go on a date with someone taller than you if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Suck down an oyster if you’ve never tried one. Decide to go out when you are laying in bed and are about to convince yourself to stay in because of... because. I think you see what I am getting at.
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