Continuing our year of amazing artists, we are so very excited to bring you our interview with designer and visionary Ty Mattson!
The man behind (and contributing) the magic of Mattel, Maroon5, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, Discovery Channel, the brilliant LOST and Dexter prints, and so much more is here to answer questions about getting started in the design world, his influences and inspirations and so much more.
So jump on in! We’ve got the exclusive interview, video and a great SHOP opportunity!
Junkyard Arts: Ok! Let’s just jump right into it, shall we? Did you go to school specifically for graphic design?
Ty Mattson: I went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and was in the school of Architecture and Design.
JYA: Interesting. Can you tell me a little about your creative process as it relates to creating an identity for a product/business you’ve been hired to work on?
TM: The first thing is really listening to a client and understanding what the product/business is about. Sometimes I get a creative brief that is very specific and clear. Other times I need to collaborate with the client in an initial Positioning engagement where we work together to define a verbal articulation of the desired perception. The more we can dial this down to the essential qualities of the brand, the better. From there I do a lot of sketching. Quick, rough ideas …sometimes more refined studies. I will usually start, and leave it and come back to it later having been thinking about it in the background for a few days. During that time, most everything I see goes through the filter of “how does this pertain to my project”. Most things don’t. But somethings things do. Unexpected connections that can inspire or influence the design or spark an idea. This is something I do intuitively. I’ve never really thought about it, but it is a very important part of the process. Then I will go back to sketching. Again, these are really rough. More visual notes to myself than finished ideas. Once I have enough concepts that I feel have potential, I will go to the computer and execute and explore various iterations.
JYA: Do you think brand development is a natural extension of graphic design? or was it a deliberate decision on your part to bring the two together?
TM: I think the two are intrinsically connected. Brand Development is the big picture. Any touchpoint that someone has with an entity is an interaction that reflects on company and has the potential to communicate the values of the brand. Graphic design plays a role in Brand Design as far as it typically relates to the spectrum of visual expressions of the brand. So I would say that graphic design is one part of overall brand design.
JYA: Have you had a difficult time working with certain clients, in that, the client has a specific vision but you have a very different one?
TM: I hear this a lot, the tension between a Designer and the Client.
JYA: Ha, yes. It seems to be the biggest issue I hear from graphic designers – having very specific wants from a client, but the reality of that would mean either poor communication of the product or simply bad design…
TM: I think it usually a result of a lack of communication and/or talent. Or when the client is not actually a decision maker. Luckily at this point I really have some great clients that I love working with. Like any relationship, it builds over time. There is trust, good communication and mutual respect. And it’s a good match. There is chemistry. Which is important. I really appreciate my clients and they appreciate me. And they really value Design.
JYA: Have you ever had a brilliant idea that you brought to a client – and they absolutely hated it?
TM: Of course!
JYA: Particularly with the LOST and Dexter prints, there is such a sharpness to the images, it reminds me a bit of Russian propaganda posters – El Lissitzky and the Russian avant garde. Am I totally projecting my personal tastes or has this style of design influenced your work?
TM: I studied Russian posters. I am not sure how much they inspire my work consciously. I am very inspired by Saul Bass and the graphic designers and illustrators from the mid-century mark and the 60s. What I love about Bass is that we was very much an illustrator as well as a corporate identity designer. And his work had a certain playful/iconic quality that I have always admired. There are plenty of others: Mark Kistler. Paul Rand. Walt Disney. Tim Burton. Terry Gilliam. Charles and Ray Eames. Herbert Matter. Jim Hensen. Dr. Seuss. Norton Juster. Jules Feiffer. DC Comics. George Lucas. Peter Gabriel. U2. Edward Gorey. Charles Spencer Anderson. Paul Howalt. Jason Schulte. Allan Peters.
JYA: That’s quite the eclectic list. Adding on to that, much of your work has a familiar feel – it manages to work with your clients but also seems to carry a familiar ‘Ty Mattson’ feel – how have you managed to balance ensuring that your work has this common thread – your own brand – while also giving the client a product design that is uniquely their own?
TM: Well, to be fair, you havent seen everything I’ve designed…or maybe you have and you haven’t noticed!
JYA: Well, give me some credit here. I did some research on you! I suppose specifically with the LOST and Dexter prints, Mythbusters, Coca-Cola – sharp lines with a bit of whimsy, a bit of a 60’s Mod feel to much of the work, lots of silhouettes…
TM: Ha, I do have a certain sensibilities that find their way into my work. But I think that it is important to be fluent in multiple visual languages…so that you are developing and delivering unique visual solutions to clients.
JYA: You said that you have done a lot of work just out of personal initiative. Are you always creating something in the hopes of catching the eye of the right person? Do you see this as a viable option for other designers?
TM: We could talk about this for a long time. But I will be brief. The reality is, technology has changed the playing field. Now everyone can see anything by anyone. Before this digital age, you had a very little chance of getting your work seen by the right people. There was hierarchy and structure. Now you can put your work out there and it can be seen and shared by a countless audience. So it comes back to initiative. What would you make if you knew that it would be seen by who you wanted it to?
JYA: Brilliant. Ok, so finally, what is some of the best advice you ever received that you can pass on to our readers?
TM: Ha. Well…its a good question…but I don’t have a good answer for it! The reality is, I haven’t had a lot of professional mentors….so if I’m thinking back…Ive learned so much from a lot of different people…but there is not that one stand out, framed quote that some one gave to me personally.
I do however, have a favorite quote (although it was not given to me directly) “Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality overcomes everything.”George Lois
JYA: I can live by that.
The Same (sorta) Questions We Always Ask!
Favorite place to travel?
Hands down NYC, but I love Napa and N. California as well.
Favorite music you listen to while creating?
All kinds. <– that’s kind of cheating, but I will let it slide
Favorite work of art from another artist?
Too many to specify. <– definitely cheating
Materials you most often use?
pen, sketchbook, apple macbook pro, adobe illustrator, photoshop, indesign