“There are certainly many illustrators and designers I admire and it’s important to stay current on design trends but I find things unrelated to design and illustration much more interesting and inspiring. Knowing what is going on in culture, current events and technology is just as important as keeping up with design aesthetics.”
When and where were you born?
Midwest United States
Where do you currently live and work?
Saint Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota
How long have you been practicing your craft?
19 years but it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. Time files and I still have much to learn.
What inspires you?
Inspiration is everywhere and oddly enough, I rarely it find by looking at design or at least design exclusively. There are certainly many illustrators and designers I admire and it’s important to stay current on design trends but I find things unrelated to design and illustration much more interesting and inspiring. Knowing what is going on in culture, current events and technology is just as important as keeping up with design aesthetics.
Listening to music is a big part of my creative process and I admire and am inspired by musicians who continually push themselves to grow and evolve as artists. Reading good books (a mix of history, philosophy, theology, and classic literature, etc) is great for inspiration, since reading is a way to feed your mind and it helps you be a better designer. Michael Beirut once said, “Read more. Design is about making things readable so one must be very good at reading.”
Paying attention to the small and seemingly mundane experiences of life is very important because you never know what will spark an idea – an overheard conversation, found street art, a casual observation of human behavior, a song lyric, a child’s drawings, even litter in a parking lot can be inspiring. It’s good to step away from screens and observe the things around you, think, sketch, and/or use your hands to create something. Making things with your hands is an inherently human activity and is something that gets lost the more we rely on technology.
Finally, working with smart and talented people every day is a great way to stay motivated and inspired.
How would you describe your style
Everything starts with understanding the goal of the client/project, who the audience is, and how best to communicate to them. An idea must be informed by these things and be the core of the work. Creative people typically think of limits as constricting but I’ve found them to be the opposite. Boundaries define a direction or show where to push against those constraints. For this reason, I’ve found that I’m most free to create within a set of boundaries vs having a “sky is the limit” approach. My process involves quite a bit of reading and writing when concepting. From there I’ll sketch rough ideas so I have a plan before jumping on to the computer. Sometimes in the heat of a deadline I’m tempted to skip this last step but have found I always end up needing to go back and sketch in order to get to a good solution. Sketching is extremely useful not only for figuring out what to do but also for figuring out what not to do. I gravitate to things that clearly and effectively communicate the idea in an interesting way. Humor and wit are great, when appropriate. For design work I try not to have a design “style” (even though it’s somewhat inevitable), since the style of the work should be appropriate for the project/client. For illustration work my style is more consistent, though I’m always looking for ways to make it better.
What has been a defining moment in your career?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great clients throughout the years but hopefully I haven’t experienced that “defining moment” yet. I hope my career to be a continuous work in progress – one that constantly changes and adapts to avoid becoming stagnant. What I’m doing today is different from what I was doing 5 years ago and hopefully in 5 years I will have evolved again. It’s important to never be satisfied and to always keep learning, growing and improving. Being well-rounded is the goal, I don’t want to do the same thing every day, year after year.
What are your future plans?
There are many new things I’d like to make and explore. One of the biggest challenges right now is to make time for these things to happen. The short answer is to keep building on what I’m currently doing while looking for and/or creating opportunities to learn, grow, improve and push the work into new areas. I want to keep making things regardless of what the medium might be.
Can you leave us with some parting words or advice?
At the beginning of my career, I’d hold on tightly to every project as if it were the last project I’d ever work on and if things didn’t go exactly the way I hoped I’d get frustrated. But over time I’ve realized that design and illustration are forgiving mediums. On one hand, you’re only as good as your last project, which is a source of constant tension, but on the other hand, there will always be another opportunity to work on something new (including self initiated projects) and that should be used to push yourself and do your best work. There are always concessions in every client project and embracing that reality and attempting to make the best work possible in spite of any limitations that present themselves is an important mindset to adopt. Always look for opportunities to learn. Sometimes learning how to make something is more important than the actual thing you are making. Finally, the line from Bob Dylan, “Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain” always reminds me that good work takes an incredible amount of hard work.
Where can people learn more about you and purchase your work?
All images copyright Brian Danaher.
Artist photo by Leslie Plesser (www.shuttersmack.com)
All rights reserved.