Von has worked in the communication arts industry for 19 years as a Senior Designer, Art Director and Creative Director. His fresh, exuberant graphics—for both in-house art departments and medium to large creative agencies—have won numerous design and illustration awards along the way.
In 2002, Von started Glitschka Studios, a multi-disciplinary creative agency with clients nationwide, including General Motors, Microsoft, Upper Deck, Hasbro and IBM. Characterized by a diverse range of styles and humor, Glitschka Studios strives to create visually inspiring, concept-driven design in a world often void of alluring and well-executed graphics. The studio has found its niche as a creative outsource for larger ad agencies and design firms. Logo/brand development and illustration work are two mainstays of the firm’s commissions.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
My first hint that I might want to pursue this as a career came my freshman year in high school. I took a 'graphic communications' class which taught us how to do layout and paste-up and then carry it through to pre-press and burning plates and then run an off-set press to print what we did.
The first assignment was to design a business card. The teacher told us upfront "These cannot be real business cards. They have to be fake." So I decided to do business cards for a fictitious trucking company and called it 'Bull Dog Trucking' and used a cool bull dog image I found in a ad cut book provided to us. I designed a logo using the bull dog and created the mechanical. Then I proceeded to go through the whole process and then turned in the finished cards to the teacher. He looked at card and said "Hey plumber come here!" I said "Why do you call people plumbers?" Not looking at me and still scrutinizing the business card he said "Because plumbers make more money then I do." I didn't say anything because I still didn't understand how that applied to me? He then looked at me as his brow furrowed and said pointing the card at me "You sure this isn't for a real business?" I shook my head "No. I just made it up." He starred at me for a few seconds not saying anything and then turned around and walked to his desk. He picked up his phone and looking at the business card punched in the phone number I had on it. Since I made up the phone number it gave him a pre-recorded message and he hung up the phone turned around and said smiling "Good work plumber. This looks like the real thing." After that he pretty much let me do anything I wanted so I got to create and print my own little books and flyers etc. it was a lot of fun.
During my senior year my friend Tom Harn and I looked into going to film school but since we had no idea if or where a school was we asked the career counselor to look into it for us. Being that it was before the dawn of the internet she came back with "I couldn't find anything?". So we both kind of let it fade. About a month later a lady from Burnley School of Art (Now Art Institute of Seattle) came in and showed us a portfolio of student work and told us about the college. I knew right then I'd rather go there then do math at a regular four year college.
So essentially my fear and loathing for all things math related inspired me to pursue what I do now. ;-)
Who or what inspires you?
I'd have to break it down into three parts.
Part 1 > Sources of inspiration that Influenced me growing up.
- My mom. She is very creative. Has been doing the 'Martha Stewart' thing way before Martha and she has a better sense of humor.
- Norman Rockwell: My parents owned a book of his art and I'd sit on the couch and just flip through it studying the details and trying to understand what was going on. The depth and richness of his characters transfixed me and many of my doodles at that age were little scenes that I tried to tell the same type of story with.
- Jim Flora: My parents owned a bunch of LP's of big bands with his artwork on it and I'd just stare at it all the time. Took me about 30yrs to figure out how much this man influenced me.
- MAD Magazine: My parents viewed this magazine as 'unhealthy' to a developing mind. I guess that is why I loved it so much! LOL I'd ride my bike down to the drug store and buy a copy ride to my friends house and read it. I'd then stuff it down my pants and take it home and stash it safely under my bed. Sergio Aragones, Don Martin and the like artwork would captivate me for hours. Of course the humor was good too.
- Anything Pop Culture at the time you could find on TV: Sid & Marty Krofft shows, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Battle Star Galactica, Batman, Johnny Soko, Kung Fu Matinee, Cartoons, Japanese Cartoons and Monster movies.
- I was always exploring too as a kid. I'd take a box, tin foil, markers, tape, an old motor from a toy I took apart and would spend the day creating a robot. That is it looked like a robot. Or me and my buddy Tom Harn would write scripts and do movies with his dads 8mm film camera. That took up a lot of my childhood.
- I first touched an Apple computer my freshman year in high school. An Apple II. I taught myself basic and eventually got to the point where I was programming my own software to catalog my baseball cards and creating a path adventure game. Even time I see a file and it's size is 64k I laugh because it reminds me of the Commadore 64 computer from those days.
Part 2 > Sources of inspiration that influenced me professionally.
- Neville Brody: I remember when I first saw his work thinking "You can tell it's his work." I liked that. It told me his work had a voice that reflected himself even though it was successful for his client too. He was part of my own design revolution in that regard.
- Fred Griffin: He was my eccentric graphic design teacher in school. At the time I didn't appreciate his '8 Basic Design Principles' he methodically taught us. But over the course of 19 years they've proven themselves to be fundamentally true. Me and another former student are working on getting a web site published with this methodology online as a resource for other designers.
- William Morris: I came across a tapestry book of his work early in my career and it fascinated me. Here he had created these complex textile patterns and motifs all by hand without any digital precision tools but they were not only beautiful but impeccable from a precision stand point. That told me that a high level of skill and craft for your work should be a must. And with the help of computers now there is no excuse for sloppy work either conceptually or execution wise.
- Apple Macintosh: I learned design the 'old school' way and I am really glad I did. The first 4.5 years of my career were non-computer and frankly I didn't take it too seriously. When the MAC came on the scene strong and due to my previous exposure to Apple II I naturally jumped on it and have never looked back. I guess it facilitated and helped unleash creative opportunities that I otherwise never was able to pull off. I love hi-tech stuff and this mixed two passions for me 'Creative' and 'Tech'. Hence why I consider myself a true 'Mac Geek'.
Part 3 > Sources of inspiration that currently influence me
- I try to live a 'Creative' life style. I am always exploring. Always seeking. Always capturing passing thoughts and recording them. Saving all my doodles. I have fun with this with my two daughters too. Just the other day we had a conversation about the branches of a tree by our house and how they look like a monkey sitting up in it. I try to remain curious about topics and things I don't know. I am always trying to learn new things and that alone inspires me on new paths etc.
- Other designers work who I consider friends inspire me. My close friend Paul Howalt (www.howaltdesign.com) blows my mind with his work. I've become friends with a designer in Portland named Jeff Pollard (www.jpd-logos.com) and his work intimidates me and I like that. Intimidation is a passing moment for me and transforms into inspiration which motivates me to kick it into gear and expect a higher level of work from myself. Another is Keith Bowman (www.designbureauofamerika.com) I've enjoyed getting to know him more and not only is his work incredible his humor cracks me up as well.
- Randy Hill. A while back my friend Tyson who is my CPA told me about this designer who moved to Salem from Texas and said I'd probably enjoy talking to him. So I contacted Randy and we met for coffee and man what a cool guy. I now feel like I have another designer friend locally I can just talk shop with and hang out with and he'll understand the whole creative thing. He's also a gifted musician so I am hoping he'll inspire me musically too.
- Doodles. Some may not see how that could inspire but it's like 'Brain Dumping' for me. I literally save all mine and when I go back through months or years later it's like meeting an old friend you forgot about. I find myself thinking "I remember you! You were fun." Doing this has inspired my latest side projects with http://www.doodlearchive.com and http://www.keyboard-characters.com.
- Creation. I read several scientific journals and I am fascinated with the level of design that can be found in known systems. it's cool when I see designers who observer nature and then mimic that design to create a new product or design of their own. I remember seeing the intricate patterns and wonderful colors on a tropical fish and thinking "Thats part of Gods portfolio."
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
Growing up I had no formal education for art. I've always drawn since I was really young though. I attended Seattle Art Institute from 1984-86.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
Always learning. Always exploring. Always trying new approaches. Always feeding my mind. I get bored easy and staying focused is a big challenge for me every day so the way I help myself do it is to approach my work without any preset assumptions as to how I will pull it offgraphically or otherwise. I let the creative process dictate my approach.
I also pursue a very diverse amount of projects. One day can be a pure illustration project, the next could be web development work, then icon designs, and then a logo and identity design. I like that, it keeps it fun and interesting.
What are some of your current projects?
September and October are always my slowest times in terms of work flow. So right now I am working on my new illustration web site. I pulled my old site down over two years ago so this one is way over due. My goal is for an early November launch. I am about 60% done right now. It uses a new domain name www.vonster.com.
An ongoing project now is creating a set of 60 icons for Edison Power in California. When I work on a set this big I usually try to collaborate with another designer to pull it off in a more timely manner and on this project I am teaming up with another icon artist out of England.
I am also working on local telecom companies branding for another agency here in Oregon.
This coming week I'll be starting a interactive flash component for a company in Seattle for use on their web site.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
Right now I'd have to say the 'Bad Design Kills' web site. The whole thing started as something just for fun and it's kind of taken on a life of it's own over the past six months. I cannot take full credit for it's success however. The contributors to the site are the ones who should get the most recognition for it's success. It's their artwork that visitors are downloading and enjoying and that has led to it's popularity. The image you have posted with this interview was created by my friend Brian Brasher. Arguable the best icon artist in our industry in my opinion. it's work like this that makes the BDK site a success. This one I'll be uploading soon to the site so the readers of this blog get a sneak peek.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
Film: I'd love to create a documentary idea I have. I just need to make the time.
Childrens Book: Hard to get your foot in the door but I'll pursue this too at some point.
Music: I am trying to learn the guitar. Hard when you have fingers like a hobbit.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Anyone can learn software. Train your brain to become good solid conceptual thinkers. When working on ideas nail it down on paper through a methodology of sketches and refinement before you jump into the digital realm. Become a good doodler. You don't have to be a full-blown illustrator but teach yourself to be a good sketcher so you can work out ideas and visuals easier and more effectively.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
Good design without a concept is nothing but decoration. And a concept without good design is mute.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Coffee. Lots of coffee. Seriously though, I always make time for my own pet projects. So during the day I may be working on a clients project but in the back of my mind I am thinking about my project I can pick up with where I left off. I usually move from one pet project to the next and right now have several in the fire at the same time.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
My iPod has really limited my TV viewing. My top five shows would be:
- Myth Busters
- American Chopper (Mikey cracks me up)
- History Channel (Anything WWII)
- Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
- Everybody Loves Ramond (Reruns)
- Amerikan Made Prints
- Art Buyer Magazine
- Art Order
- Association of Illustrators
- Cartoon Art Museum
- Cartoon Brew
- Design is Kinky
- Drawn and Quarterly
- Fantagraphics Books
- HOW Design
- Hi-Fructose Magazine
- ICON The Illustration Conference
- Illustration Class
- Illustration Friday
- Illustrators Illustrated
- Juxtapoz Magazine
- Lines and Colors
- National Cartoonists Society
- Plan 59
- Project: Rooftop
- Society of Illustrators
- Sugar Frosted Goodness
- Taught by a Pro
- Today's Inspiration
- UPPERCASE Magazine
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