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- UPPERCASE Magazine
ANDY VAN SOLKEMA
Hello, I am art director/founder of Visualhero Design, an award-winning design service for clients large and small. I graduated from Grand Valley State University with a BFA with an emphasis in Graphic Design. After a number of design and art direction jobs, and a little nudge from my beautiful wife I started Visualhero Design. I take an honest almost blue collar approach to everything i do, work hard, be honest, an live life. I love the rush creating gives me, especially when I spark a wonderful solution. But If there’s one thing yours truly appreciates more than the rush of a great idea, it’s the art of being able to harness that energy. To channel it in ways that evoke emotion and fuel thought while giving reasoning and equity to a brand or project.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I have always created, when I was 10 I concepted an entire fictitious BaseBall league, uniforms, logos, schedule and all. My Brother and I then played out the entire season in our front yard. And as long as I can remember I would have random bursts of inspiration that would lead to me sketching and creating. In hIgh school, I was formally introduced to design, and fortunate to have Graphic Design class which is how I jump into college. I grabbed on and I never looked back. Numerous people in my life recognized my need to create, design, draw and think—they are the individuals who influenced me and gave me the drive to pursue this dream of mine.
Who or what inspires you?
Obviously other artist inspire me, flipping thru design magazines and annuals, or walking thru an art or photo gallery, it all gets my wheels turning. Getting out and viewing is a great way for me to get inspired, primarily outdoor settings, urban, or rural, I see nature settings as a pondering place to wonder and Urban and rural settings as society's canvas.
But more importantly than other artist or nature is people. People in general and how they interact and contribute to this major dance of the world. Musicians, movie makers, engineers, cooks, maple syrup producers (hi dad), anything that takes initiative and creativity to make something happen. I would like to have someone look at my work some day and ponder, wonder and be inspired as I am with everything.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
College gave me a boost, taught me to think critically, analyze, defend, and challenge. I then took what college gave me and watched, learned and am continually learning more. Challenging myself is an intricate part of growth as a person and designer.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
Vaguely stated I recognize what I see great and push it. Whether it is corporate, non corporate, or personal, it all works on a different level, and recognizing what level your project requires is the first step, being able to push it into something new, smart, and wonderful is the next. I also allow myself to refresh. Sometimes doing nothing that has anything to do with your project is a great way to work out the kinks and get excited about it again.
What are some of your current projects?
Some of my current projects require a level of privacy, so I will outline them in a basic manner giving you the gist of what I am working on.
* I am branding an athletic product to assist athletes in training, which includes: identity, print marketing and website.
* I am creating a new identity for a toy company and consulting on the packaging of the recreational toy product.
* I am also working on a number of Identities and web/ interface designs for small to midsize companies as needed that are part of the important group of work coming across my desk daily.
* I am also excited to be included in a project to create a number of online animated tutorials for design students for a local College Courses.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
An interactive marketing piece I did for the Steelcase 2005 Neocon Show and Dealer Showrooms turned out great. I really feel like the image and essence of what was being said and captured in this piece, and it was very well received by Steelcase.
Also Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course website that I designed and art directed (while employed at FM) captured the essence of the course. It was very successfully for the target audience.
And thirdly many of the identities I have done because I enjoy doing them so much. But specifically a recent identity for Soccerloft. The foreground and background play well and the progressive shapes and text really establish this mark.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I have yet to jump into television, motion graphics such as After Effects. They are inspiring and fascinating, and would love to learn more as I have time, for now the closest thing I have is Flash. I also really enjoy photography and neglect playing with it due to time (poor excuse.) I would also like to dabble with screen printing personal art.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Be open. Understand that this is a subjective field and that everyone does and will have an opinion. Learn from everyone, but if you have something you really believe in try it. If it doesn't work or is not sold, oh well— next time it may, and that feel is twice as sweet. Also open those eyes and take it all in, everything was created by someone.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
Tough one—along with the obvious, visually appealing, smart design, intuitive in nature. Success is based upon audience, does it work for who its for, is it setting them apart? Is it doing so in a timeless manor or will it have to be totally re-thunk in 1 year, rather than refined or revised. Is the design or concept inspiring for the times? Is it intuitive? The right combination creates success. Finding that combination is the tough job we have.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Personal work. Sometimes its sketching, sometimes its designing, other-times its cutting my grass differently or building something. Keep creating, doing, thinking, no matter what it is.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Amazing Race... because it looks fun. My Name is Earl and The Office, I love the eccentric characters and stories and I like to laugh. I also love Miami Ink on TLC, great to see creativity at use by other artists.
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