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Ty Mattson is the principal of Mattson Creative in Orange County, California. Specializing in identity development, Ty has created award-winning projects for local and national brands - including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Hasbro and Maroon5. His work has appeared in numerous design publications such as Print, HOW and Logo Lounge.

When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?

I'm not sure it was one moment in time, but probably more of a general movement. Since as early as I can remember I was drawing and creating visually. I studied fine art as much as I could in high school and started drawing line-art and type for T-Shirts (by hand!). I remember the first time i went to Kinko's and made glossy color copies of a party invitation and thinking it was really cool. In college I started to study design and really loved it. Book covers, corporate identity, packaging...I became aware that all of these things were designed by someone - that was probably the moment, if there was one. I remember looking through a Print Magazine Regional Design Annual at a friend's apartment. It blew me away! I poured over every page. That's what I wanted to do.

Who or what inspires you?

I think inspiration is one of the most important aspects of what I do. I have to be inspired in order to create anything good. Early on though, there were some very specific things. I was really impacted by combination of books and illustration, and later by music and packaging art. To me there was no distinction between the two. I remember reading "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster and being equally inspired by the book and the illustrations by Jules Feiffer (especially the map that is on the inside and back cover...Amazing!). I was also really into books by John Bellairs. All of his covers were illustrated by Edward Gorey. I actually would read any book that he illustrated the cover of. All my early drawings were influenced by him. There was also a film called "The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen" that was so imaginative and formative for me. Later, I remember getting "Achtung Baby" by U2 and spending hours looking at the booklet - designed by Steve Avril and photographed by Anton Corbijn. Now, there are lots of different types of inspiration for me - but I think the most powerful type is usually connected to the idea of "story".

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?

I have a degree in graphic design from the school of art and architecture at the University of Michigan. I learned an incredible amount as an intern for Perich and Partners Advertising in Ann Arbor, and then at my first job after college in a design agency in California.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?

Keeping fresh...well I'm always looking at the design publications and the work of my peers - guys like Paul Howalt (, Von Glitchka ( and Don Clark ( always blows me away!

What are some of your current projects?

I'm working on a website for a residential community south of Boston that is going to be a really innovative online experience. I'm doing some brand development for a developer called The Collective. They are building some progressive attached housing that is environmentally sustainable and they are really great to work with. There are a couple of logos in the next two weeks as well.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?

I think I am most proud of the work I did for a company called Simply Youth Ministry - because I had the opportunity to design everything. The name, logo, website, catalog, products, product packaging, trade show environment. When you get to control all of these touchpoints, it's really exciting.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

I'd love to do more photography.

Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?

Look at CommArts, and the Print Design Annual and LogoLounge. Work as an intern in an agency that you admire. Learn as much as you can, and do as many projects as you can. You can't really just decide to study design and be great - you need to be passionate about visual communication to begin with.

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?

It will inform, involve and inspire it's audience.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

Good question. I try to rest and refuel by getting away - traveling. But this is a pretty all-consuming career for me...we'll see.

Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer/illustrator I would have been a..."

Youth Pastor.

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?

Well, I'm addicted to "LOST" - my wife and I rented season 1 and went on a telebinge and watched the whole thing within 24 hours. Right now we're watching "Mad Men" on AMC and it is really amazing. The art direction is incredible. Last night we watched the MTV VMA's and it was awesome!! Hamish Hamilton is a genius.

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