In it's short span of existence, BREW in Riverside's 5 Points District has turned out a series of thoughtful and carefully curated art openings, highlighting some of the rising art stars of the Jacksonville scene and providing a alternative to the well-worn bar exhibitions now de rigueur in this burgeoning nightclub district. Ethan Southworth sat down recently with Chad Landenberger, whose upcoming show, Graphically Speaking, is set to become the next in what we anticipate will be a longstanding string of hits for both the cafe and the artist. Join us after the jump for a closer look inside the mind and madness of Chad Landenberger.
If you have your finger on the pulse of independent art and business in Jacksonville, you have seen the work of Chad Landenberger. His designs have become the brand identities of multiple startups comprising the next generation of consumerism on the First Coast, from the breweries of Green Room and Intuition and the apiaries of Five Points Honey, to the showrooms of Industry West and Burro Bags. He has created work for clients in the film, music, apparel, and skateboard industries, both locally and nationally. You can spot his handiwork in national campaigns for Red Bull, Calvin Klein Golf, Vagrant Records, and Fleabass. A tireless creator, Landenberger has birthed the skateboard art show known as I’M BOARD (which has showcased hundreds of local and national artists), is the founder/designer of EyesWideAwake, and currently serves as the Art Director for One Spark.
Green Room (http://www.greenroombrewing.com) branding
Five Points Honey branding
Burro Bags (http://www.burrobags.com) branding
Q. How and when did you get started with graphic design?
A. I was always drawing stuff as a kid. My homework was usually covered in doodles. I’m a child of the 80s, so I grew up watching cartoons, playing Nintendo, and eventually getting into skateboarding, all of which really had an impact on what I was drawn to visually and what I wanted to do with my life. I really wanted to be a comic book illustrator, but never felt my work was on that level. So I thought about a career in fine arts. While in college, I decided to pursue a career in graphic design because it combines aspects of art and seemed like a career I could enjoy and flourish in. I graduated from UNF in 2006. Since then, I’ve worked at advertising agencies, in-house as well as freelancing, and I still work on personal art projects.
Q. Which software do you prefer to work with and why?
A. The Big Three - Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Most of my personal stuff is done in Illustrator, which is a lot of vector art. Most projects start with good ol’ paper and pencil sketches though.
Q. Where and what is your workspace like?
A. My house is my command center. Honestly though, I usually just start with sketches so I always have tons of sketchbooks lying around. Nowadays, I’ve fine-tuned my process, so when I get a sketch that is close enough to what I think will work, I just snap a photo with my phone and send it to myself. Then from there, I work the rest on a computer in either Illustrator or Photoshop in order to clean it up or add color.
Q. What is EyesWideAwake and what are you plans for it?
A. EyesWideAwake is my personal website where I showcase primarily my personal work, as well as some of my freelance work. It just came about when I needed a website, and it’s kind of hard to come up with a name that’s not already taken for a website. EyesWideAwake seemed to work pretty well and I think my style kind of lends to the moniker. My plan is to keep it updated as a portfolio site for my work.
Q. I know you’ve coordinated a show called I’M BOARD. Can you tell us more about that?
A. It started out as an annual show, but I haven’t managed to do it every year so I can’t really call it annual any longer. It started off as an idea to do a large group show that anyone could participate in. I like skateboards and a skateboard deck is a manageable canvas size for people to work with, especially if they’re unfamiliar with being apart of the show, so it’s not too intimidating. I talked to some of my friends about the idea and Clay Doran was a big help to get the first one off the ground and from there, every year or two we put out a call to artists to turn in submissions. My favorite one was held in the basement of the old library with all the skate ramps set up. I want it to be on that level again.
Q. What is it like on day one of a new project for you? Do you approach every new project in the same light?
A. Not really. Every project is a little different. Luckily, with freelancing, most of my clients have already seen my stuff before they ask for my business, so they usually ask for something along those lines.
As far as my personal projects, it starts with an idea in my head and I’ll bust out a rough sketch real quickly and then from there I touch it up on my computer and play around with color options. Sometimes I’ll even just tweak things randomly. Recently I did this skull with lightning bolts coming out of its eyes. At first, they were going to be daggers for the term “staring daggers” but it just wasn’t really working out so I just thought, well, lightning bolts would look cool! So yeah, sometimes I just have a good idea but sometimes I have to tweak it on the fly when things aren’t working. Everything is kind of different; some stuff I knock out in a day, some stuff I have to work and work and work on until I feel comfortable enough to call it finished.
Q. Have you ever had to say “no” to a client’s request?
A. Yes. A large part of being a designer is educating our clients. Graphic design straddles a fine line between art and advertising. Since your doing the work for a client, it has to actually serve a purpose for the client, whereas art can be just for yourself and no one else has to look at it. If I have to say “no” to a client, I give them the reasoning behind it and try to work towards a solution that fits their needs.
Intuition (http://www.intuitionaleworks.com) Underdark branding
Q. Is any of the typography in your work done by hand?
A. Yeah, a lot of the things on my site are all hand-drawn and I have two fonts that are in the works that I want to actually produce. If it’s something short, like a word or phrase, then usually it’s all done by hand. I try to use as many hand-drawn fonts as possible because it’s fun. I just had a discussion with fellow designer Varick Rosete during a portfolio review, and we were talking about typography. When I was in college, typography classes were boring, but it was usually more about how you should lay your type out. Once I was out of school and I got more into hand-drawn stuff, whether they’re words or logos, I began studying letterforms a bit more, and I realized that I really liked working with typography. You’re basically creating these specific letterforms, and when it all comes together it just feels good.
One Spark (http://onespark.com) Branding
Q. Do you draw any ideas from vintage typography?
A. Yeah! Sometimes, I want to come up with some old-style lettering, and I’ll go online and do some research and get an idea of how a certain letter should look. I’ll also see some stuff that is sort of inspirational and I’ll think, “whoa, that looks cool, I kind of want to do something like that!” But then I’ll tweak it and put my own spin on it.
Q. Do you have any rituals or fixed formulas to stimulate your creativity?
A. Not really. I think any kind of inspiration comes to artists in waves. There are some periods of time where you’re really productive, but then there are some periods of time where you aren’t and lack inspiration. I think traveling really helps me because it kind of gets me out of my bubble and gives me a different point of view. I’ll also visit come cool websites for inspiration, such as Behance (http://www.behance.net), which is a collection of online portfolios. They have a lot of really cool work on there. Instagram too - I follow a lot of creative people on there who specialize in typography, illustration, tattoos, graffiti, etc. And if all else fails, I’ll draw a skull. I like drawing skulls and that’s something I’ve gotten really good at.
Q. If you could hangout with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
A. I think Michelangelo would be pretty cool, though I hope we could speak to each other in English! Dalí would be insane to hang out with, too.
Q. What do you do outside of graphic design?
A. I live in Avondale, so I’m usually hanging out around 5 Points grabbing a bite to eat or drinks with friends. On the weekends you can catch me sweating on a dance floor or playing soccer at Memorial Park.
Q. You said you paint. Do you paint often?
A. Not as much as I’d like to because I’ve been so caught up with graphic design the last few years. It depends on what I want to do. The last couple things I painted were lettering on skateboards and stuff like that. When I do paint, I try to use some new processes and techniques – I’ll usually try something new to keep the axe sharp.
Q. Are you currently working on any projects that you are excited about?
A. I’m really excited about One Spark this year, I think it’s just getting bigger and better every year. From now until the event April 7-12, it will be my main focus.
CHAD LANDENBERGER: GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING opens FRIDAY, MARCH 06, 2015 (with a 7-10PM reception) and runs through the end of the month. For more information, visit http://www.eyeswideawake.com or https://www.facebook.com/events/876795079051240/, or follow Chad on instagram @clandenberger