This week in Selective Focus, we take a look at the work of Tyler Johnson, a designer who has worked in identities, clothing, art prints and more.
T.J.: I am a graphic designer and art director by day and a doodler/painter/screenprinter by night. I started out as all creatives do, scribbling out sketches as a youngster. One of my earliest memories is making Star Wars and Power Rangers books with my Mom. I would tell the story to my Mom as I would draw the pictures and she would write out the words. As I grew older and my interests changed, art became the constant that I could apply to all my other interests at a given time.
I found myself working in design during college. I left high school with the intent of becoming a doctor or dentist but quickly realized it wasn’t for me. During my first semester at St. Scholastica I was taking many art and marketing classes because they genuinely interested me. Design was a really natural fit between the two. I figured that was as good a reason as any to pursue it. People thought I was crazy for changing directions. Luckily for me at the time I had an amazing professor, Sarah Brokke, who encouraged me to follow my passions. I stuck with art and design through college and have continued on this path thanks to many inspiring people including John Steffl, Anne Dugan, Cody Paulson and John Keuning.
I’ve been designing roughly seven years. I’ve been making stuff as long as I can remember.
Since college I’ve shifted from mostly drawing and painting to graphic design but I’m always doodling on post-its and scratch paper. My graphic style and process is much more refined now than it once was. I think when you’re starting out in design your first inclination is to solve a visual problem with the first thing that comes to mind that just looks “cool”. There’s nothing wrong with making something you think looks cool but I feel my work is much stronger when it has a full concept or rationale. Additionally I’ve found I’m now more thoughtful of the audience and environment of my work. My mentor John Keuning says, “nothing in design lives in a vacuum” and that is true for literally any project you are tackling at the time, whether it is a t-shirt design, billboard, or even a simple illustration to post on Instagram. With all that said sometimes it’s best to throw all that out the window and just make something. There is value in play and making something, simply for the sake of making. There is a great deal of my work that doesn’t necessarily have a purpose or meaning but exists because I simply needed to make something.
Design is a challenge within itself and that is part of why I love it. We’re here to solve people’s visual problems. Being a designer can sometimes be a thankless job but I feel the process and relationships are immensely rewarding. I personally feel the most fulfilled when I collaborate with clients who have great enthusiasm for the project and trust my vision. Additionally it has been a lot of fun to see my work printed on shirts or posters and see people snatch it up. I like hearing what they have to say about it because often times they’ve considered aspects of the piece that I hadn’t even thought of. What’s the point of perfecting every little pixel without seeing the finished product enjoyed by others?
I just finished up a logo project for Free Range Film Festival which was immensely refreshing. I’m currently working on some shirt designs for Sota Clothing’s fall line which has been a lot of fun, but I can’t show you all that just yet – stay tuned!
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