Thursday, December 8, 2011

Birch Fabrics + Dan Stiles

Birch Fabrics Interviews Dan Stiles

Today we would like to introduce everyone to the amazingly talented Dan Stiles.  We have worked with Dan on a few fabric collections (Marine and the upcoming, Mod Squad), and we thought it would be interesting to share more about Dan, his work and his rock-n-roll design career. 

1.    Tell us about yourself in 50 words or less.
I'm a designer and illustrator living and working in sunny Portland, Oregon.

2.    Your work is a combination of Music & Design – tell us about this?  And, how you found your niche in the design world.
Music and art were always separate passions of mine since childhood. I always knew they intersected in places like album covers and band T shirts, but I never tried it myself until I started making rock posters in college. A roommate saw some of my graffiti and coerced me into making posters for the campus concert promoter.  My entire career has grown from that seed.

3.    Of all the projects you had done tell us about-
 
   a.    Your favorite one (one that is special to you and why!)
The Sisters Brothers, Nike & Canal

BCwax Label

There have been so many great jobs, it's really hard to pick a favorite. The Nike poster series, the BCwax album covers, The Sisters Brothers book cover, the AT&T and Canal+ ads, the Marine fabric series for Birch. I think the important thing is that the client comes to me with an interesting project and asks me to apply my vision to it, which surprisingly in design isn't always the case. Many times the client arrives with both the project and the vision, and in that case anyone could act as the designer. 
AT&T
Birch Fabrics Marine
       
    b.    Your most successful one (successful means so many things to so many people – which one do you deem the most successful in your eyes and why?)
My Feist and Death Cab for Cutie posters have received a lot of critical attention. I think people respond to the mix of minimalism and patterning I used to convey the messages. I view success in terms of public response. I'm a commercial artist, people need to like what I do or it fails it's purpose. If I were making fine art I could do whatever I wanted and the public be damned, but I'm not into that.

    c. The game changer –  (was there a project that changed your career?  One that opened up new opportunities or one that solidified in your mind that music & design was your future.)
Like most things in life my career has been a slow incremental progression. There was never a Hollywood moment where I was discovered working as a janitor and whisked off in a limousine. I'm a firm believer in the notion that you make your own opportunities through consistent and dedicated hard work. It seems that with each year there are projects that open new doors. I could go back to 1993 connecting the dots between projects I did and the subsequent opportunities that grew from them. For example the project I did for Nike grew from the fact that the art director that hired me is a huge rock poster fan. Or the national advertising campaign I did for AT&T grew out of a small CD cover I did for a folk music compilation that was posted on the design blog grainedit.com. I look at it like the sorcerer's apprentice. I'm Mickey Mouse, and every project I complete is another broomstick out in the world doing work for me. The more quality work I release, the wider my reach.

4. How would you describe your style?
I've heard a lot of different things, the two I like best are punk rock modern and folk pop. I would describe myself as a design illustrator. Today most people are usually either one or the other. I try to use both skills to create simple, clear and concise work. 

5. What inspires you?
 Minimalism, skateboard graphics, folk art, anything Japanese, vintage packaging, children's art, modernism, punk album covers, nature, art nouveau, indigenous art, graffiti, golden era comic books, wallpaper, vintage advertising, art deco, the list could go on forever.

6. Birch Fabrics & Dan Stiles – Did you ever imagine your designs on fabric?  Do you design differently for the fabric collections? 
 I've always been inspired by pattern design, fabric, wallpaper, etc. I've been incorporating pattern elements into my work for quite a while. Thanks to the magic of the internet some of my poster work came to the attention of Birch, who recognized that my style would be effective on fabrics. Surface design was something I had been looking to break into for a while, so it was a great fit for me. The process is a little different in that I'm making something more decorative and less conceptual, which means I get to play more with shapes and color and spend less time thinking about delivering a concise message.

7. Tell us about Mod Squad – the inspiration for the concept, and how you would describe the collection.
With Marine Birch came to me and asked me to expand upon the submarine theme I started with my poster for AC Newman. For Mod Squad they wanted something that played off Mod era Britain. Starting from that I did things like revisiting old Jam and Who albums. I watched Quadrophenia for the first time in 20 years. From there I tried to pull together a visual language that summarized the symbolism and feeling of the period. Yes, I got paid to listen to The Jam. How cool is that?




8.    What would be your dream project?
 My career is an ongoing dream project, it gets better every year. I wouldn't mind doing a series of snowboards or a BMW art car though.

9.    What is next for Dan Stiles?
 I'm always working on something. I have a series of illustrations in the works with Intel, those should be rolling out soon. My wife is a jewelry designer and we're working on a new line together. I have a series of children's clothes coming out with All Good Living. Posters for M83 and Tune-Yards are in progress. I'm looking to branch out into as many different avenues as I can.

OK…the fun questions –

10. Favorite color?
 Do I have to pick just one? Isn't that some form of discrimination? In my work I gravitate towards a primary palette because I like the contrast and the opportunity to overlap the colors. On the other hand when dressing myself I tend towards dark colors with bright color accents.

11. If you could be someone other than yourself who would it be?
 I can't say I've ever thought about that one. There are scores of people I've learned from, whether I've met them or not. For instance I love the spirit of Muhammad Ali and the vision of the Eames, but that doesn't mean I want to actually be any of them. In the end we're all human with weaknesses and foibles regardless of our talents and accomplishments. I'll stick with being me, it's the devil I know.

12. What actor would play you in a movie about your life?
 How about Alexander Skarsgård, he's about the right height and is far more handsome.

13. Favorite food?
Vietnamese, I can't get enough of the stuff.

14. Favorite Movie?
Battleship Potemkin. No, not really, but that makes me sound like I have taste doesn't it? I like French cinema, Delicatessen, La Femme Nikita. Sci-fi stuff like Brazil, The Matrix, The Terminator, Blade Runner, The Matrix. Psychological thrillers like Memento. I also have a real weakness for modern swords and sandals style flicks like 300, and war movies like Saving Private Ryan. And this doesn't even touch on animation which is a whole other list. I guess that's more than one isn't it?

15. Something everyone should know about you but probably doesn't
    I've never eaten a Twinkie.

Thanks Dan!  We really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us.  To learn more about Dan and his work please check out his website.


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