Good Folk : Alex Cornell

Good Folk : Alex Cornell

NAME
Alex Cornell

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
I am from Bethesda, Maryland. I usually say Washington DC because most people don’t know what Maryland is. I live in San Francisco now, having switched coasts, much to the dismay of my family.

WHAT DOES YOUR WORK CONSIST OF?
My work is divided into music and design. Most of the work I am doing these days is graphic design related, much of it for school assignments. I do a lot of freelance as well and the periodic personal project. I did a painting the other day—my first—and it was rather terrible. All combined together, I do design, music, film, and photography.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I got into graphic design about 2.5 years ago when I moved to San Francisco. Prior to that, I was a Psychology major focused on becoming famous as a musician. I was in a band and did a lot of the visual branding materials for shows and etc. This was how I got into design and learned that it was actually a profession. I knew absolutely nothing about it though, so I decided to go to school; I enrolled in the Academy of Art MFA Design program here in SF when I moved. I started working for ISO50 about 2 years ago as well, which has been a terrific experience. I wouldn’t say that this process is over though—I definitely still consider myself “getting started”.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
It’s hard to beat the feeling of creating something that you love out of nothing. There is a quote that I like, forget where it’s from, but it says, “All I want to be is someone who makes new things and thinks about them.” So there’s that, but my favorite thing is really crushing a guitar solo. The feeling of playing a really well executed guitar sololive is probably the best feeling in the world. Followed closely by singing in general. Design is great though, the victories are just more spread out over a longer creative process.

WHAT IS THE WORST THING ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
Crippling depression when I can’t break through a creative wall. Not ‘actual’ depression, but a real feeling of periodic helplessness when the ideas aren’t coming. My mood is heavily correlated to my creative output, which can be problematic. That said, I usually need to reevaluate what I’ve done in a particular day and not hold an impossible standard for a good creative day—my conception of a “productive” day is a little distorted.

IF YOU WEREN’T (fill in the blank), WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
If I weren’t a designer I would be a musician. If I weren’t a musician I would be a designer. If I weren’t either of these things I would be a photographer or a fashion designer. I am also curious how one becomes a “socialite”.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Great work by other people simultaneously inspires me and scares the shit out of me. If I spend 20min looking through a design book  for example, I will become very inspired and also intimidated. This combination of excitement and terror usually gets me to do something cool. Pretty much anyone that has done something unique and exciting will get my creative heart beating. I watched Ken Robinson talk about education the other day and his unbelievable public speaking ability inspired me to finish the logo for my thesis project.

WHERE DOES CREATIVITY COME FROM?
Different for everyone obviously. For me it usually comes out of frustration with my own ideas. If I’m not excited about something I’m doing, I try and think what I would need to change to get re-psyched about it.

WHO’S WORK DO YOU LOOK UP TO? (Either currently or in the past)
Scott Hansen (ISO50), first and foremost always. Also Kalle GustafssonTom FordMichel GondryMolly Young,John Mayer and Deth. P Sun. There are of course many others, but that’s a good sample. Most of the people I look to for inspiration aren’t graphic designers.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR YOUR INDUSTRY?
It’s funny you say “your” industry. I still don’t really feel IN this industry. I contribute to it I suppose, but I still feel like a casual observer. I think this is because I have only been swimming in this space for a couple years. So what is next? Hmm. More motion graphics, or perhaps better stated, graphics in motion.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU NEXT?
Right now I’m working on my thesis project and a small lifestyle brand with my friends. Both projects are in a fairly nascent stage right now, but should be moving forward soon. I also just opened up a small little shop on my website. Over the next few months I will be adding a lot more products; some more shirts, photography prints, and some other bits and bobs.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD ASPIRING TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
If you are a student, try and think outside of the walls of the classroom. That is to say, don’t just complete the assignment for the class and the grade. The grade especially matters very little in the grand scheme of things. You should instead focus on how you can make work that is exciting to you (and hopefully everyone else). That is the criteria that matters to me. I still haven’t looked at my report card from last semester.

ONE DEFINING MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR.
When I started working over at ISO50, that pretty much changed everything. I had absolutely no clue about anything when I moved out here and jumped into the design world. Working for Scott over these last couple years has informed just about every part of my creative perspective.

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
It sounds like the construction workers next door are trying to tunnel into my office. Also my washing machine sounds like it’s trying to go into orbit. Besides that I am listening to:
Jon Hopkins “Light Through the Veins”
John Mayer “Lifelines” (from Eddie’s Attic 1999)
Calvin Harris “Flashback”
Janelle Monae “Tightrope”
Cinnamon Chasers “Candle Lights”
Kings of Convenience “Cayman Islands”

Artist(s): Medium: Site: http://alexcornell.com/ Twitter: @AlexCornell

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