Trailer for Stop the Violence / Francois Robert
Culture Coast Public Art Project / University of Chicago
Poster for Loeb Fellowship 2010–11 / Harvard Graduate School of Design
Video Art for Metallics by Yan Maresz / Fulcrum Point New Music Project
There are so many talented designers today: its incredible to be practicing at this time in design’s history.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
Originally from a small town in Michigan called Chelsea, just west of Ann Arbor.
WHAT DOES YOUR WORK CONSIST OF?
I’m an intermedia artist and designer, which means my work blends different mediums together into one experience, centered around a specific expression. I love to explore both design and sound, since I have formal backgrounds in both design and music. I’m also fascinated by movement found in nature: dancing, flocking, flowing energy… so a lot of my inspiration comes from there.
HOW HAS MUSIC INFLUENCED YOUR DESIGN SENSE?
For as long as I can remember, music has always conjured up a visual image(s) for me. Specifically, how I approach structure and expression, composition, flow, pacing, rhythm, color: for me, they are the same. It’s incredible how similar the two disciplines are as well: they share the same terminology, they share the same techniques toward making.
I’m particularly inspired by how the craft of music composition tells a story. Music needs to have a thread running through it: a conceptual slant, a story to be told, be it narrative or not. That has been incredibly influential to me, and it is a personal challenge to incorporate into my work.
WHATS YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN CHICAGO?
I’m pretty partial to Rick Bayless’ restaurants here in town, especially Frontera Grill and XOCO.
YOU ARE KNOWN FOR COMBINING PRINT WITH MOTION AND SOUND, HOW DID YOU GET STARTED DOING THIS?
Like many designers, my background comes from the traditional print discipline. So it was natural to first explore how sound could create a still visual form.
As a studio, we’ve been using sound to create icons. We recently finished a proposal for a public art project with the University of Chicago to make Chicago’s mid-South side known as the ‘Culture Coast.’ We are asking members of the community to speak ‘Culture Coast’ and, through custom software, their words become a 3D visual form that can be printed, painted, cast, projected back into the community. This allows the community to come together and define the icons for themselves. The forms also create an identity that can draw others from around the city into the neighborhood to visit.
DO YOU HAVE ANY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES THAT YOU CONSIDER INFLUENTIAL IN YOUR WORK OR THE WAY YOU APPROACH YOUR WORK?
My childhood was very blessed, growing up in a small-town but also being very close to Michigan’s cultural capital of Ann Arbor. That led me to fall in love with more expressive, more unusual approaches to art and design, but still be very conscious of the importance of connecting with those that don’t share your point of view.
YOU HAVE GAINED MUCH NOTORIETY FOR YOUR WORK THROGH PRINT, AIGA, THE SMITHSONIAN AND MANY OTHER OUTLETS,WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE YOUNG PROFESSIONALS ASPIRING TO REACH THE SAME KIND OF RECOGNITION FOR THIER WORK?
Rick Valicenti, my mentor and the founder of 3st, always encourages us to create work with a lot of depth so that something new can be discovered each time you look at it. There are so many talented designers today: its incredible to be practicing at this time in design’s history. However, I have been noticing that a lot of work, while often incredibly beautiful, seems to lack a thoughtful story behind it. When you put great care into the concept behind the work, and are able to back it up with incredible design craft, then the work seems to sing. It seems to speak to people. And as a result, the work often gets noticed.
HOW HAS WORKING WITH THE TEAM AT 3ST EFFECTED YOUR WORK OVER THE YEARS?
The studio has completely shaped my perception of how to live a creative life. I would say it hasn’t just effected my work — it has defined the way I think creatively. Rick is a huge part of that approach to creating: everyone in the studio owes a great deal to him for it. But, everyone currently in the studio (Bud Rodecker and Tinne Van Loon, amongst many interns and apprentices that pass through our doors) help define what 3st believes in. It is through conversations with them and with those who have come before that 3st gets its definition. As a group, we have many divergent interests and bring many different views of life to our little place in the world. We sit literally five feet from one another, so we can’t help but influence each other.
CUBS OR WHITE SOX?
Ha! My wife would kill me if I didn’t say Cubs.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN THE FUTURE FROM YOU?
3st has always been known for leading the discourse of design: we hope to elevate that in the future, maybe even beyond the doors of our studio. Big things are in store: stay tuned!
See more of Johns work as well as the rest of the 3st team at 3st.com