Inspiration for me comes from all over... Once I see something that strikes my eye or triggers my brain, the next step for me is to identify why I’m getting that reaction. From there it’s generally distilled into one or more basic concepts that I champion, such as intelligence, humor, honor, dedication, individuality, genuineness, boldness, insightfulness, effectiveness, etc. This helps me to keep from straight up copying shit I’m into. Insight for me comes from analyzing these things to the core, and that gives me a solid, grounded foundation to start from. In turn, that creates authenticity, that will hopefully show in my work. A lot of times I’m inspired to do something out of disgust also, but I guess that sounds like more of a reaction.
Cult has had two distinct phases... I started it as a branding project by myself when I was still in college. I was spending all this time looking at the internet all day, seeing kids my age doing cool shit, and I felt like I was being left behind. I felt like I needed to at least start something small, and it occurred to me that a zine could easily be branded and created with little overhead and a broad range of possibilities. From the beginning the only concept was that it could eventually become anything… as long as a stuck with it. I think in the back of my mind I was hoping to turn into a clothing company at some point down the road on my own, but then Robbie reached out to me after only a few issues (at the suggestion by Chase Hawk) to turn it into a bike brand. Once we started the second phase, which is the bike company, I had a pretty solid idea of what I wanted to do with the brand. I mean, I think it’s all pretty obvious, we just want to keep it raw and simple. I also want to be informative and transparent, as well as being as economical as possible for the consumer and the company.
When I notice a lot of interest or hype gravitated towards something specific... I tend to go the other way. For some reason that’s how I’m wired, my personality has always been that way. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse as a brand manager, but it works I think as long as I maintain the bigger picture. Modern design is usually not genuine, which I oppose. I appreciate the time in history when not all branding, marketing and design was so formulated and conniving. The sort of ‘style’ that I work in on the computer varies, especially between the two brands I work for. Usually I just try and keep it as simple as possible. My process varies also, I like to make do with whatever I have in front of me, and I’m also interested in trying as many different methods as possible. It’s nice to try anything at least once, because when the time comes and someone needs that specific skill, there’s a good chance you can say, ‘oh yeah, I’ve done that, or I know how that works.’
I’m extremely passionate about zines and publishing as a whole... For me, zines are the most perfect medium. I’m a control freak, and it’s one of the few times in my life where I don’t need or get anyone else’s input. I can also maintain complete control and personally output every part of the process. Beyond that, the options for producing a zine are just so endless. Working to create something and then holding it in my hands is one of the most satisfying things to me, and a simple handmade book is one of the more reliable means to that end. I get none of that satisfaction from any social networking platform… that shit is more of a joke to me. It’s nice to stay in touch with what other cool people are doing though. It’s also an easier way of letting people know what I’ve got going on… but generally it’s a waste of time to me.
I think it’s super important to maintain an awareness of whats going on around me in general... so I really try and pay attention to everything. I try and stay aware of not only design trends but social trends as a whole. It’s imperative to understand social norms as someone who likes to find ways to contradict them. I like to analyze everything around me, and consider better or even just optional ways of getting the same or better results.
I’m no expert on graphic design, but it seems like it’s all over the place right now in BMX... The industry in general is pretty confused and fragmented, which leads to some questionable decision making. When you’re in the thick of things, actually running a company, I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the day to day bullshit, and then you start to lose sight of your bigger picture. At that point you become something different than you actually set out to be. In the year 2013, I think consistency, authenticity and accessibility are the main factors for success right now, and so many companies fail to live up to any of that. Personally, I miss the rawness that BMX branding had up until the last 10 years or so. I started riding in 1998, so that time period is a heavy influence on me for sure. Beyond BMX, I think a lot of shit is just over-designed universally. I feel like a lot of people who are graphic designers forget that majority of the people they’re designing for don’t actually know or give a shit about design… they just want you to strike a chord and / or deliver the information in a clear way. I don’t wanna live in a world where everything is perfect and neat… I like shit that’s a little fucked up.
Speaking specifically about BMX...I think the team makes the most primary impact on how people, especially the younger ones, pick up on companies. That being said, I don’t think you can have that cool or influential of a team if the brand itself isn’t cool to the riders, so they kind of go hand in hand. To be honest though, it doesn’t seem like a lot of BMX consumers are interested in understanding the ethos of companies like maybe say in the early 00’s T-1 zine days. Things have changed in society as a whole, and it’s obvious even in BMX. It seems like the world is becoming more and more visual and increasingly less cerebral.
I’m extremely lucky to make a living working just for Empire and Cult... I made my first ever design thanks to Tina and Tom when we worked at Trend over 10 years ago, and they’ve pretty much taken care of me ever since. Once Robbie got Cult going as a bmx company, he essentially put me on as one of the team riders. It creates a unique dynamic that I don’t think you’ll find with any other BMX company really. I can’t thank any of them enough. They’ve all believed in me since day one, and I always make a point to come through and be ambitious, as to not lose their trust and show my gratitude. I had a lot of help from my friends to get to this point also. Chase Hawk, and Aaron Ross always made a point early on to make sure I was involved in their frame and shirt artwork, and that was huge for me. Now I prefer to not really work with other companies, especially within BMX, unless it is with a close friend or pretty exclusively on my terms. I have recently started a small publishing thing called Hey Zeus, which you can find at my distribution site: WTFTW.org
CULT X DIG Print Ads: May 2010 - February 2014. Click top right to view full screen.