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Meet a truly monster graphic designer, Stefan G. Bucher. Stefan's projects range from his Daily Monsters, to the Daily Letter on the PBS television show, The Electric Company, to CD designs for Sting and Whitney Houston, products for the Echo Park Time Travel Mart (featuring canned mammoth chunks), to writing and illustrating his latest book, You Deserve A Medal: Honors on the Path to True Love. Stefan is a prolific artist who is seemingly obsessed with finding impressive new ways to put ink on paper. Follow his journey from his first illustrations for The Donaldist (a magazine dedicated to the exploration of Donald Duck comics), through Art Center College, Portland agency Wieden+Kennedy, Madonna's Maverick Records, and finally his own company, 344 Design.
Bonus Feature: Join us at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, where Stefan is interviewed by writer and creative strategist Terry Lee Stone after a screening of his film.
Stefan G. Bucher: Around the time I was, I must have been like 11 or 12, I figured out that there was a small print shop just literally down the road for me. After I think getting some stationery made, I was like, wait a second, I can give you drawings and then you can print based on those drawings. I thought, "That's great. I've got to get in on this." You would print these cards. I would make Christmas and Easter cards, get them printed black and white, and then just fill them in with markers.
Here is a Christmas card where it was variable--it was a variable data card way before variable data where I actually then by hand would write in everybody's name on the naughty side of the nice-and-naughty ledger, and then it says, "Well, you know, we'll turn a blind eye to it this year." And I did--I was already into getting different texture paper. I look back on why did I even print these? Why did I feel the need to have my own custom-printed Easter and Christmas cards? I think it was just, it was an excuse to get something printed and to make an artifact.
Because when it was printed it became real, and it wasn't just, you know, a drawing that a kid made. It was an actual thing. It was an actual product. That's what made it real to me. Partially from the cards, I also got into writing to artists and writing to cartoonist and illustrators. In the pursuit of that, I somehow stumbled on the Donaldists who are an organization dedicated to the scientific study of Donald Duck comics, that satirizes the German culture of having a club for everything.
So as a 12-year-old, the only way I could get in on that, on that action, was that I was able to draw Donald. And this is actually the very first drawing of mine that was ever printed, was this one, which I copied from a book on how to draw a Donald. I was 12 at that time, and you'll notice that I kicked that 5-year-old's ass. And this was sort of the watershed moment of 'printed'. Not just printed where I paid for it, but printed by somebody else with their imprimatur of 'this is worthy of being printed' in a magazine that went to people that I admired.
So this is issue 54 and then by issue 65, 9 issues later, I was on the cover, with a split fountain I want to add, and raised gold printing. Then this issue is actually full of my stuff, so this was the--this was the title page for the cover article. And this was the illustration for the readers letters column that my friend Elke ran, and she was the one who initially put the first drawing in, and so ever since then I did all her column headers.
And I am still friends with her today. She was my proto-Internet. She was working at that time on her doctorate in history but took the time to write basically a letter a week with me. She was my nerd friend that would say 'Yeah, you know, the way you think, there are other people like you.' And so the fact that somebody would take the time to write me these long, funny, really funny, beautifully written letters was just--it saved my life. And of course then for book reports I would do covers.
This is how I prepared for the stuff is that I spent hours and hours on these report covers and then probably spent hour upon hour, two total, on the report itself. But it helped me think about it. And then I, you know, it's topography, sort of art nouveau stuff, with a weird sort of neon green leopard-spot pattern. Oh, then there are pickle brines because it's the chemistry report, so there are pickle brines with NaOH pickles instead of you know salt brine.
Then for the actual exams we had to bring our own prepared sheets. This was a WERTE UND NORMEN, which was basically an ethics class which is Values and Norms. And that little character who shows up in all the stuff from that time was sort of my little avatar, like I wanted to have my sort of drawn stand-in for myself. So he shows up in just about everything. And you can see from that the embarrassingly long hair, which also shows up in this pseudo-woodcut for my art class papers, and bevel metal type, which was a few years before I got a computer, so I obviously already had the desire to do bad computer Photoshop type by hand.
And then I spent about 10-15 years after I got the computer making everything super, super clean and Helvetica and neat. And now, 18 years later, now that I've got the computer thing out of my system, now all of a sudden I am right back to this.
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