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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.
(music playing) Stefan G. Bucher: The way that projects come into my life, just something pops into my head with enough force for me to notice. From that, I immediately try to put it on paper, and then I have this second thought of okay, here is who I can talk to about getting that printed or doing something with it. And then other times somebody will approach me and say, "We love what you do.
We like to do something with you. Is there something that's on your mind that you've been wanting to do?" Typecraft, I've been doing all my jobs for last five, six years, and I just consider it a huge part of what I do. To deal with print and to use print as an instrument is still a really vital skill for designers, and so for me it's a point of pride to use all the machines here.
(crosstalk) (machines printing) In some ways because of the economic realities of it, so much of it has migrated online. I also think that everybody is so used to working on the computer that there is a certain mindset of well, it's done, it's designed, I am going to hit Print, and that's what happens, and you just don't worry about it. Or there's just not that much of an interest in it, where for myself that's just what's exciting to me.
I mean, it's easy to sort of make the sweeping pronouncement of like, oh, well, print is still vibrant and everything. I don't know. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I just love it. (music playing) We are at L.A. Louver, who are sort of my big, serious client, the respectable side of my business.
Once you have the sort of triumvirate with Typecraft where we have all been working together for so long, we can sort of push the boundaries a little bit of what can be done. (music playing) You look at this and you think okay, well, it's embossed, big deal. But to get it embossed so that this tiny type shows up well, but then to emboss it with enough force to have this get a real nice relief into it, it doesn't work, which they pointed out to me, because you have to really womp this good to get it in there, so you can even feel it and see it.
If you do this with the same force, it just destroys the board. It warps. This all fills in. And so I said, "Well can we run two dye strikes in register?" which they don't usually do because it's really hard to register that stuff. But again, because I have such a good client in L.A. Louver, and we've built up so much trust over the years, there is a chance to do that and to just say okay, no, I think this can be done. And they are saying, "Well, we think you are right. Let's try it." I realize that it's sort of silly to say well, we are pushing the boundaries and then I'm holding up something that's this big.
But to me and to them and to Typecraft, this is pushing the boundaries, and we were damn pleased with ourselves that the bindery was able to do that. (walking up steps) Stefan G. Bucher: Okay. You may remember this. Lisa Jann: Oh nice! Stefan: It's Rogue Wave, original, original and new flavor, Stefan: original and lime flavor. Lisa: I love it! That's great! Stefan: There you go. And our very first and our very latest. Lisa: I know, it is.
Lisa: It's like the circle is complete. Stefan: Together at last. Lisa: Well, everybody is going to be really excited to get this. Lisa: How do you feel about your original design for it in terms of how we came to this? Stefan: I think it was a stupid idea. I really do. (Lisa laughing) I mean it was difficult and I sort of--I did it the first time and kind of just-- Lisa: You were showing off. Stefan: I was showing off, but I was also kind of hacking my way through it, and this time I really, knowing the design much better, I worked it with a lot more care, which made it just exponentially more difficult.
But that's the thing. I mean, if you do it and you know going in how difficult it's got to be, you would never do it. I mean, stumbling sometimes is the only way to get it done. Lisa: Well we are grateful for your flash. (laughing) Stefan: Thank you. Thank you very much. The first job that did with Louver, I really wanted to impress them bad, so I just put every single thing into that catalog. It's got a double hit of fluorescent ink. It's got that angle cut. It's a flip book, so that because it encompasses two shows, in this case 2001, 2005, and here it's 2007 and 2009, and part of the brief was that you don't want to put any artist out, so you don't want to have anybody be in the back of the book.
You want everybody of equal importance. So I thought okay, well then we will put the forward and the table of contents in the center of the book, and then we work out towards the edges. We'll make it a flip book, so that one side is 2007 and the other side is 2009, which makes it hideously difficult for the printer and confusing to the bindery because there are also no straight page numbers, but there are year-specific page numbers. The angle cut matches the italic type in one year, but then of course for the other side you have to take regular Roman type and tilt it 12 degrees in the other direction so that it matches the angle of the page.
I see myself as sort of the print guardian of this artwork, where it lives as the original, and it lives in the gallery, and that's their job, and then I see it as my job to make it look as beautiful and as close to the original on the page in a way that still feels true to the piece. Whatever I put in there in terms of design has to usually be quite subtle. I mean nothing should detract or distract from the art itself. (music playing) I am secondary. I am the support staff.
I am not the artist. Every project to me is a data set, whether that be a show of paintings or a set of photos. Within that set is the shape it wants to take. I work at it until I find that shape. (music playing)
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