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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: There was a teacher, Norm Schureman, who was running one of the first Entertainment Design classes at Art Center. I saw the work that they were doing, and I said, "I've got to get in on this." I mean I was an advertising student who was already trying to get into graphic design, but I saw that and it was like movie monsters and spaceships and stuff, and I was like, this is the action. This is where I want to be. So I talked to Norm, and I said, "Will you please let me take your class." He said, "I don't know man. Advertising students can't draw. You're going to have to show me some stuff." So I made this board.
I actually built a model spaceship out of a milk bottle, out of a half-gallon milk bottle, and then did this drawing and showed it to him, and he was like, "All right! You can take my drawing class." After I took his class, he actually asked me to help him on this restaurant design that he was working on at Six Flags Magic Mountain called the Magic Dragon Pizza Kitchen. So I helped him design this dragon family based on his characters.
To him it was also, it was work product. When you showed him drawings, he would have no problem just drawing onto it, because to him it was all just part of the process. I mean there was no sort of veneration of the piece. There wasn't 'this is an original and you mustn't touch it because it's valuable.' To him it was, 'this is just what you do. This is just like talking.' These guys taught me, and Norm especially, but all the students, they taught me a totally different way of thinking.
Because for graphic design and advertising, it's all about sketches, and it's all about you have to sweat an idea for three months; otherwise, it's just by definition no good, because you haven't tortured yourself over it. These guys, it was, well, it's a family, so you're going to have the grandfather. Okay, well if he is a grandfather, maybe he has a fez. Since it's a pizza place, and he is the leader of a pizza conglomerate, he's going to have pizza wheels on his fez instead of a Freemason symbol.
The little boy obviously has a propeller cap, as they all do, but then he also has a balloon that's made up of pizza, because that's that world. So that's the way they think, and that's what I learned from them is to just growing stuff and just keep adding little details into it, instead of this what is the most minimal, most powerful idea for expressing it in a poster format, or in a logo? This was just yeah, you know, we'll make a better pizza balloon.
And the little girl has a whirligig, and so she blew on the whirligig and of course she is a dragon, so she incinerated the whirligig. Makes perfect sense, right? I mean totally logical. Totally linear. Now that I'm looking at this, actually I'm thinking well, there is also your direct line to the Time Travel Mart. That kind of thinking is exactly Time Travel Mart thinking. (music playing) Basically, you have to imagine it like a 7-Eleven for all of your time-travel needs.
So whatever time period you travel to, we've got you covered. So if you go to the future, you have TK Brand Anti-Robot Fluid, pure artesian protection, though as it says back here, "Warning: does not work on plastic robots." One of the first things that I worked on for the store were the Time Traveler Brand leeches, nature's tiny doctors. Basically, what the idea is that every time traveler needs products that are appropriate to the time period, and we are here to provide those products for them.
One of our signature products is the can of Mammoth Chunks. This is a 5-pound can of mammoth stew for $9.99. You go okay, why do I pay $9.99 for a can of mammoth stew, is that every dollar goes to funding the tutoring center. We repackage product because that does go to help the kids. Well, the way this all came about is that Dave Eggers, who is the man behind McSweeney's and The Believer, wanted to start a tutoring center in San Francisco and didn't have zoning for a tutoring center, but he did have zoning for a commercial space.
So they put in the Pirate Store that leads to the tutoring center in the back. And that's what this is all about. I mean that's why this is all here. Yes, it's a cool, fun thing to do, but it exists as an anchor for the tutoring center to let the kids come in and take creative writing classes, get help with their homework, and be exposed to some really amazing creative energy. (music playing) Mac Barnett, who was the creator of the store, he had gotten my name from Sam Potts, who designed the Superhero Supply Company in Brooklyn.
He said, "Well, if you're going to LA, you should talk to Stefan," which I was very flattered by, because at that point I hadn't actually met Sam. And as soon as they came to me and said, "We're doing a Time Travel Mart. Will you do a product line or two for us?" I said, "I'm doing it, but I'm only doing it if I can do everything." After I had immediately said yes, I went to a 7-Eleven, and I thought okay, what makes a 7-Eleven look like a 7-Eleven? Well, it's that every product looks different from every other product and that it's just complete smorgasbord, and that's why I say it was like design improv, because they would send me copy, and then I would immediately sit down, and I would take two hours and I would design it, and then it was on to the next product.
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