Stefan G. Bucher, designer, illustrator, and writer

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Stefan G. Bucher, designer, illustrator, and writer

(music playing) Stefan G. Bucher: I always enjoy having that little piece of art that wasn't there before. (music playing) Whether it be the catalogs or my books or the monsters, working all night on the drawing and then coming back the next morning and seeing that piece there and going, okay, that wasn't there before I got to it.

That's reversing the chaos of the world within that rectangle. (music playing) I think that's why I am attracted to design and illustration. It just felt good to do. I mean I just enjoyed having drawn something. That was always my thing was just to get the ideas out. (music playing) 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: 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. It's like the circle is complete.

Stefan: Together at last. Lisa: Well, everybody is going to be really excited to get this. 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 Stefan: 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) 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. (music playing) After being kind of, you know, the designated school weirdo, to come here where all the other school weirdos ended up too, and to be in a building with 1,500 people that all cared about the same stuff I cared about is a pretty mind-bending concept.

(music playing) This is just some foundation work, and you know, this is basics of photography. It's just gorgeous.

I mean look at the lighting on that, and look at how that sits in the frame. Whenever I come into the Illustration Department, it just blows my mind. It just, I just love it. I want to have all of them. I want have them on my wall. I covet. I went to interview at two schools in Germany because I thought, "Well I am a German student. I live in Germany. I should go to college in Germany." And then I interviewed with them and I they were like, "Oh yeah, this is great stuff.

Yeah, you are accepted. Sure, no problem." And I thought, "Okay, that was too easy." Then I came here and I thought--you know I was kind of looking eye level, and then it was like, oh! I see! And that's what I wanted. Like I wanted--I wanted that. I didn't want this. I wanted that. And I think that's still, I mean that's certainly still how I pick the jobs that I do, or the things that I get excited about, is 'oh!' And this space definitely had that.

(music playing) You take a lot of foundation classes, and you take all those sorts of great classes that are high in fiber and good for you. You take, you know, lots and lots of live drawing and perspective and basic typography and basic lettering. And I think looking back those are some of the classes that I enjoyed the most.

Just seeing people do that level of work was unbelievable because I was doing lettering at home and I just thought, "Well, this is as good as you can do it if you don't have a computer," or "This is as good as you can do it you know without being a professional lettering person." I just never thought it was possible. And as soon as somebody said, well, you can do that, I was like, "Oh! Well, if you say so, I guess then I can, and I guess then I have to reach that level. If you are telling me that I can then just show me how." I just want to immediately sit down and copy ten of these things.

Ah, man! I've got to learn how to do that. Lieblich, which means lovely in German, and truly it is lovely. Look at that. One of the drawing rooms. I would spend a lot of time in here just sitting here and drawing from a model. I am okay at it when I practice, because it was like going to the gym, and I just haven't gone to the gym in a while.

But also, it would seem not polite to stare, and so that's why I never learned how to draw faces or to draw a person really well. So this was sort of my one chance to do that, and it was so intimidating, and it was so hard, but it was fantastic. And it was probably the period when I learned the most in my work, improved the most in shortest amount of time, just because it was emersion learning. It was just 24x7. All day every day was doing this and just really teaching my hand to do things.

Because before, I was just working on my own, and I was measuring myself against really kind of remedial stuff, and here all of a sudden I was measuring myself against people that really knew what they were doing. So I was kind of scared out of my mind the entire time, but I also loved it. I keep switching into new areas of design and illustration and art because I want to recapture that experience of learning so much in such a short amount of time, because you get addicted to that thrill of improving that much in such a short amount of time.

(music playing) Well, the last day of school was December 18th, and my first day of work was January 18th.

I was hired by Wieden+Kennedy, and I was recruited off of campus. I thought, "Well, it's not my dream, but it's a lot of people's dream." It was a really--they're a hot agency, and they're really--they do amazing stuff, and all the advertising students wanted to work there. And so I went to Portland, and I just couldn't figure out how to be productive and useful in that environment. I would just churn out comp after comp after comp after comp because that's what I was asked to do.

Just keep generating stuff. I had 600 comps for one campaign that yielded I think three print ads, and there was a new creative director that had come in at that point, and he looked that stack and he said, "What is this?" I said, "Well, these are the 600 comps I did for this series of ads." And he said, "That's insane. Why would you do 600 comps?" And of course, I mean at this point already I'm having a kernel panic because now I have two masters that are telling me two separate things, and I don't know who to please first.

And I went into a slight panic, so my writer, my writing partner Jed, rescued me and said, "Well, you know, in fairness, that's what they asked him." And the new creative director said, "Well, that's just stupid. We hired you for your opinion, and how can you have 600 different opinions?" And I always remembered that, and I think the entire year of dysfunction and not being able to cope with the software of that agency was worth it just for that comment, to say that they hired me for my opinion, which is always what I thought it should be because that's what-- because my opinion is what motivates me to work, is to make my opinion manifest.

Well, and after a year of trying my very best to be nice and helpful, as I was taught to be, I had my performance review the day before the Thanksgiving. And my creative directors asked me to read it all out to them, and they said, "My god! That is well--that is just really nicely done. That is well put, and you seem to have a really clear understanding of yourself, and you seem to have a really clear understanding of what you want to achieve in the next year.

Having said that, we feel that you've exhausted your potential here at the agency and that it would probably be in your best interest to look for opportunities elsewhere." So at that point I picked up my jaw from the floor, tried very hard not to burst into tears because of course I hadn't slept because I was busy writing my self-evaluation, and just exhausted. And so I had to sort of leave with my tail between my legs, but as soon as I drove back across the California border, everything brightened up.

The sun came out, and I thought, "This is great!" and I had some interviews lined up with record companies. And then I got the job at Maverick, and I was designing record covers, and it was just the best time ever. (music playing) CDs for me were the first mini-books. They were the first thing that people would invite into their homes and keep.

You'd go back to it, and you'd pay attention to it, and you'd play with it, so it also gave me a chance to design in a lot more detail. (music playing) When I crack open a book for the fifth time and I find something that I hadn't noticed before, and when I listen to an album that I've had for 10, 15 years and all of a sudden I notice a detail, that makes me happy.

So I want to provide that for somebody else. (music playing) It was the perfect job to have at that time, to just work my fingers to the bone, stay all night at my desk, and design these CDs, oftentimes against the explicit wishes of my boss, who said, "Just, you know, scan some stuff in.

I want to get my hands dirty on this one too." And I wasn't having that. I was just like, "No, no, I've scanned them. Now I have these files." Immediately started retouching them and immediately started putting them into a layout just because I couldn't help myself. And he was pissed at me, often, because he would come in in the morning and it was done, and it was always such a high turnover at the company in terms of the work that then they just have to roll with it.

About a year in, I really wanted to art-direct my own project, and there was a band that came in and they were called Luxe then, and later were renamed Solar Twins, and I listened to their album, and I just fell in love with them, and I thought, "This, I want to work on this." And at the time, I had made myself valuable enough where I actually felt confident enough to say, "I want this album. I need this album. I need to work on this, or I'm out." I made like my--I had my big diva moment of like either I get this or I'm walking away from this, and they said, "All right, all right, do the album." And I was so in love with them, David and Joanna.

I had such a band-crush on them. I loved the album. They were smart, funny, wonderful people. We liked the same music. We liked the same album art. We just had a meeting of the minds. And at that point, I stopped being a professional. I just became an amateur. I did it for the love. So, I had no perspective. I was obsessed with that album. I poured every single free minute I had into it.

I drove to Bakersfield and shot refineries against the wishes of security guards and gave them fake rolls of film so that I could get the footage that I needed for the backdrop that I was going to composite into this space that I was creating for them. I was nuts. I was gone, and it made me hard to be around. But I needed to shepherd my baby, and I needed to get it out, and I basically quit right after I signed off on the press sheets. That was the end point.

That was my mission was I needed to deliver the Solar Twins payload. And as soon as that was the case, I went and I started doing my own thing with 344. (music playing) The name 344 came from the location of the office being at the merge of the 210 and the 134 freeways. And 344 was just a way of getting back to how I had grown up and how I had started getting into art, which was just to make things and to make as many things as possible.

(music playing) I went back to the tradition of doing holiday cards that were my own. It was also the first time that I let my natural visual language get into the work.

That was just my handwriting basically, coming out of school. I was really shy about that. (music playing) To do the work that I do takes, for me, a lot of concentration, and that's really hard to do when there are other people even just awake, I think.

The phone rings and emails comes in, and so during the week I just--I have to lock myself away and be sort of monastic about it, so that I can get the stuff done. Working at night just really suits that. Artists are supposed to have a haunt or something where you have--there's a particular bar or coffeehouse that you hang out with, and this is pretty much mine is it's my local supermarket at night, where the whole night crew knows me, and they pretty much look forward to me coming in because they know it's quitin' time when I show up.

When my work shows up somewhere, I'll bring them some samples and in exchange, they let me slip in the door at 1:59 a.m. At one point, I came in and they started giving me hard time where they said, "It's 2 a.m. The Ralphs is now closed, except for Stefan." I mean that's VIP treatment of a very different sort of vampiric kind, and I'm okay with that. Where people give me a hard time is sort of like 'oh, the late hours, and why can't you just be like everybody else and work a normal day? It'll be so much easier' or 'wouldn't it be nice?' Then people try to make that distinction of like 'yeah, but that's your work, but what about your life?' and I just don't draw that distinction.

The most important thing is that at the end of the night there's something there that wasn't there before. There's a drawing, or there's a piece of lettering, or there's a few more pages of the new book. And I really enjoy being around other people and hanging out and having food and doing all the social stuff that everybody else does too, but it's just not as important to me as getting the work done. That's sort of the great satisfaction. That's how I communicate, and that's how I sort of put myself out into the world.

(music playing) Usually, you have an image in your mind and you watch yourself fail at getting it on paper over the course of hours, days, however long, and with this, everything comes out of that ink blot.

(music playing) You're creating the image without having it in your head.

You're just working off the shape. It was so liberating to start with something that's violent and wild and not under my control. These all started in the car. I was driving around. I was actually driving home. It was in the afternoon. It was sunny out. I was kind of going through a tough time at that moment of my life.

For some reason, I had a vision, which I am not prone to. Stuff doesn't just pop into my head, but that day for some reason I saw one of the monsters on my arm, just sort of coiled around and looking at me. I sort of knew that it was something special, that it wasn't just another idea. Initially, it was a series of monsters called the Upstairs Neighbors. As I was trying to get the Upstairs Neighbors their book deal, it was taking a long time and so I thought I should--I need to keep myself interested in the project.

That's why I started filming them, and that's why I started putting them online. I never thought that people would actually really come and watch it in a big way, but all of a sudden, through the support of some other blogs like Ze Frank and Speak Up at the time, I had hundreds and thousands of people every day showing up. (music playing) One of the great big tricks of it, such as it is, is that I just use the cheapest possible paper, so I don't get precious.

I've tried doing it with Canson paper, this really sort of fancy stuff, and I get completely paralyzed. So instead, it's just this, and I take a few drops of Sumi-e ink. Then I just take a duster can. (air duster spraying) So now my task on it isn't to create something, it's to find something.

I think I see something. There you go. These pens I inherited, or this brand of pen, was one that Norm Schureman used who was a great mentor of mine. I used to watch him draw when I was at Art Center, and he drew incredibly fast. I wanted to get that, but I can't draw as well as Norm. Certainly I can't draw as fast.

So I just thought, "I will film it, and I will speed it up." And I usually start by putting one of the eyes in, because we also don't want the little guys to get pissed off that I'm working on them and they can't see what's going on. They hate that. I don't know. Whenever I hear people talk about their characters as real things, it's sort of saccharine and annoying. But now that I make these characters every day, it's hard to resist, because they do have a life of their own.

I'm just the caretaker. I'm released on my own recognizance with these. So I don't have anybody standing behind me going, 'Well, you know you have to hit certain deliverables with these monsters. They have to function a certain way,' which in some ways makes it harder because there is no outside force, but the outside force is the web community, and it's the people that love the monsters and that keep coming back to see them.

There were actually people that would email if they weren't posted on time, and they would say, "Are you okay? We're missing our monster today. We're missing our daily monster." That's fantastic motivation. I have a whole bunch of friends and family of the monsters. They'll say, "No, come on. Do it," and as soon as I put pencil to paper, then the monsters have their own gravity.

It's kind of how they did the moon shot, where you had the earth, and you had the moon, and you have to kind of shoot out of the earth atmosphere, and then once you get to this point, then the gravity of the moon pulls you around. That's sort of how this is. The greatest thing is the day after is to just sort of wake up again and see the whole stack that appeared. Let's see. And this happens too, where I don't actually know what he's going to do right now, but I know where the arm could go.

So I'll just put it here, and we'll see what it does. I'm going to give him a doughnut. The monsters are ink-and-paper improv, where it's always 'yes, and...' but if you planned out the drawing, you would say 'Oh, man! I screwed that up because I ran out of paper.' But what I'm trying to do with these is to push myself and to challenge myself to figure out a way to make that an asset.

Another monster of a certain size. Of course he's going to be intently focused on said doughnut. And who knows how many Sharpie fumes I've inhaled over the last five years, probably way too many.

People always ask me if I get high when I draw these. I don't. I don't know. If I got high, I'd probably be an accountant. All right, we'll give him some real nice, big teeth. He'll have a green tongue, so that he can almost get right up to the doughnut there.

He is so close to it he can taste it. Since he is eating all these doughnuts, let's give him some cavities as well, so the kids can learn something. So, there you go. (music playing) 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 in that it's just this 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.

(music playing) Oh cool! Check that out. Wow! That's actually pretty nice. Dang! So they did these just based on drawings that I made for the book.

So what we are looking at here are proofs for my next book and for some products that are coming with my next book, which is called You Deserve a Medal: Honors on the Path to True Love. The idea behind the book is that dating and relationships are such hard work, so is thought okay, we need to create medals for people that are dating. Right away, I have Norm over my shoulder doing that. This would have been a Norm thing, to say, "Well, you know it's a broken heart, so you put a crack in the damn medal." That's a Norm thing.

This brings it all together. I mean this takes the Donaldist ethic, it takes Art Center, it takes my writing and the illustration, and it's probably the first time that it's all completely come together. This is the end point of about a year and a half of work to launch this medals book.

This is the first project that I have done that's not only my own book, but that's also a book that's about life. I always say I talk about life, love, and graphic design, and graphic design tends to take the forefront because usually I talk to other graphic designers, or I talk to other illustrators, and this is much more the 'life, love, and' part.

I'd gotten out of a long relationship, and after I sort of got my bearings again a little bit, I just started online dating and went on a whole lot of dates and just meeting people. I met some really amazing people but then got to the point where I was almost freaked out about meeting people offline because I thought, "Well you know I don't know anything about them. How old are they? How do they vote. Do they want kids. Do they not want kids?" Real life was kind of freaking me out. And I remembered a conversation I had with a marine at the airport on the way to one of the talks. And he said, "Oh! You know, I am a nurse, and I got lot of crap for not serving on a boat during my basic training." And I said, "Well, why are you telling people that? You know, why don't you just not mention it?" He is like, "Oh! They can see it on my ribbons.

They can see it on my medals, because they can read that like a resume." And then I was sitting on a first date and I thought, "This is what we need. We needs medal for dating." Then I immediately went home and started drawing. I started making sketches and writing and then figured okay, well I've got to find somebody to put this out so that I have a deadline that will sustain me through that. (music playing) (music playing) (chatter) Tonight is really sort of--it's like the launching of a ship.

Everybody gets together at the dock, you put down the logs, then you push the hull into the ocean. It's not an advertising thing, it's just--it's really, it's a celebration to put something out into the world and to have it be the end point of something and the beginning of something else. Another little thought made manifest into the world. (music playing) (chatter) So, this is the very first medal that I did, which is the Order of the Pumpkin Medal for receiving your nickname in a relationship.

(laughter) And that has now in the book become the Order of the Honey Bear because we couldn't get the rights to pumpkins. And then I thought this will be a whole new way of doing these books. This will be a new era of efficiency in book making for me. I am going to hire a great illustrator to do this for me. I art-directed Jeff McMillan, who is an amazing illustrator. This is the Medal of First Love. So I was like, "It should have cherubs and a kissing couple and a centaur and a unicorn and love arrows and clouds and chrome, and then there should be curlicues here.

So that was sort of the end of Jeff's patience with me, and at that point I was talking to Jen and Jen said, "You should do it. You should illustrate it," and I said, "I don't want to." But she said, "No, no, it'd be great. It'd be great. You should draw it. You should really--you should just do your thing." (laughter) So this is the-- you may recognize the ostrich. That's the very first sketch of that. And I don't draw that well, and I had to do this at four o'clock in the morning, so it was like okay, I have to model for myself with a timer, and I don't keep furs around the office, so I did it with towels.

(laughter) And as you can see, I've given myself a little bit of extra muscle tone, and I've done a little bit of upstairs action as well. (music playing) (chatter) None of that stuff ever happened to me.

Male speaker: I am sure not. Stefan: No, no, no tear stains in this book. Female Speaker: Working my way into to the Persistent Online Dating Medal. Stefan: Oh yeah? Female speaker: It's a scary world out there. Female speaker 2: I think I'm at the Self Respect Medal. Photographer: I want to make sure everyone's face is happily in this fabulous photo. All right! Stefan: I hope that this is the first of many projects that talk about life and not just graphic design.

The best thing about it is that it's done, so that I can think of the next thing. And I don't know what the next thing is yet. Well I kind of...well, now that I think about it, I kind of know, so now I actually feel kind of anxious because I have something that I should put on paper right now. But for tonight it's about finishing this and then tomorrow is the next thing. (music playing) (music playing)

Stefan G. Bucher, designer, illustrator, and writer
Video duration: 56m 39s 2h 15m Appropriate for all Updated Aug 25, 2011


Stefan G. Bucher, designer, illustrator, and writer provides you with in-depth training on Design. Taught by Stefan G. Bucher as part of the Creative Inspirations: Stefan G. Bucher, Designer, Illustrator, and Writer

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