The 28-year-old graphic designer Kostya Sasquatch makes thick, vector-like graphics on a PC, all cartoon colors and geometric shapes, odd logotypes that create iconographies for systems that seem to exist only in the designer’s mind. (He has a whole series called Donut Control.) They’re the kind of designs that could be from anywhere, but they might not have looked anything like they do if Sasquatch wasn’t from Moscow. His work is influenced by street culture and science: The first, he says, doesn’t exist authentically in Russia — only as a copy of its American or European counterparts, as filtered through the internet — and the second is almost second nature to Sasquatch, considering he was raised in post-Sputnik Soviet Russia at the tail end of the Cold War. His childhood was spent watching movies like Flight of the Navigator, drawing scenes from War of the Worlds, peering through microscopes, and growing crystals.
But his native country’s greatest influence may be the artistic freedom it’s granted him: “At the moment, I work only with friends or friends of friends, because my style is a little bit specific for Russia. People often tell me, ‘That’s cool, but we can’t sell it,’ or something like that.” Another problem in Moscow: Personal taste. “There are people who know art and design but have no money to pay for it, and there are people with lots of money who don’t know art. There are serious businessmen who honestly don’t understand why they should pay someone who just makes logotypes or graphic design. So I end up making a lot of stuff for my own pleasure.”
What inspires your work?
“I get inspiration reading Wikipedia or browsing ffffound.com. I enjoy classic graphic design of the ’60s–’80s, before computers. I’m inspired by native and folk art, logotypes, and all kind of signs — any examples of ideas expressed in very simple but exact forms. But usually inspiration comes from sudden sights in the street or nature, which is beyond words I suppose.”
“EBay. My favorite searches are for meteorites, prisms, and self-made things like wood carvings and decorative figures. But I usually find the loveliest things when I’m looking for something else, which is why I like it.”
Piece you wish you’d made: “I wish I would I finally make those pieces that are still just ideas in my mind.”
Style movement you most identify with: “Every good artist forms his own independent movement and at the same time all artists are participants in one fundamental unity. I believe there’s some kind of universal language that each of us can speak and understand in some way. Style is part of this complicated system. Style is a medium between us.”
Album most played while you work: “Us” by Peter Gabriel
Fictional character who would own your work:
What a stranger who saw your work for the first time would say: “I wish I could know.”
Someone like JP Williams has enjoyed plenty of validating moments in his 20-year career as a graphic designer: Getting to study under one of his design heros, Paul Rand, at Yale; winning more than 100 awards for projects like his kraft-paper tea packages for Takashimaya; discovering that his collection of baseball cards from 1909 was worth enough to buy his wife and business partner Allison an engagement ring. All well and good, however none of it really compared, he admits, to the feeling of being validated by Martha Stewart.
Ah, the impotence of the urban dweller. Ever since the Best Made Company axe debuted this spring, you’d be hard-pressed to find a New Yorker who isn’t dying to snap open that wooden case and heave the Tennessee hickory–handled thing at… well, what, exactly? “At first I thought a lot of New Yorkers would buy them,” says Peter Buchanan-Smith, the New York–based graphic designer who founded the company along with his childhood pal Graeme Cameron. But it turns out the best audience for an axe — even one with a handle saturated in gorgeous shades of spray paint — is a person who actually might use an axe.
The editors of Neuland, a recent compendium of up-and-coming German graphic designers, struggled with all the usual big, philosophical questions while putting their book together: What is German design? What is German? Who cares? If they were Ellen Lupton or Steven Heller, they might have spent pages upon pages ruminating on these issues. Instead, they did what any editors who are actually designers by trade might do — they asked their 51 subjects for the answers.