Branden M. Collins, art director
For those of you who follow our website religiously, the name Branden M. Collins may ring a few bells: You may remember his poppy, brushstroke patterns for our Sight Unseen x Print All Over Me collab at the Standard Shop during Art Basel Design Miami last December. Or maybe you recall seeing his black-and-white zig-zag vases at our recent pop-up Think Big! at Space 15 Twenty in Los Angeles. Collins — who along with Madeline Moore operates as the San Francisco–based multi-disciplinary duo The Young Never Sleep — is more than just a graphic designer though. He’s also an art director, stylist, illustrator, photographer, product and costume designer, and serial collaborator. Starting with album art and packaging for local Atlanta-based bands, he quickly climbed the creative ladder to count Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Urban Outfitters, and the Standard Hotel among his many clients. With a portfolio so diverse and spanning multiple disciplines, it’s hard to imagine what Collins will come up with next but we’ll go ahead and venture to say that this probably won’t be the last time you’ll see him on this site. Read on for more inspiration!
Describe your most recent project and how it was made.
“The most recent project is so recent it doesn’t even have a name! For now I’m just calling it Anthropocene, which is a proposed geological term that refers to an epoch that begins when human activities have a significant impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. I worked with artist/stylist Madeline Moore — with whom I collaborate on most of the newest studio projects — as well as photographer Thomas Kuoh. Together we are directing a short photo essay examining the natural vs. unnatural. We took macro photographs of insects and beauty products with the intention of creating a dialogue on intimacy, form, function and discomfort. I sort of use the studio as an excuse to explore a variety of interests, especially in science, through creative work. Madeline at one point wanted to go into entomology as a career path, so for her and I, getting so close to these insects was really fun and interesting.”
“Through the process of shooting images at such a close range and in such high definition, we came to appreciate the subtle details of these animals in a new way. When you’re getting that close to them, at a certain point they cease to be creatures that represent discomfort, and a level of elegance or even sensuality starts to reveal itself. We often found that there was a stark contrast to the simple beauty of the insects and the somewhat discomforting textures found in the makeup. Specifically when we got a close look at the used mascara wand, it was a pretty cringe-worthy sight when considering what it’s used for. I certainly walked away with a new appreciation for the different facets of both worlds. Perspective changes things, and exploring the depths of any one thing has a way of revealing its connection to another. As an approach with the studio, I always try to take the way we make common observations and turn them on their head. Specifically the way we look at age, race, gender and sexuality, what’s disturbing vs. comforting. Going into any shoot or project, whether it be for a kids brand or something more adult, Madeline and I go into it with the intention of creating a conversation. Hopefully that’s something we’ve been able to incite with this most recent shoot.” Describe your next project and how you’re currently making it.
“Currently, we’re in the middle of prepping for our very first time at West Coast Craft fair this June. We’ll be showcasing new products from our Shop Yugen! online store. I designed some new apparel, mostly using hand-illustrated patterns and a very primary color palette with hints of gradients. I’m really excited about it! The apparel and accessories will be constructed by our friends over at Print All Over Me, whom I love working with and have been a big fan of since their inception. Madeline and I are creating some new hand-made vases and other home objects, some of which will hopefully will be pretty sculptural, unusual and fun. I’d really like to use the WCC platform to experiment and introduce our studio and shop in a way that invites intrigue more than anything else.” Tell us one thing that’s been inspiring you lately and why.
“My inspirations, as usual, have been sort of all over the place. I’ve been reading excerpts from a book by Margaret Mead and James Baldwin called A Rap on Race, in which the two discuss identity, power and privilege, religion, race, gender and justice. It’s an incredible conversation that delicately and sometimes forcefully picks apart the various facets of some of our most enduring social issues. Alongside that I’ve been reading more and more about the emergence of transhumanism in the biotech community and the ethical issues related to artificial general intelligence. What’s most intriguing to me is being in a time period where these very constant, longstanding social issues (race, gender, class, etc.) are meeting an era where our definitions of ethics, who and what define the “rights” of living beings, and our very humanity will come into question. It’s so mind-boggling to think about! On that note, Kurz Gesagt, a Munich-based design studio, does a series of beautifully animated videos that explain topics related to astronomy, economics and biology that are wonderfully informative.”
“Creatively, the mask work of Kimiko Yoshida (above, bottom) has been a big inspiration for a while. More recently the work of Jun Kaneko (above, top two) is absolutely mind-blowing. The variety of work he and his collaborators create is a huge inspiration as to what an interdisciplinary creative studio can really be. Everything from costumes and set design for plays, to massive ceramic sculptures and public installations — all of his work is superbly crafted, potent, sophisticated and playful. Looking at his work has definitely confirmed that all we seek to accomplish through The Young Never Sleep studio can be realized with some focus, diligence, and time.”
“I just realized that was more than one thing.”
What’s your favorite piece of art or design from the last 10 years and why?
“My favorite piece of art from the last 10 years wasn’t made in the last 10 years but it’s likely the most important work I’ve seen firsthand in that time. Madeline and I were recently in Detroit and were taken to the MBAD African Bead Museum. The museum itself is a work of art in its entirety and was conceived and created by a man named Olayami Dabls. The interior contains a vast collection of African artifacts: sculptures, textiles, pottery, and bead works dating back hundreds of years from cultures throughout Africa, which Dabls had collected over many years. It’s been his mission to exemplify the vastness of African material culture. According to Dabls, 90 percent of beads are African trade beads with 200-300 years of culture. The exterior of the building Dabls has completely hand-painted and covered in murals, mirrored mosaics and scripts from various African ethnic groups, showcasing an incredible tapestry of colors and textures. There is another massive building, said to be empty on the interior, which Dabls has also completely covered in similar painted work. Both buildings are surrounded by murals and sculptural works in stone, iron, and wood, all of which Dabls has created by hand. What’s so impressive and inspiring about this work, aside from the years of dedication creating it, is the anthropological relevance behind it. Every aspect of each marking, sculpture and script has a story behind it and meaning tied to African heritage as it relates to industrialization and contemporary Western culture. It’s truly an incredible sight to see.”