There are many artists I admire and have had the fortune of knowing whether on a colleague or friend level. The extremely talented Ryan Katrina, aka NEUARMY is one of them! His amazing work has been a great source of inspiration for me and for many other designers for years, and yes, it keeps getting better. Ryan was kind enough to take some time from his busy life to chat and answer a few questions about his work and thoughts. Check out his interview after the jump, I’m sure you will enjoy it. I know I did!
Welcome Ryan, since most people know you as Neuarmy, could you please introduce yourself to the two or three people that might not know you as Ryan and tell us a little about yourself as the man behind Neuarmy?
Thanks for having me.
My name is Ryan Katrina and I’m the founder of Neuarmy. I also work full-time as the Design Director of Neiman Group — an advertising agency with offices in Philadelphia and Harrisburg.
Additionally, I’m a husband and father of two little girls, Olivia and Charlotte.
When did you realize you were born to be a creative? And how long have you been doing it?
I’ve told this story several times, and it seems to be a common theme among most creative individuals, but I realized my passion for creativity at a fairly early age. I was encouraged and supported by both of my parents, and inspired by their creative outlets. My mom with her drawing and overall thing-making, and my dad with his photography and woodwork. They instilled in me a sense of appreciation for all things, especially nature and animals — regular walks in the woods, searching for frogs and deer — but also simple things like backyard discoveries and building elaborate environments in the sandbox.
When and why did you decide to create a brand to market your work?
I started to play with the idea of a personal brand sometime around 2000, when I was initially working under the guise of New Army Designs. At the time, I didn’t intentionally set out to start a “brand” per se, but took the notion of doing work under a name – separate from my personal name – from my interest in graffiti and using tag names. So, creating work under a “brand name” seemed like a natural thing to do. Ultimately, the trend of incorporating the word “design(s)” into ones moniker passed and so I evolved New Army Designs to simply, Neuarmy.
It has worked beautifully for you, but are there any negative aspects or results when creating and achieving recognition as a brand?
It can be tricky at times, trying to be sensitive to how your brand and ultimately you as the person behind the brand are perceived. But if you stay true to who you are, and act accordingly, it’s really not too difficult.
Tell us about your educational, personal and professional background…
I went to a four year University, where I was “undeclared” for the first two years. That basically means I had no idea what I was doing with my life, aside from having a really good time. Eventually, after putting my doubts as an artist aside, I enrolled in the University’s studio arts program. I concluded my education there with a BFA in Studio Arts and won Best of Show in my senior exhibition with a series of abstract paintings. Life as a painter turned out to be not so lucrative, so I shifted my focus to digital work, teaching myself Photoshop, etc. Professionally from that point on, I worked my way up from Web Production Artist, Web Designer, Interactive Designer, Sr. Interactive Designer, Sr. Designer, and now Design Director.
As a designer, illustrator, painter… what inspires you?
Usually, everything. Sometimes, nothing.
Do you have any hobbies?
Honestly, I define myself through design. It’s not just something I do, it makes me who I am. I do enjoy a lot of other things in life though, mainly my family, my girls. They are my everything. Aside from that, I’m into bikes, photography, and a bunch of other random things that I wouldn’t necessarily classify as a “hobby.”
Are there any artists that have influenced your work? How?
Good or bad, I think every artist is an influence. It’s sort of inherent in thing-making. Artists, designers, etc. communicate visually, and we want people to be effected by what we have to say. I look at a lot of work on a daily basis, whether it’s job-related, or just a search for inspiration and I’m not sure any one particular artist/designer has influenced my work – but more the collection of the whole.
Any current artists that you admire or would like to collaborate with?
Wow. I don’t even know where to begin, so at the risk of leaving some very important people off the list, I won’t even attempt to name them.
What do you think of design nowadays and how do you think it will evolve in the next few years?
Tough question, and maybe it’s the talented folks I surround myself with, but I think today’s design scene is more thoughtful and more informed than they’ve been in recent years. Currently, more focus seems to be placed on generating great ideas and following through with amazing execution as opposed to producing pure eye candy that doesn’t communicate.
What is your favorite medium or type of project?
I don’t think there can be a favorite. It’s whatever works best in communicating your idea. Through Neuarmy, and Neiman Group, I’m able to work in a lot of different areas. All aspects of print, branding, digital, social media, etc. Essentially, every project has the potential to be brilliant, it’s how you decide to approach it.
And from all your work, is there a ’special one’? Why?
I think my early work for The Royal Magazine was a seminal moment for me. It was created at a time where I was just coming into my own, and was given this incredible platform to express myself creatively to an audience of peers and industry professionals. I was also creating work that was at the forefront of a particular style, so it basically propelled me and my brand forward and opened up many opportunities for me.
Do you have any advice for colleague designers and design students?
Simply, do what you do. Don’t try to do what someone else is doing — they’re already doing it.
Tell us something we might not know about Neuarmy…
Something you might not know — when I was trying to craft an identity for myself back in 2000, New Army was a direct play off of the clothing store Old Navy. What?!
When can we expect more material on your online shop? Are you working on any projects or do you have any major projects planned for 2010?
I’ll answer these two questions together:
I do have some personal projects in the works, and as soon as they’re finished, I’ll most likely be selling prints in the shop :)
Thank you again for your time Ryan and keep up the amazing work! I’m a frequent visitor of your site and blog ;) Take it easy partner!
Thanks for allowing me to ramble, and for the kind words!