TheeBlog Q&A Sessions: Armin Vit

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Welcome to 2011’s first TheeBlog Q&A Sessions! And today it’s a very special one to me, not only because my guest is an extremely talented and renown designer, writer and bad-ass design connoisseur, but also an important influence, source of inspiration and yes, one of the factors responsible for my decision to launch my own design blog. It is a pleasure and honor to have Armin Vit as a guest at my humble virtual home and I am sure you will enjoy this interview as much as I did!

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Hello Armin and thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. It is a true pleasure having you as a guest!
You bet Diego. I love answering your questions.

Now, before we begin, could you please introduce yourself to those very few readers out there who may not be familiar with you or UnderConsideration yet?
I’m a designer and writer living in Austin, TX. Been doing those two things for about ten years. UnderConsideration is the design firm and online/offline publisher that I run with my wife and partner Bryony Gomez-Palacio.

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How would you describe UnderConsideration, LLC?
It gets harder every time, but we are currently going with “a graphic design enterprise that runs a network of blogs, publishes books, organizes live events, and designs for clients.” In essence, we are up for executing any of the crazy ideas we have as the years go on.

Let’s take it back a few years. I know you’ve been asked this question numerous times but… Could you please tell us about SpeakUp? Why/How was it conceived and what do you think contributed to its enormous success as ‘the spot’ for Graphic Design at the time?
Speak Up was a reaction to a lack of coverage/discussion about traditional graphic design during the dot-com boom and its aftermath. Design was just seen and talked about this wrapping paper made up of flashy graphics that anyone with a working computer could do. Speak Up came at a time where blogs were just starting to gain traction and some kind of credibility. I saw it as the perfect platform for an “unknown” (me) and it was being in the right place at the right time. I also think, designers felt that it filled a void that magazines and books could not fill at the time (they still can’t) and it gave everyone an outlet to talk about design the way most of us do when we are at the office or out for a drink. We also had a great group of outspoken authors who weren’t afraid to stir the pot, and an amazing group of commenters who generated epic discussions in the comments.

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Did you ever think it would gain so much attention, power and respect?
I did think so, to be honest. Especially the “attention” part.I didn’t actually believe it would. But I did want it to get notoriety and be seen as an alternative to the existing mediums of design publication. Whether it had power and respect, I guess it was up to each person that visited to define that. We got a lot of flack from Rick Poynor at some point because none of our essays had made it into the last edition of Looking Closer — as if that were some barometer of power or respect. Whatever, if we had wanted to get essays on that book we would have written them for a book. We were writing a blog and their success depended on the discussion it generated online not whether it was published in some anthology.

What about life before SpeakUp. What were you doing?
I was just another designer with some minor glimmers of potential, I guess. I was at marchFIRST, which had another 30 or so designers with that same youthful sheen. I then went to work at a small firm in Chicago. Nobody knew about us. But it was this lack of a pedigreed “background” that allowed me to just say “fuck it” as I had nothing to lose.

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What got you interested in design? And when did this happen?

Third year of college. When I did my first logo and stationery. Something just clicked and I got it. I enrolled in graphic design because I assumed it would be an “easy” college path with little written tests. I didn’t have any desire to do it. From thereon I developed a great interest in critiques during class and just telling it like it is, something that gained me little popularity with my classmates. How you like ‘em apples now, huh?

You’ve been involved in various aspects of graphic design for quite some time now. What’s your opinion on the way this field has evolved? Have you seen an overall improvement throughout the years?
I wouldn’t say improvement… Solid ideas and great executions remain the goal and those have evolved with the technologies as well as with the awareness of design among clients and consumers. So it’s nice that it doesn’t stall. It keeps moving with the rest of culture, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse (i.e., Grunge). I love that designers today are much more multidimensional than before, more entrepreneurial and doing all kinds of fun stuff.

You’ve had the pleasure of meeting and even working with the crème of the crop of the design world. Who would you consider some of your most influential mentors?
It’s a very easy answer. It has to be Michael Bierut. The whole industry knows that he has great ideas and a great eye for design, but his most amazing characteristic is the way he conducts meetings with clients. Poised, confident, smart, knows when to bring out the geek design talk and when to talk business. There have been meetings where the feedback is so off from what we expected that I thought the whole project go to shambles only to see Michael blurt out some magic solution that makes the client giddy with excitement. Plus, he is funny as hell.

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Tell us about your books. You have co-authored a couple along with your wife/partner and awesomely cool designer Bryony Gomez-Palacio. What motivated you to tackle on such enormous projects?
Curiosity. Wanting to see if it’s something we could pull off and do books that are outside of the norm. And I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that it rocks to go into a bookstore and see your book there.

And since we touched that subject, I have to ask, how’s your working relationship with Bryony. I mean it’s obviously successful and effective, but how do you guys manage to be productive, creative and work as a team being that there is no ‘end of day’?
We understand each other very well and, what really makes it work, is that we are both fighting the same fight. We want to see our business succeed, we want to work from home and be comfortable, we want our work to be enjoyed by the industry, so we are on the same page. We give each other proper feedback and we each have our own roles.

Describe a usual day in the life of Armin and UnderConsideration?
5:00 Wake Up.
By 6:30 am I have to finish the Brand New post of the day.
By 7:00 am I have to edit FPO for posting and maybe get in some Quipsologies
At 7:00 am the kids wake up. Me or Bryony take them to school.
At 8:00 am I go for a run (between 3 and 6 miles)
Come back and work through 12:30. Break for lunch.
Come back to the desk at 1:00 and work through to 5:30 with kid interruptions.
At 5:30 it’s time for dinner, bath time with the kids, story time.
At 8:30 I’m usually back at my computer to answer e-mails and do Quipsologies.
By 10:00 or 10:30 I collapse.

What part of your ‘job’ do you enjoy most?
That I have an excuse to spend time browsing the internet and have it have an actual ROI.

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What made you leave corporate world and launch your own enterprise?
I like to do whatever I want. And I don’t mean that as me being a douchebag that feels entitled to having my vision realized. I just like the freedom of doing things my way, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. It’s also something every designer should try at some point in their career: see if you can make it on your own, playing by your own rules.

Have you ever considered going back?
No. No. No. Unless it were a ridiculously high salary and I didn’t have to work too hard.

If you were to go back to Agencyland, what would be your agency of choice to do so? Why?
Pentagram. As a partner. It’s the best of both worlds: you run your own mini firm, but within a controlled environment.

During last years Brand New Conference you announced UnderConsideration, LLC would be launching it’s first Awards competition this year. Can you tell us a bit about this new project or is it too early?
Not too early… In fact, we hope to launch within the next ten days. So I won’t spoil any surprises.

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DISCLAIMER! Brand New Awards has been officially launched and accepting entries! Check out the site and submit your work ;)

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You’ve become a household name when it comes to design+ internets, created numerous websites, authored a few books, appeared all over the country, recently organized your very own branding conference and planning UnderConsideration’s Awards. What’s next?
At this point we are trying to get better at some of the things we’ve already done. So we will do another conference this year, another book, and the awards. So just upping our game and trying to run the blogs with more confidence and keep establishing them as the go-to destinations for the design industry.

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Time to put you on the spot! What’s the story with this year’s Brand New Conference? You already told me it might happen in San Francisco but we need more! Could you give us an exclusive tip?
Correct, it will be in San Francisco. I wish I had something exclusive to share but we have yet to sit down and figure out our speakers. Sorry!

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Brand New Tote, Programs and Sketch book!

We all have favorite designers, agencies or time periods in design. What are yours?
1950s – 1960s: The rise of corporate identity. Lester Beall, Ladislav Sutnar, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Chermayeff & Geismar. Those guys rocked it.

Any classic or current designers you admire or think will be making some noise in the near future?
I love the energy of some of the young folks today like Mig Reyes, Jessica Hische, Frank Chimero, and Jennifer Daniels. They are funny and talented.

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What inspires you?
Unicorns. (Sorry, I’m not an inspiration kind of guy).

Other than UnderConsideration’s sites and blogs, are there any online resources you would recommend to designers looking to stay current or inspiration?
Hundreds of places, way too many to list. You could start somewhere like, ahem, Quipsologies and just get lost in all the links we link to and all the places we get those links from. It’s really endless and there is something for everybody.

What’s the best advice you ever got?
“It’s all relative.”

THANK YOU Armin!


www.underconsideration.com



One comment
  1. Great interview. Thanks!

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