2012 New Visual Artist: Ryan Thacker

By William Bostwick

Good magazine cover

Design and illustration for Good cover (designed with Scott Stowell at Open; creative director: Casey Caplowe), 2009

The infographic shows incarceration rates around the world, each country a rectangle in a prison yard, each rectangle a scatter plot of milling inmates. What you notice after a few minutes: The uniform colors are accurate, from America’s eyesore orange to France’s proletarian blue. What you notice after a few more minutes: a sprinting escapee, fleeing to the margin of the page. “I love it,” says Scott Stowell, who worked on the graphic—a page in a Norton sociology textbook—with Ryan Thacker at Open. But why would a designer think to slip that detail in? “Ryan would say, ‘Why wouldn’t you think of it?’ ” Stowell says. Thacker’s work is funny (when else have incarceration rates elicited a grin?), and the humor is in the details.

Age: 29
Senior designer at Open
From: Mercer County, New Jersey
Lives in: Brooklyn, New York
Website: www.might-could.com

 

Thacker came to Open from Philadelphia and a stint at Allemann Almquist & Jones, “getting out the paintbrushes, doing mechanicals,” Thacker says. Very Swiss. He had already interned at Open, after taking a workshop with Stowell at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. In school, Thacker had learned about standards; Open let him loose to play around. “I was exposed to the notion that design work could be funny and poignant and meaningful, and not just about its formal qualities,” he says. “Not that those things aren’t also important.”

Public option

Op-Ed illustration for The New York Times (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2009

Op-Ed illustration for The New York Times" (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2011 (unpublished)

Illustration for Bloomberg View, 2011

Infographic for Good (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2010

Infographic for Good (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2010

Surely not. Thacker’s work looks good: bright colors, clean lines, easy rhythms. Which helps, since most of those details demand careful study, like the poster on the high schooler’s wall in another Norton textbook page (the pitcher Cliff Lee, Thacker’s favorite Phillie), or the icons on a map of Brooklyn for a proposed mac-and-cheese shop (an anchor for the Navy Yard, an anchor tattoo for Williamsburg). “Even if you don’t know what it means, you can think about it,” Thacker says. “I guess I like making jokes that not everyone would get.”

Restaurant identity, 2011 (unrealized)

Restaurant identity, 2011 (unrealized)

Reaves Bold typeface, 2009

Rabble Rousers pennant, 2010

Rabble Rousers flyer, 2010

 

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