Franklin Vandiver grew up in a design-conscious household in Huntsville, Alabama. His father is an architect; his mother’s a former landscape designer. Even the next-door neighbors owned an outdoor advertising business and gave the young Vandiver a shot at creating billboards. “In school, I was the kid who could draw,” he says, “so I always ended up doing the album covers for friends in bands.”
Vandiver worked as an intern at Pentagram and then landed his first job at the Brooklyn design firm Mgmt. Currently, the Rhode Island School of Design graduate works with a much more public canvas as the junior art director for André Balazs Properties. Guests who flick on the flat-screen TV in their room at the new Standard Hotel (which opened last December in Manhattan) won’t see the corny imagery that typically flashes on a hotel’s in-house channel. Instead, they’ll get a menu with sleek, streamlined typography that mirrors the hotel’s hipster minimalism.
For the International Center of Photography’s “Archive Fever” exhibition, Vandiver designed the show’s signage and catalog using a black-on-white, alphabetical list of the artists’ names. “They had all these great names in their collection,” he says. “I wanted to create the feeling of holding a book and running your finger along its lines.”
One of Vandiver’s sharpest (if unrealized) efforts brought him full circle back to his Alabama hometown. The city is Deep South–rural yet also the home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (known as “Space Camp”). For his senior thesis, Vandiver brought Huntsville’s civic identity up to date with a monoline slab serif H against an orange background and added a wavy bar to suggest the river. In the end, however, the concept ended up being impractical. “How sweet it could have been,” Vandiver sighs.