John Pobojewski

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Welcome to the world ofJohn Pobojewski, where soda cans represent biblical scripture, 3-Dfurniture flies off the printed page, and catalogs automatically designthemselves.

Pobojewski, a 26-year-old, well-spoken Midwesterner,admits the future didn’t turn out as he expected when he graduatedfrom Northern Illinois University in 2003. Despite dual degrees ingraphic design and music, he thought he was destined for a career as aprofessional percussionist. “I’d been playing since I was12,” he says. “Sooner or later, I assumed I’d dropdesign.”

Luckily for the design community, he was scooped up byThirst, a studio-meets-playspace headed by the inimitable RickValicenti, where Pobojewski has worked on a wildly divergent range ofprojects. On one end of the spectrum, the identity for John RonanArchitect employs simple, symmetrical bold marks that complement theZen-like qualities of the firm’s work. Then there’sTurbulence, a DIY typeface that uses scribbles and doodles as buildingblocks; the viewer can tinker with the settings through a custom tool inIllustrator that generates one-of-a-kind letterforms.“I’malways trying to maintain a human element in design,” insistsPobojewski. “It should feel like it’s coming from a humanbeing.”

His personal touch is exemplified in the catalog forMass Modern Auction. To break up the monotony of the text, Pobojewskishowcases the collection of stylish modern chairs, tables, and homeaccessories by plotting them on a fixed grid system that createsfantastic abstract patterns. The galactic illustrations set the productsin motion, looping and swirling around as if they are about to fly offthe page. Think Jackson Pollock with a Spirograph kit.

Where others see restrictions with design software, Pobojewski sees possibilities.For the annual art catalog for auction house Wright, Pobojewski designedand programmed the ingenious Automated Catalog Workflow, a system thatautomatically takes care of the lackey work—generating documents,flowing and styling text, placing art in contact sheets, updatingcorrections—so that the inevitable little details won’tdevour precious creative time.

The beauty of Pobojewski’s workstems from the way he combines complex technical systems and rigidstructures with a sense of wonder and an open mind. He focuses on theprocess, not the results. “If you keep the work a little furtheraway than it was in school, you’re free to go in any direction theproject asks for,” he says. “You trust in theprocess.” It’s as if he “plays” design like amusician plays an instrument. In fact, his percussion quartet, Base 4,released their first album in 2005 and are working on theirsecond.

Perhaps the future holds more opportunities for his twopassions to converge; his latest project, Phonic, is an interactivetypeface combining bursts of sound with abstract letterforms to create avisual poem and symphony rolled into one. Think Brian Eno with, well,John Pobojewski.