Posted inDesigner Profiles
Thumbnail for IMPACT Design for Social Change Returns

By Benjamin Sutherland

He goes by Shout, but unlike creative types such as Christo, Dr. Seuss, or, say, Snoop Dogg, Shout decided to adopt his nome d’arte less from a desire to sport a cool-sounding name than to preempt a potential lawsuit. In 2001, he had signed an exclusivity contract with a Canadian illustration agency under his real name, but he says the agency pigeonholed his work and refused to market new styles as his sensibility evolved. “I felt like a mute needing to talk,” he says. Ergo, a new name—and the freedom to draw as he pleases.

So far, the strategy is succeeding. His seductively eerie and minimalist illustrations have appeared in publications in Europe and the United States, including Le Monde, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times—and no agency takes a cut. The jobs have become so plentiful that he can turn down jobs for outlets such as financial newspapers, which tend to request, he says, dumbed-down images like “smiling men in suits with briefcases.” If that weren’t enough, Jetlag 2, his second book for Milan-based publisher 27_9, is now available in bookstores in Europe and North America.

With their uniform color tones, clear lines, and ample empty space, Shout’s illustrations are deceptively simple; the work is a window to a realm of absurdities, comic what-ifs, and poignant ironies. “It has a surreal, fan-tastical quality,” says Wired art director Jeremy LaCroix. “It takes you into a whole different world.” For an article about wisdom in zany lowbrow films, Shout drew movie popcorn shaped like brains; for a review of Marisha Pessl’s novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics, a woman picks up road stripes and tucks them into her bag; for an article on judges who were deserting the bench for lucrative jobs in private arbitration, he simply drew a faceless, wigged judge. “Chilled humor” is how Giovanni De Mauro, director of the Rome-based newsweekly Internazionale, describes the work.

Shout earned his degree in illustration at the Istituto Europeo di Design di Milano, then took—and promptly gave up—a job in advertising. (There was no opportunity to draw pictures with “a dramatic aftertaste,” he says.) He gave up animation, too—creating a series of similar images was boring. But he has yet to tire of reading novels, especially the bare-bones prose of Raymond Carver, whose style inspired him to eliminate as many details as possible to get to an image’s core essence.

Therein lies the magic: His professed goal is “to strip away whatever I can.” The result stands in stark contrast to today’s glut of elaborate, over-textured rough-and-tumble images that cash in on an outsider aesthetic. Shout’s low-key and unpretentious look, it turns out, is coming across surprisingly loud and clear.

Illustration for a review of the novel Special Topics  in Calamity Physics for the cover of The New York  Times Book Review, August 2006.

More Information

from San Donà Di Piave, Italy

lives in Milan

age 29


Illustration for a review of the novel Special Topics

in Calamity Physics for the cover of The New York

Times Book Review, August 2006.

2009 New Visual Artists: Apirat InfahsaengMato AtomJacob SilberbergRenda Morton Sveinn DavidssonTimothy GoodmanLauren DukoffJosh CochranZigmunds LapsaFranklin VandiverLabourJennifer DanielBudor + CuleJessica HischeJason TamHannah ChoNicole JacekEleanor DavisJosef ReyesRandy Hunt—Find out more about Print's New Visual Artists competition.

About the Author—Benjamin Sutherland contributes to Newsweek Internationale and The Economist and teaches at the ISCPA Institut des Médias in Paris.

Read more at Shout

For great design products, visit our online store!