Whino the Clown
A few months back, I wrote about my obsession with Target gift cards. I’ve since discovered that I’m not just obsessed with the cards, but with the entire portfolio of Don and Ryan Clark of Invisible Creature—the brothers behind some of Target’s ambitious gift-card line.
The Brothers Clark work in their small Seattle-based studio, and are folks I hope I’ll meet in real life one day. Their work is nostalgic and playful without being cute or cloying. Don and Ryan continue the family legacy, honoring their grandfather, who was an illustrator at NASA. How cool is that?
Invisible Creature has an enviable client list that includes Nike, Hasbro, and Nickelodeon. And they have an enviable background story, having played and recorded with punk-rock bands for years. Recently, I sent Don a few questions (including my inevitable Target query), and here’s what he had to say:
Why do you choose to keep your business small? And consequently, what’s it like working with a sibling? (I don’t know if my sister and I would kill each other after a few months.)
The simple answer: Quality. When it’s small, you’re able to have more control over that. We enjoy getting our hands dirty with the details. In regards to working with my brother—it’s easy because we are so different. If we had the same temperament or demeanor, I don’t know if it would work as well. Yin and yang. But in all the ways we’re different, we share the same perspective and appreciation for the important things. The common goal is the same and we’re constantly inspiring one another to get better and to just keep learning. And to be honest, we still have that childlike wonder when it comes to our job. Each new project that comes through the door is exciting. I think we’re doomed if we ever lose that attitude.
What are some of the latest projects you’ve done with Target? Can you tell me about what it’s like having them as a client?
I will attempt not to sound pandering, but Target is at the top of our client list. Besides developing some of the most fun projects we’ve had the pleasure of working on, it’s a company filled with great people who have great ideas. We’re currently working on our 30th project with them, and it’s still just as fun as the first day they called us back in 2006. The collaborative culture they have over at inHouse is special and it only pours over to the illustrators they work with. We’ve been very fortunate to be a repeat vendor of theirs. Our “Draw & Go” Wow! Gift Card is currently in stores. We have a really fun Wow! Card coming out in January, as well as a handful of new ones in 2013. See more about “Draw & Go” on our blog: http://blog.invisiblecreature.com/target-draw-go/
What similarities do you find in the music and design industries, having worked in both? How has your music background served you as designers?
In the beginning, they were one in the same. When we first started doing this professionally in 2000, we were working solely in the music industry. CD packaging, posters, T-shirts, you name it. We were also writing music, recording albums, and touring. Now that music-related projects are about 25 percent of our business (and I’ve since left band life), the client dynamic has changed quite a bit. With music projects, we’re mostly dealing with musicians and band managers. With retail and non-music-related projects, we’re dealing with creative directors and in-house designers. As one can imagine, there is often a drastic difference in the way each presents art direction. But the extreme variances in our clientele is something we don’t take for granted. They are as vast as our interests. The lessons learned from the music industry (good and bad) helped pave the way for everything we do now.
Can you tell me about your grandfather, the NASA illustrator?
Our grandfather Alfred Paulsen was an illustrator at NASA for over 30 years. He passed away in 1995, but he was always larger than life to us. He loved his job and, even cooler, he got paid to draw. We grew up wanting to make art our careers because of him. His style was varied and unique, but he had that amazing midcentury whimsy and fun that he and many other (more famous) peers pioneered. We have many of his original pieces and continue to post his work on our blog. See some of that here: http://blog.invisiblecreature.com/category/al-paulsen/
Do you have plans to produce more toys like Leroy (below)? It seems like such a natural fit for you guys to have your own little monsters.
We have some really fun toy and product plans for 2013. We’re expanding the IC universe quite a bit over the next year and can’t wait to reveal what we’ve been up to. But to answer your question—yes, many new characters are on the way . . .
An Invisible Creature mural in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood
Seattle Weekly cover
Block party identity
Sasquatch! Music Festival toys
Another great Target gift card
Kayne West: Sheriff
Poster for the Seattle Theatre Group
Conan O’Brien tour poster
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