Welcome to the world of John Pobojewski, where soda cans represent biblical scripture, 3-D furniture flies off the printed page, and catalogs automatically design themselves.
Pobojewski, a 26-year-old, well-spoken Midwesterner, admits the future didn’t turn out as he expected when he graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2003. Despite dual degrees in graphic design and music, he thought he was destined for a career as a professional percussionist. “I’d been playing since I was 12,” he says. “Sooner or later, I assumed I’d drop design.”
Luckily for the design community, he was scooped up by Thirst, a studio-meets-playspace headed by the inimitable Rick Valicenti, where Pobojewski has worked on a wildly divergent range of projects. On one end of the spectrum, the identity for John Ronan Architect employs simple, symmetrical bold marks that complement the Zen-like qualities of the firm’s work. Then there’s Turbulence, a DIY typeface that uses scribbles and doodles as building blocks; the viewer can tinker with the settings through a custom tool in Illustrator that generates one-of-a-kind letterforms.“I’m always trying to maintain a human element in design,” insists Pobojewski. “It should feel like it’s coming from a human being.”
His personal touch is exemplified in the catalog for Mass Modern Auction. To break up the monotony of the text, Pobojewski showcases the collection of stylish modern chairs, tables, and home accessories by plotting them on a fixed grid system that creates fantastic abstract patterns. The galactic illustrations set the products in motion, looping and swirling around as if they are about to fly off the 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 designed and programmed the ingenious Automated Catalog Workflow, a system that automatically takes care of the lackey work—generating documents, flowing and styling text, placing art in contact sheets, updating corrections—so that the inevitable little details won’t devour precious creative time.
The beauty of Pobojewski’s work stems from the way he combines complex technical systems and rigid structures with a sense of wonder and an open mind. He focuses on the process, not the results. “If you keep the work a little further away than it was in school, you’re free to go in any direction the project asks for,” he says. “You trust in the process.” It’s as if he “plays” design like a musician plays an instrument. In fact, his percussion quartet, Base 4, released their first album in 2005 and are working on their second.
Perhaps the future holds more opportunities for his two passions to converge; his latest project, Phonic, is an interactive typeface combining bursts of sound with abstract letterforms to create a visual poem and symphony rolled into one. Think Brian Eno with, well, John Pobojewski.