2012 New Visual Artist: Ryan Thacker

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By William Bostwick

Good magazine cover

Design and illustration for Good cover (designed with Scott Stowell at Open; creative director: Casey Caplowe), 2009

The infographic shows incarceration rates around the world, each country a rectangle in a prison yard, each rectangle a scatter plot of milling inmates. What you notice after a few minutes: The uniform colors are accurate, from America’s eyesore orange to France’s proletarian blue. What you notice after a few more minutes: a sprinting escapee, fleeing to the margin of the page. “I love it,” says Scott Stowell, who worked on the graphic—a page in a Norton sociology textbook—with Ryan Thacker at Open. But why would a designer think to slip that detail in? “Ryan would say, ‘Why wouldn’t you think of it?’ ” Stowell says. Thacker’s work is funny (when else have incarceration rates elicited a grin?), and the humor is in the details.

Age: 29Senior designer at OpenFrom: Mercer County, New JerseyLives in: Brooklyn, New YorkWebsite: www.might-could.com

Thacker came to Open from Philadelphia and a stint at Allemann Almquist & Jones, “getting out the paintbrushes, doing mechanicals,” Thacker says. Very Swiss. He had already interned at Open, after taking a workshop with Stowell at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. In school, Thacker had learned about standards; Open let him loose to play around. “I was exposed to the notion that design work could be funny and poignant and meaningful, and not just about its formal qualities,” he says. “Not that those things aren’t also important.”

Public option

Op-Ed illustration for The New York Times (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2009

Op-Ed illustration for The New York Times" (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2011 (unpublished)

Illustration for Bloomberg View, 2011

Infographic for Good (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2010

Infographic for Good (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2010

Surely not. Thacker’s work looks good: bright colors, clean lines, easy rhythms. Which helps, since most of those details demand careful study, like the poster on the high schooler’s wall in another Norton textbook page (the pitcher Cliff Lee, Thacker’s favorite Phillie), or the icons on a map of Brooklyn for a proposed mac-and-cheese shop (an anchor for the Navy Yard, an anchor tattoo for Williamsburg). “Even if you don’t know what it means, you can think about it,” Thacker says. “I guess I like making jokes that not everyone would get.”

Restaurant identity, 2011 (unrealized)

Restaurant identity, 2011 (unrealized)

Reaves Bold typeface, 2009

Rabble Rousers pennant, 2010

Rabble Rousers flyer, 2010

See the other 2012 New Visual Artists:

  1. Sang Mun

  2. Erin Schell

  3. Berton Hasebe

  4. Drea Zlanabitnig

  5. Casper Heijkenskjöld

  6. Kelsey Dake

  7. Jerome Corgier

  8. Tracy Ma

  9. Olimpia Zagnoli

  10. Ryan Thacker

  11. John Passafiume

  12. Lisa Hedge

  13. Jungyeon Roh

  14. Dafi Kühne

  15. Jing Wei

  16. Caleb Bennett

  17. Naz Sahin

  18. Serifcan Ozcan

  19. Brendan Griffiths

  20. George Michael Brower

More Design Resources:

  1. Learn about the next generation of app design from one of the industry’s leaders!

  2. Available now: Print Magazine’s Guest Art Director Digital Collection

  3. Get an inside look at logo design from Chermayeff & Geismar