Robert Bowen December 5th, 2011

Designer Spotlight: Interview With Illustrative Designer Von Glitschka

As we turn our designer spotlight on once again, this time we have it fixed on Illustrative Designer Von Glitschka of Glitschka Studios. With years of design experience under his belt, and an artistic background to boot, Von has made a lasting impression on the field where he has made his home. And we are lucky to have gotten a moment of his time recently to get him to answer some questions for us and our readers. Before we begin, we thought we would lay the groundwork a little bit more for those readers who might be unfamiliar with Von's work. Passion is certainly one of the words that comes quickly to mind when describing Von, because his passion can be felt in all of his creative expressions. Whether he is designing for a client, preparing a talk for people in and out of the design field, or putting together a useful resource for the community; his excitement for the work that he does comes across almost effortlessly. We will not go on and keep you waiting any longer. From this point forward we have a wonderful interview to share along with some select designs to showcase from the designer himself. Enjoy.

The Interview

Thanks again for agreeing and taking the time to answer these questions. So Von, if you don't mind, tell our readers a bit about yourself. What are some of your personal highlights from your many years in the design game? I kind of view my career as a path adventure. Even though I actively market myself in specific ways, I still get approached to work on a very diverse range of projects that many times I never see coming until they contact me requesting a quote. I do have a few favorites I've worked on that come to mind, but the one project that was really close to my heart was a project I did for Wayne Enterprises. They manage and license the image of John Wayne, and I was asked to create officially licensed graphics they would give to those who license his image. You can view that project here. Who are some of your biggest illustration / design influences? The earliest and biggest design influence would have to be Neville Brody. And without a doubt the biggest influence on me illustration wise was the wonderful work of Jim Flora. (Way ahead of his time IMO) You've been operating under the title of 'Illustrative Designer', a title you coined as your skills in both of these fields began to merge. What do you consider to be the finer points of being an Illustrative Designer? I think the fundamental qualifying factor of an Illustrative Designer is leveraging illustrative skill sets specifically in context of a design project. This is different than a designer hiring an illustrator, I'm talking about being hired to execute graphic design centric solutions and pulling them off with an illustrative flair or approach. This is why I hammer so hard on the fact that designers should also be avid drawers. Not to be confused with illustration though. Meaning I don't expect every designer to be an illustrator, I just think every designer could benefit and improve their design by drawing. Analog methods are still as valid now in a digital age as they were prior to the dawn of computers. I cover this pretty extensively in my book Vector Basic Training. This summer I'll be doing a talk at the HOW Design Conference called "Drawing Conclusions" which will go into the importance of design within the context of a creative process as a designer. You've worked with medium and large design firms, ad agencies, small businesses, and more to help with their creative needs through the creative firm you started Glitschka Studios, is there a particular type of job you prefer to the others? Or as long as it's creative are you happy to play along? My creative preferences seem to migrate from one thing to another through out the course of a given year. Right now I'm really enjoying working on custom hand lettered logotypes such as this one. One thing creatively speaking (pardon the pun) I enjoy doing is speaking. It gives me the opportunity to share knowledge and the creative work of those within a narrative that is very enjoyable and fun. I've recently pulled together a mobile studio and I've started doing one day creative workshops geared for designers. We go over drawing, and how to move from your drawn design to final form. I recently did a workshop on this in London. The only type of creative work I tend to avoid is brochures. Just don't like doing them and usually just farm them out to a friend and art direct it. On the website for your Studio, you layout the creative process that your clients can expect when working with your firm (a very inspired idea, by the way), could you give our readers an idea of how you crafted such a comprehensive and methodical process? Do you find clients receptive to this structured and set of a process? Because I've worked for a lot of larger agencies I've read a lot of creative briefs and over time I just gleaned what I thought worked best from a variety of sources and weaved it into my own creative process. When I'm hired by large agencies and design firms they have their own creative protocol that I adhere and adapt too. So what I posted on my own site is more geared towards the small independent business owner. It's my best attempt to systematize an often unsure process so they'll know in general what to expect regarding their need for a logo identity or marketing. It's not so rigid that I never waiver from it though and at times can be far less complex. It's always best to hedge expectations and communicate as clearly as possible before a project begins. That said, regardless how well I attempt to prepare things don't always go smoothly. You have given numerous talks at conferences, schools, and events all over, and have talks on many topics prepared. Do you have a preference for the type of audience you are speaking to? I've spoken to designers, illustrators, advertising groups, marketing groups, small business groups, in-house art departments, new media developers, ministry workers, college departments, art schools, local creative events, and even a tech conference. One of the best comments I ever got after speaking to a group of designers regarding "Living a Creatively Curious Life" was the IT guy who was recording it and handling all the technical stuff came up to me afterwards and said "I'm not a designer, I don't even draw. But that was a fun talk and now I'm inspired." I thought that was pretty cool, and I told him he should start drawing. When I make certain points in my talks I try to use examples that breach outside our industry. I think they helps make the message more universal for all creative types and enables them to see how it can apply to their specific skill set within the industry. What are some of the most exciting changes that you have experienced in the field while working under the title of Illustrative Designer? Anything you would like to see more of? When I graduated analog was still king and remained so for about five years until the Macintosh fundamentally changed the creative process. I've always been a Mac geek since Apple II days and use to program in basic in high school so moving from analog to digital for me was a no-brainer and really did facilitate a greater reach for me creatively speaking. This is one reason why I loved Neville Brody, he embraced early tech and leveraged it to the fullest through his work. Our industry is replete with an overwhelming amount of great design being produced. I'd love to see more focus on all the great ideas created in the pursuit of pleasing the clients that never get used. I think that would make a great book BTW. I've done a few posts over the years on this and they've always been the ones that got the most traffic? Via you have several inspired design resource tomes available, what was the initial inspiration behind throwing your hat into this ring? In 2005 I was hanging out on design forum online, this was the precursor to social media like Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. One of the editors from HOW Books posted a thread asking what type of books you'd like to see published? At the time I had a text file on my computer called "Book Ideas." Every time I had an idea I'd write it in the file. So I just copy and pasted my ideas into that forum thread and a couple days later the editor contacted me and asked me to pitch two of them. I did and they signed me up to do "Crumble.Crackle.Burn" which is a book on textures. I consider these design resource books in that other designers can utilize the content to produce their own work. That is why each has real examples of the art being used by some very talented designers. What advice would you offer to others just getting started at, or looking to become more adept illustrators or designers? Or even Illustrative Designers? Be smart designers: Never stop learning, never stop adapting, understand how businesses run, familiarize yourself with marketing, be curious, try new things, be your worst critic, accept the fact you'll have to say "no" to a client at times regardless how frustrating or uncomfortable it may make you feel, and never stop drawing regardless if you ever want to be an illustrator. You are a very busy guy, with multiple irons in the proverbial fire, how do you keep your schedule balanced and moving forward? Any favorite productivity tips or apps that you use? Lists are great whether virtual or old school writing on a piece of paper. Make a list every day. I use a web app called backpackit to make lists easier. Be completely honest with clients, don't say you can get something done by a certain date unless you absolutely can. Tell them when you can and most often they'll be OK with that. Also be honest with them if they are making a bad decision that'll effect design, you may butt heads but it's all part of building trust. As an illustrative designer, what are some of your favorite tools that you keep in your arsenal? Your go-to tools of the trade? Any new developments along this front that you are looking forward too? My preferred tools are probably underwhelming and predictable? I draw a lot, so I use your standard issue 2B pencil, mechanical pencil, Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop. I've been using my iPad a lot in regards to research but it would be nice if I could leverage it more for creative work. I did manage to create this design on my iPad. I used an app called "InkPad" which worked pretty good, but Adobes own apps for iPad are at best equipped for noodling rather than precise creative work. After watching the design field evolve over the years, what do you expect to see in the industry's next evolutions? I'm hoping the development of apps and mobile media moves out of the realm of needing to be a coder and more into the realm of a design program. I'm still surprised web development is still not there yet either? I remember in art school writing two pages of code to get green screen graphics on the Lisa Apple Computer I was using. We now have Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to do that now and the code is all behind the hood. I'd love to see that same level of progression in web development and mobile apps. Where it's about design and aesthetic and code is handled behind the hood. But entire industries have been created on the fact that someone needs to know the code so I feel the progression will move at a glacial pace much like automotive moving to full-on electric cars. Apparently Adobe Muse is suppose to fill this gap but that's what they said about other apps in the past and it didn't really work out that way. So hopefully it will, but I won't hold my breath. Speaking of the future, are there any projects that you have on the horizon that you can share with us? Anything coming that has you excited? Working on a new book with a friend of mine who is a photographer. It's more of a creative coffee table book that anyone would enjoy. It'll take a few years to get everything done but so far it's been a lot of fun to work on. (rb)

Robert Bowen

Robert Bowen is an emerging author, celebrated podcaster and poet, and most recently the co-founder and imaginative co-contributor of the creative design and blogging duo at the Arbenting and Dead Wings Designs.


  1. When I look at the “keep calm and draw on” poster, I must laugh. Author is obviously so creative, that he didn’t mind copying national symbol of Czech republic. Try to search “Czech lion” in google images and see for yourself.

    Shame on you sir!

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