To celebrate their fifth anniversary, Imprint Projects have invited ten of their favourite artists and designers to go on a ‘blind date’ and create limited-edition posters without ever meeting before. Brooklyn-based graphic designer Ben DuVall has teamed up with Espen Friberg to design a screen-printed poster, limited-edition of 100, to help spread the love this Valentine’s Day. Now read on to hear more about Ben and the challenges of creating a design with someone he never meets in person.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background. What made you fall in love with graphic design?
My name is Ben DuVall, I’m a graphic designer and artist currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Most recently, I was working at NYC design studio Project Projects, but now I’m a freelance designer and currently doing an artist residency in Indiana for the month of February.
I became interested in graphic design through skateboarding and music and the visual culture that surrounded those things. Something about the way musicians, especially the punk bands I was listening to at that time, were able to present a whole other aesthetic part of themselves through their album artwork or gig posters was really attractive to me. I love the idea of creating a language of symbols or slogans that drive the music, but also can reach into political or social spheres. Bands like Crass, 7 Seconds or the Two Tone ska bands were great at that, right now I think the Ascetic House label is doing a phenomenal job in that same vein. I have a theory that the visual artwork, maybe even more than the music, does a lot of the work in inspiring devotion and work ethic within underground music scenes.
What does your typical day at work involve?
I’m kind of in a state of flux right now where no day is typical (as typically cliche as that sounds). The nature of my work is that I end up spending a lot of time in front of a computer, which I think can really deaden any inspiring thoughts, so I try to balance out my working day with reading, writing and walking which are really important to my process. When I’m in Brooklyn, I usually work from my apartment. A typical day usually involves a lot of emails, sometimes meetings with clients, and then putting on music and making some work. I’ll try to intersperse that with visiting some galleries or museums or going to a talk at least once or twice a week.
Could you briefly explain to us about your collaboration with Espen Friberg and how the poster was generated?
Espen and I initially talked on Skype and shared our memories of the song “What’s Love Got to do with It?” and then also just tossed around some initial associations with the lyrics and style. We decided to collaborate in a “layer tennis” style, passing back and forth a Photoshop document while each of us made a new move each turn. There were a lot of intermediate steps and a good number of our moves didn’t make the cut or ended up in quite different forms. I remember at one point we had Tina Turner with candy heart eyes, which I think we eschewed for the better.
What have been your biggest challenges in the creation of a design with someone you never meet in person?
The biggest challenge was not being able to get a reaction to the moves you make except in email. I wasn’t really sure whether either of us liked the direction we were going in, but the beauty of the process was that either of us were free to change or discard anything that we felt wasn’t working.
What do you think are the best and the worst aspects of living and working in New York?
The worst aspect for me is that the city has a constant, underlying stress level and I often feel pretty beat down by that. I come from California where there are a lot of people, but a lot more space and barriers between them. In NYC, you come face to face with both the really amazing, and pretty ugly or sad. But I think the flip side of that is also the great part. There are so many people here making art, music, design, literature, etc. that there is never a shortage of things to take in. One of the main reasons I moved to NYC because I thought it would be the next step in my education as an artist and designer, and that was totally true.
Would you like to tell us about some of the projects that you are working on at the moment?
Currently, I’m the artist-in-residence at Taylor University in Indiana. I’m working on a project here investigating imperfection, ugliness and dissonance and the role they play in art and life in general. The final product is a gallery show here and a performance that presents the work I’m doing, which will hopefully integrate students and people from the community. It’s an exciting project for me because I’m modeling my practice as a space between art, design, philosophy and poetry, but not completely any one of those things. Besides that, I’ve been working on a website for San Francisco-based art collective Futurefarmers, designing a new poetry book for Publication Studio, and just released issue 3 of BULK, a collaborative art and literature newsprint publication I coordinate.
And final question, have you and Espen decided on where a portion of the proceeds from the sale of your poster would go towards?
Yes, the Brooklyn Women’s Shelter, part of Coalition for the Homeless.
Thank you very much, Ben! And for more information about the Imprint Projects, please click here.