Brandon Rike on Tumblr

Well hello there. My name is Brandon. I am a freelance graphic designer, operating from Columbus, Ohio. I used to rock the mic, but have been doing design full-time since 2005. I design merch graphics, logos, posters, and anything else I can apply my creativity to. I have a pretty hefty website. I tweet whatever is on my mind. I dribbble what I'm working on. I take snapshots of things I enjoy. I have a love affair with simple typography. I film various whatnots, and I throw them all together. Know what, we should work together. Hit me up.

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    Good Reviews

    Good Reviews

    The first week of my online class on Lettering has been great. Lots of students submitting great work, and giving back great feedback. If you haven’t checked it out, take a look at Lettering Made Simple: Efficient Methods for Custom Type.

    My main goal in the class is to help designers to not be intimidating to lettering projects. There is a vast world of lettering styles, and you can use simple methods to help you find your unique style.

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    Here is some of the feedback of from the course:

    “This class is great for anyone who wants to learn more about type and manipulating an existing font. It is also perfect for beginners and professionals. I know personally from working in the field of merch design that Brandon Rike is in a class of his own amongst designers, and this class helps prove that. I believe you can always learn something new and after taking this class I can honestly say that I learned several new things. I look forward to learning much more from Brandon Rike in his future classes if he chooses to do more!
    -
Corey Thomas



    Very well done, easy to follow and informative. Good teacher!
    -
Autumn Smith



    This class is packed with great and helpful tips to really streamline ones workflow! Highly recommend watching as it’s a quick and informative resource for designers who work in illustrator. Thanks Brandon for keeping it simple and not getting to technical!
    -Nadine Picone

    I really can’t say enough about this class. It teaches you exactly what it promises in a clear and simple way. It’s very practical, and Brandon goes through his design process step by step. He also gives a lot of insight into what it takes to be a design professional. I was inspired.
    -Seth Duckens

    


This class is for a very specific type of custom type. San-serif fonts, adding lines to preexisting forms, modifying those forms for character and applying effects for detail and further character. It has a clear focus which was helpful but also goes into detail on many tricks Brandon uses to stay efficient. Though it’s a short class I ended up learning one main technique I can see myself utilizing regularly (extending letters) and a number of little tips I can’t wait to use on future projects.
    -Nick Terry


    A very nice class from a talented designer. I would have liked the initial concepting/sketch phase to have had more time dedicated to it by exploring a few different shape and lock-up ideas before jumping into the technical execution. Some ideas for approaching the initial exploration would be helpful considering that it is arguably the most important aspect of the entire process. I did appreciate the different way of cleaning up lines and shapes and the final psd organic edge trick. Very inspiring overall.
    -Scott Howard

    

Let me start off by saying, everyone can learn something new. Whether you’re a pro at Illustrator or not, I’d recommend this class just for the fact of watching another designers workflow. That being said he’s clear with his steps and explains where needed. What did I learn from this class? How to have fun with type and try new things, explore options and if they don’t fit, toss’em! I guarantee you’ll learn something in this course. Thanks Brandon (our name rules) for showing us a peek into how you work.
    -
Brandon E.



    Opinions on a Career In Graphic Design

    Opinions on a Career In Graphic Design

    A few months ago, a high school senior, Samantha Cleveland, sent me a list of interview questions. Samantha is interested in a career in graphic design, and I answered as honestly as I could. I wrote quite a bit, so I figured that I would share. Enjoy.


    Why did you decide on a career in graphic design?

    I can’t recall any moment when I made a “decision” to have a career in graphic design. My parents recognized that I was artistic as soon as I was old enough to color and draw. Art was just always “my thing,” and it was only natural for me to assume that I would be an artist for the rest of my life. I think we often get side-tracked into thinking that we need to pursue the occupation that makes us the most money. I got good grades in school, and I knew there was an option to pursue a career in something like medicine, or law, or those other seemingly high-paying careers. But those options were never really options for me. I viewed them as boring, and I viewed art as fun. So I naturally kept art as my main priority, and always have. I think part of our purpose is to spend our time doing what we are best at. I was lucky that I found a way to make a living at doing art projects all day.

    What tools and knowledge are most helpful in pursuing a career in graphic design?

    I’ve found that having a responsible, task-oriented approach to a seemingly free-sprited field is extremely important. The biggest problem that I see in most artists and designers is that they are so self-absorbed and proud of how artistic they are, that they tend to be very irresponsible, unreliable, and slow. They prioritize self-expression over work completion. My biggest asset is the speed at which I do projects, the timeliness at which I deliver my work, and the organized workflow that I maintain. This has helped me to maintain good rapport with my clients, which has cultivated many relationships, and steady work that has lasted over a decade now.

    What are some aspects of a great portfolio?

    I’ve always been more impressed with a proficiency in a wide range of styles than expertise in one single aesthetic. The reality is that most jobs will require you to create work one day that may look completely different than the work you did yesterday. It’s the ability to bounce between these styles that will make you a valuable asset to your employer. However, if it’s strictly illustration jobs that you seek – then you will eventually benefit from defining your own style, and perfecting it. A career in Illustration has many different principles than a career in Graphic Design.

    How did you start your career as a graphic designer (internships, job applications/interviews, etc.)?

    I had an odd path to my current career in graphic design. Like I mentioned, I had always been artistic, and spent most of my time drawing. My friends and I started a band when we were thirteen years old, and I naturally created the logo and tape jackets for our band. As our band grew, so did the nature of the projects that I created for the band. I would find myself designing fliers, cd covers, t-shirt graphics based upon our need at the time. At age 18, my band signed to a record label and we started touring nationally. Most of the bands that we toured with liked the merch that I designed, and asked me to design merch for them as well. This snowballed into consistent paying work for me that I did from my Powerbook in the van and in hotels. Around age 22, there became an odd overlap between my income from design, and the income from the band, in which I was making more money designing t-shirts for bands, than I was performing in my mine. The decision soon came to take my design operation full-time. I’ve been completely freelance and full-time since 2005. I’ve never worked any design job other than my own freelance projects, which is quite rare. I’d like to think it came from an unwavering persistence to my work, but the truth is that I’ve been very very lucky.

    What are the major differences between working free-lance and working for one company?

    Since I’ve never worked solely for a company, I can only speak from the freelance perspective. The main difference, for me, is freedom. This isn’t the freedom of skipping around all day, and living a life-long vacation, but the fact that I have a freedom to do projects that I enjoy, and to do projects because I want to, and not because I have to.

    However, I wouldn’t wish this level of stress upon my worst enemy. While most people can walk away at 5pm everyday, my job never stops. Working on several time zones, and crazy deadlines mean that you can find me tackling a mountain of work at any time of day or night. There is no one to delegate work to, only my own shoulders on which I carry this whole operation. From client interaction, scheduling, taxes, invoices, the work itself, revisions, etc – I do every single bit of it.

    The biggest problem with freelance is that making a good living at it is extremely difficult, and in order to pull it off, you must exhaust yourself. I find myself both constantly exhausted, and constantly proud of the fact that I’ve been able to do this on my own, and make a great living at it. At this point, there is no way I would ever work for a company. Freelance is all that I know, and I plan on sticking with it for many more decades to come.

    What were/are your career goals as graphic designer?

    My biggest career goal is to make cool stuff. Plain and simple. There were never any income figures, or huge accounts that I wanted to obtain – just the ability to make the type of stuff that excited me as a kid, when I would get lost looking at all of the graphics in old skateboard catalogs. I get to do this stuff, all day, every day, and I know that the 12 year old version of me would be so excited to know what he’ll get to do for a living someday. My goal was, and continues to be, to maintain that youthful excitement for creating art. I’ve had it my whole life, this passion for making stuff, and I’ll do whatever it takes to maintain it for the rest of my life.

    What do you do in your typical working day?

    Ideally, I wake up early. Like, really early. Like 4:30am early. I make a protein shake for breakfast, I shower, get dressed, put on my shoes, make coffee, walk my 15-20 feet commute to my home office, and get to work.

    For me, the real work happens when I can fully immerse myself in the project, without any distractions. This is that “in the zone” feeling that happens when you get lost in your art. I do whatever I can to get there. My usual methods include working when no one else in the country is awake, ( hence the 4:30 wake-up ) listening to podcasts or ambient music, running a fan or air purifier for white noise, and turning off all phone, email and social media distractions. Once you pinpoint the distractors in your work day, it becomes easier to avoid them, and only focus on work.

    I will break when I finish a project, or reach a stopping point. I usually spend that time getting lunch, talking to my wife, running errands, etc. I get back to work until I feel okay about stopping. This is usually 4-6:00 pm. I can feel confident that I put in a good day’s work, and met all of my deadlines – and won’t feel guilty about watching TV. It’s not uncommon for a last minute request to come in during the evenings, and I do my best to oblige. Setting boundaries with loyal clients is overrated. If someone needs something, and you can do it, do it. I try to prioritize being good to people, not letting them know how busy I am.

    I try to get to bed before 11:00 pm. I look over the next day’s projects, and try to fall asleep thinking about them.

    What are the working conditions like (stress, pace, travel, environment, hours, etc.)?

    There are days where I put in 13-14 hours of work, but some days that I put in 3. The workload is insanely busy some days, but then there are days where I can take my wife to lunch at 1:00, and not have to rush back. There are enough of those easy days to make up for the majority of high-stress days.

    I’m freelance, and work from home, so there is no commute. But, that also means there are no co-workers and I have no one to bounce ideas off of. While I would consider myself an extrovert, I’m most efficient and productive in an introverted state. I’m sure being around co-workers would get under my skin pretty quickly, so I’ll stay solo.

    What are some of the designs you have created and their successes?

    I’ve designed thousands of pieces, for hundred of bands. It’s not uncommon for me to look back on my work, and not remember creating a piece. But I’m always excited to see some of the work that I’ve done for Pearl Jam, The Beastie Boys, Blink-182 and Mumford & Sons. I’ve been able to walk into Target, Wal-Mart, Hot Topic, Delias, Spencers, and several concerts, and see my work. I never get used to seeing work that I’ve created get sold globally. I’ve been able to have a tiny piece in shaping the visual culture of our time, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities.

    What is your greatest accomplishment in your opinion?

    My greatest accomplishment is making a job out of doing what I’m best at, making a good living at it, and doing it all on my own. I set out to prove a lot of things to myself, and to never stop trying to go beyond what I thought I was capable of. I’ve achieved all of that, and can honestly say that I’m proud of myself. I’m actually being what I wanted to be when I grew up.

    In your opinion, what characterizes a good designer?

    A designer is essentially a decision-maker. We’re often making decisions about elements and how they interact with each other, and with the viewer. A good designer is one that has tremendous artistic skill, but also the knowledge to know how to use it effectively. Being a good designer is very different than just being a good artist in general. A good designer must care about how someone will react to and digest a piece – so they must care more about that audience than they do about their own agenda. There is a selflessness needed to be a good designer – knowing that you’ll do whatever is necessary to get the message across, no matter how much or how little work that may take.

    Would you choose this career if you could make the decision again?

    Definitely. I would choose to do the exact same thing that I’m doing now. No question.

    What (if anything) would you do differently?

    I would figure out a way to involve other people in my life more. My work benefits from my isolation, but my mind and overall well-being benefit from community – which, unfortunately, I haven’t prioritized.

    What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

    Any moment that I can look at something that I created, and be genuinely impressed by it. Also, any time I can see a client’s excitement for what I came up with.

    What are the least rewarding aspects of your job?

    Those times when I exhaust myself on a project, send it in, and the client is too caught up in the machine to reply with a “Thank you.” We are all cogs in a bigger machine, but it’s nice to work with personable clients, even if your only interaction is email.

    How you respond to the notion that art is not generally considered a viable career option?

    I would agree. It’s not. There is often some odd, winding path that successful artists went down to get them to the career they have. This path is so random, that there is no way to provide a student with steps or a guideline on how to get there. The majority of ready-made design jobs that most students get placed in provide little to no reward, making these artistic people hate design altogether.

    The truth is that most people hate their jobs because they’ve never had the courage to break away from convention. The only thing the convention, or the suggested path tells you is how to achieve a mediocre, lower-middle class lifestyle. If the majority of America is unhappy, and hate their jobs, you can only assume that this suggested path laid before you will only lead you to that same unhappy life.

    True happiness comes from finding your own path, and breaking away from the herd. You have to know that the herd is unhappy, and there is no logical reason to stick with them. It’s your youthful curiosity and tenacity that will eventually get you to a life that you can be proud of. You will never find true happiness in simply being somewhere in the herd.

    My Skillshare Lettering Class

    My Skillshare Lettering Class

    I had a blast on my first Skillshare class, and I was happy to put together a new one. Today I’m launching a new class entitled “Lettering Made Simple: Efficient Methods for Custom Type”

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    My class will roll out with the new Skillshare Subscription Model. This means that you can now purchase a subscription to Skillshare for $10/month, and gain access to their entire library of 150+ classes.

    So you have the option to buy the class a la carte for $19, or get a membership for $10/month.

    My class teaches you efficient methods to create beautiful lettering pieces. The reality of a the fast-paced design world of insane deadlines is that we need to make good work, and good work quickly. I take use of the resources available, including Lost Type Co-Op, and show you the steps to creating great work.

    So, please do me the huge favor of enrolling in my class, and starting your Skillshare subscription today! Go check it out!

    Simplicity Tee

    Simplicity Tee

    T-Shirt available for a limited time at Cotton Bureau.
    I used the phrase “Simplicity Takes Courage” in a recent talk. The fine folks at Cotton Bureau have printed it on a t-shirt. Buy one for you and your boo, or your bae, or whatever you call that other person you hang out with. Only available until March 20th. Act quick!
    Buy the shirt at Cotton Bureau»

    Take my @skillshare class, as I design band tees for @twentyonepilots http://skl.sh/1cH0ttA

    Class is Open!

    Class is Open!

    Today is a big day for me. I’ve worked very hard on putting together a Skillshare class to show people my real process and workflow for making band tees.

    Enroll in the class!Class Announcement

    It was a lot of fun putting this together. I sit down with Tyler Joseph, from the band Twenty One Pilots, and hear his direction for the merchandise. You get to watch my entire process, including the interview, brainstorming, sketches, Illustrator, Photoshop, and mock ups. I talk you along the entire process.

    I’m so happy with how it turned out. Do me a huge favor, and use this link to spread the word! http://skl.sh/1cH0ttA

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    My Skillshare Class

    My Skillshare Class

    Skillshare Class

    Skillshare came to me recently, asking if I was interested in teaching an online course with them. After trying my hand at a few process videos, here and there, this looked like the perfect chance to put something together that showed my honest process for most of the band tees that I create.

    One of the bands that I design for, Twenty One Pilots, offered to get involved, and take part in a real-life interview. I’m pretty stoked with how it all turned out.

    You can enroll in the Skillshare class here: http://skl.sh/1iwvTuQ.

    Please spread the word!

    My talk from WMC Fest

    My talk from WMC Fest

    WMC fest recently posted the video from a talk I did in August. Check it out here.

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    Balance, Challenges, and Happiness

    Balance, Challenges, and Happiness

    Two media outlets caught up with me last week – both inquiring about similar topics.

    I sat down over Google Hangout with Joel Beukelman and Aaron Irizarry of The Blnce Podcast. They referenced my previous article, “Lessons Of The Grind,” and good conversation followed. Take a listen here.

    Also, Heather Sakai at Go Media asked me to contribute to her article over at GoMediaZine on “My Biggest Challenge Running A Design Business” Below was my response:


    The biggest problem that I have running my freelance operation is maintaining a balance with my social life, and happiness level in general. We assume, early on, that if we work hard enough, we can achieve a certain level of success. It is also our assumption that that level of success will bring us a wealth of happiness.

    It doesn’t.

    Achievement of our goals only prompts us to set a new goal, instead of taking any time to enjoy reaching a milestone. After doing freelance design for over a decade, I have set goals and achieved them – only to set a higher goal for the following year, and thus put myself right back to the grind – glossing over any chance to pat myself on the back.

    It’s possible that continued success in a creative field has an adverse reaction to one’s happiness. Being creative all day, every day, gets more and more taxing. The well of ideas threatens to dry up, and we put more and more pressure on ourselves to stay afloat. The quest for “better” is admirable, but also tortuous.

    This grind keeps me in my cave, churning out work, giving myself little to no interaction with the outside world. More success, for me, has led to a very reclusive lifestyle. On paper, I’m experiencing the most successful time of my life – in reality, I can’t remember the last time I sat down with a friend for coffee.

    The solution? Move happiness to first on your priority list. Meeting with people you enjoy or doing things you love can put you in a positive frame of mind that’s more equipped with managing a heavy workload. This positive outlook instantly manages stress better, and is more effective at calculating an otherwise chaotic and overwhelming to-do list.

    Days may look less like a row of fires to put out, and more like the privilege that we began these careers with – that, while others toil through jobs that they hate, we get to be creative for a living.

    Lessons Of The Grind

    Lessons Of The Grind

    After doing consistent design work for over a decade, I’ve observed many phases of the career. I’ve also come to my own conclusions and basic philosophy, that I’ve also watched evolve over time. Anything I thought I knew would soon be replaced by a new perspective. So, as firm as I may hold on to my ideals, I also realize how fleeting they are, and that my stance, however solid, is only temporary.

    This year, 2013, has been the most transitional year of my life. The hurdles I’ve jumped through for the past eight months have tested every aspect of my personality, and more specifically, how I manage to complete my work.

    I could bore you with all of the details in another post. Since the general tone of this blog is design-oriented, I’ll leave the specifics out. The paraphrased version of my year is this:

    

I started the year, in January, with a goal to put my head down, and to take on and complete as much work as I possibly could. I wanted to stretch myself to the limit, in hopes of pushing that limit – getting out of the year more capable than I began it. That was my only focus. Simple.

    

In the third week of January, my wife and I found a “dream property” that we could only wish for. Every thing we had dreamed that our life could be seemed possible on this ten-acre property near our town. However, if we were going to buy this property, we would have to act quickly. So we pulled every string we could to be able to make an offer on the property, but we would have to keep our current house in the mean-time. January is not a good time to put your house on the market.



    Our predicament would be to buy the new property, and lock that down. Then, we would move on to getting our current house up for sale. To make matters even more complicated, we would plan an extensive renovation to the small house on the new property — a renovation that we, working from home, would not be able to live through. The only option, move into an apartment during the renovation.



    In nailing everything down, in the months of May, June, and July, I found myself with A mortgage payment for our current house, a mortgage payment for the new property, and a lease for the apartment for the interim. All the while, bouncing from bank, to contractor, to architect, to realtor, to radon mitigation, to roofers, to hvac, to… you get the picture. All of this, while still maintaining the hefty work load that I had challenged myself with. This is the type of stress that goes beyond ramming your head through a wall, to a focused effort to keep from spontaneously combusting. If there were ever a time for me to completely explode, it was this past summer.

    But after a long ordeal, we sold our house, quickly, for way more than we paid for it. We found a contractor and an architect for the renovation on the new place, and we found an apartment to live in, for the interim. I am currently living and working in the apartment, while I bounce building plans back and forth with the architect and contractor.



    For this entire year, I have somehow managed to work 5-6 days a week with the largest work load of my career.

    All this, to focus on what I’ve learned through it all.

    When the time comes to shut up and get work done, you find out what type of designer you are. Many of us worry about where we stand amongst some design community, some of us want to be the best designer ever, some of us obsess over our Twitter followers or Dribbble likes, and some of us are terrified and unsure of every single decision that we make. This year, I haven’t had the time to ask those questions, or focus on anything else but the work. I’ve had no other choice but to become a machine.

    I’ve realized that at the end of the day, if us designers do not have the ability to silence, and grind work out — then the longevity of our careers may hang in the balance.

    The idea of being an artist, or the pride we take in being creative means nothing if we cannot back it up with hard work. Pure, gritty, sweaty, work. There is no squeaky-clean suit and tie in my world. My world, the one that has allowed me to make a good living as a freelance artist, is a dirty pair of overalls, one that’s exhausted at the end of the work day.



    In time, I’ll learn how to have a great career AND room to breathe, but for the first decade or two of my career, I want to know that I spent it grinding. I want to know that I’m capable of doing an amount of work that others view as impossible. Before I ever put some suit-and-tie on to accept a meaningless award– I want to know that I pushed myself to the limit to get there.

    You’re artistic. You’re creative. You’re gifted. Congratulations.

    Now, let’s see if you know how to work.

    Thread Council

    Thread Council

    As most of you know, I’ve been designing merch for bands since I was a teenager. I’ve been doing it as an occupation for the past decade. Band merchandise makes up 95% of my work load, and I’ve been extremely proud to make it my focus in my design career. I’ve worked with lots of people throughout my career, and have tried to establish strong, meaningful connections with all of them. My clients are my lifeblood, and I am extremely grateful for them.

    While I love what I do, the reality is that I grind out work, all day, 6-7 days a week for some of the biggest bands and artists in the world. When the art files are sent off, that is the last that I see of the project. I don’t see the tees after they are printed, and really have no way of knowing how well the design sells.

    Last year, a group of people in San Francisco approached me about their new idea, Thread Council. Their team is comprised of heavy hitters in the online marketing and retail industries. They’re sole purpose was to celebrate artists like me, who create so much art, that so many people see, but hide behind the scenes of a much larger operation. Thread Council wants to provide an outlet for me to have a better connection with the life of the art that I create. This possibility can breathe new life, and rejuvenate my passion for creating apparel graphics. The merchandise industry is built on the backs of artists like me, and they wanted to do good, and show our faces to the world, while offering limited edition t-shirts with our original artwork.

    While I always want to create band merchandise, Thread Council has proposed a way for artists like me to see the reach of our artwork. This is a game-changer.

    I was flattered and honored. Thread Council wants to applaud the work that goes into shaping a visual culture, and reward the workers grinding out work behind the scenes.

    So, before Thread Council officially launches, they’ve put together a beautiful Kickstarter campaign. While the whole campaign is extremely well-done, the rewards are even cooler. From one-on-one design counseling sessions, to you art-directing a design, there are a lot of fun rewards that they’ve packed into the campaign.

    If you are a fan of graphic tees in general, now is the chance to get involved with a movement that says thank you to the artists who create this stuff, and to applaud their hard work.

    I would be honored for you to be involved. View Thread Council on Kickstarter.

    -Brandon

    Your punishment must be more severe. #bane #superbowl @jensenclan88 (at Super Bowl XLVII)

    I did my first merch design for Underoath a decade ago, while my band was touring with them. Since then, I’ve steadily contributed to their various runs of merch, and have been honored to continually be asked to create more art.

    So I was honored to be asked by Tim to design a limited edition poster for one of the shows for their Farewell Tour Artist Series. The poster is available on their site, along with a tee version. Below is my contribution. Also, be sure to check out the various limited edition posters, including art by Invisible Creature, Jordan Butcher, and Steve Hash, to name a few.

    uo-farewell

    Last of the Machete Monday orders going out the door. Thanks to everyone who bought some tees!

    Machete Monday!

    Machete Monday!

    I’m doing a Cyber Monday sale, calling it “Machete Monday!” Visit The Racing Machetes web store and enter promo code MACHETEMONDAY to get $10 off any tee. Get There Fast!

     

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