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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    I am completely thrilled to be featured by Visual Supply Co, one of the coolest new collection of resources for creatives. I love the entire vibe and philosophy behind VSCO, and am honored to be asked a few interview questions for their site. Please take a look at the full interview at VSCO.

    Learning To Unlearn

    Despite being viewed by many as an extremely positive person, I often find myself faced by days where creativity and excitement just stops. While yesterday may have been extremely productive and positive, today may leave me frustrated, irritable, and utterly confused about who I am as a designer, and who I am as a person. If my schedule allows, I tend to use this as a signal to get out of my office, and decompress. As projects pile up, I find my big, exciting ideas for the future often getting smashed under the more immediate tasks. It leaves me stressed, and in turn, uninspired and uncreative.

     While this article could branch off into several separate subjects, the one I want to elaborate on is that of feeling uncreative.

    Today, on my personal twitter account, I tweeted:

    “Lately I’ve been wanting to unlearn everything I think I know about design. Would be great to get that youthful excitement back.”

    It was really only the tip of the iceberg for what was on my mind. Unlearning. Many of you who have been in the design industry are probably familiar with the term. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, well, you’re in a good spot. You’re still fueling off the newness of your career in design, and you’re still learning everything for the first time.

    I’ve been doing this for a decade now, and I’m beginning to envy that youthful excitement.

    A couple replies to my tweet came in quick. Matthew Flick, Vice President of The School Of Advertising Art, and Owner of Flick Design said: “Agreed. And learn from people you admire to see why they design things the way they do. Just design for fun.”

    In addition to Matthew’s reponse, independent graphic artist, Brandon Moore,  added: “I was thinking the same thing last week. Studying old work, there were things that I liked, but would never think of doing now.”

    Both responses struck a chord with me. Matthew stressed from learning from people you admire. I love this idea, and I have definitely made the attempt where I could to learn from designers that I looked up to. But I also want to be that to people that look up to me. I want to have the answers for people on how to maintain the passion and excitement for design that initially ignited us all.

    Brandon Moore’s response had me nodding my head as well. I often look back on my own work as a little more fearless, original, but also more naive. I’d like to take my wisdom, and mix it back in with the fearlessness.

    To get to the point, my issue is that when I first started making a living from my design work, almost every thing was new for me. Every new font blew me away, every new texture technique made my heart race. I used to look at Aesthetic Apparatus and Ames Bros portfolios and drool. It was like seeing colors for the first time, or being introduced to the capability of the computer before I had even realized I could create with it. That newness. That excitement. It was like being pushed hard enough that I knew it would be a long time before I would ever slow down.

    Maybe I’ve even gone on longer than I expected. I had a head full of brand new ideas that had always seemed bottomless. I wondered if there would ever be a time when I would run out of ideas, because, at the time, it was evident that there was an idea factory in my head - and it was quite a well-oiled machine.

    But if the time has come, when my ideas have run out, it hasn’t happened quite the way that I thought it would. I thought there would be a brick wall that I’d run into, and I would know, for sure, that the well had run dry.

    But it’s come in the form of confusion. There isn’t one day where you wake up, and your work just isn’t cool. Instead, there is a day when you wake up, and your tastes are a stark contrast to the majority. You find yourself convinced that what the majority likes, just, well… sucks. This all seems fine and good if you want to align yourself with a snobby class of designers, but I don’t want to align myself with the snobs. I want to care about my clients and my clients‘ demographic. It’s part of my job to care about what the public thinks, and to design with them in mind. But what happens when you are convinced that the public is wrong, and they don’t know what’s best?

    Now, I have obvious answers to my questions. Yes, I know that knowing my demographic is crucial to being a successful designer. I also have always ignored my own “aesthetic” to a certain extent, if it meant that I could more effectively solve the problem. I haven’t set out to show the world my so-called “unique aesthetic,” but instead, I’ve set out to show my clients that I can solve the problem. I will stand firm in my belief that graphic design is about solving the problem, not implementing your own agenda into everything that you send out. I’m way more impressed by the designer portfolios that show an amazing range, than I am with the ones that simply regurgitate the same aesthetic, over and over again. I don’t operate like a fine artist. I operate as a commercial artist. There is a huge difference.

    But, the drawback that I’ve realized with my method, is that I don’t want to do anything twice. I’m terrified for anyone to look at my work and say that something looks just like something else. I want every piece to be a new journey. It’s way more exciting to me if I’ve never been there before, so I do my best to blaze a new trail as much as I can.

    But what if something that I already did was the best stuff that I have ever done. Do I return to that aesthetic, and find a home there? It doesn’t seem very exciting to me. I don’t want to get a new project, and know that I’m gonna go through the motions, because the client wants me to regurgitate something that I’ve already done. It’s quite a conundrum for me, and one that I’m trying to navigate to someday find an answer.

    So many artists stick to one aesthetic, and get quite popular with that one style. Everyone comes to them for that one thing, until that trend has passed. I wonder if they are left wishing they would have made themselves more versatile, if ever the day came when their style phased out.

    I guess my excitement comes when I am trying something new. My current dilemma is that I’ve explored so many styles, that I may be running out of new ideas to explore.

    So that leaves me with the option to relearn. In a sense, I want to mentally start over, and revisit old methods that I’ve previously used, and put a new spin on them. I want to go back to seeing the world with the awe and wonder that I once had. I want to think about being fifteen years old, and dreaming about how cool it would be to design a t-shirt graphic for a band, or someone’s official logo! The idea of these types of projects used to excite me to no end, and I’m dying to have that zeal back. I’m dying to look at the world as if I’ve never seen it before, where everything is an opportunity to create something new.

    I’d love to hear your comments and stories, if you’ve found yourself in a similar predicament. We can all learn a lot from each other view points. I’d love to hear yours.

    Los Logos 6

    I’m very excited to have a few logos and logotypes included in the book Los Logos 6. The book should be released in mid-September.

    Interview by Freelance Unleashed

    Big thanks for Chris Green for interviewing me for the Freelance Unleashed website. Go check out the interview, and some of my thoughts on freelance in general.

    Dark Collar Art Co.

    “Doing what you love is a fight - an ongoing battle against every influence that wants you to conform. There is no solace in the conformity, only a blurred view of what you set out to be. Spend your life creating something. Betray The Institution.”

    This manifesto of mine adorns every package that ships out of Dark Collar Art Co. T-Shirts, Posters, Prints, etc — this is the best way I can assure you that what you’re getting is from me, and that you can get an idea of my general point-of-view. This manifesto is the easiest way for me to sum up who I am, and who I hope to stay.

    For those of you that haven’t known of me for very long, Dark Collar was the name I called my design operation since it’s beginning in 2002. At the time, I was 19 years old, and writing songs chock full of teenage angst. My view then was that I didn’t want to be a blue-collar slave, or a white-collar clone, but I knew I could find some place in between, where I could call my own shots when it came to occupation. I’m as much an advocate of doing what you love for a living, as I am an artist.

    The definition is a bit clunky, but the name Dark Collar popped into my head. While I didn’t love it, it stuck, and it’s what I called my operation until 2011.

    In 2011, I decided that I didn’t want to create a facade of a studio name, and just go by my own name, Brandon Rike. I even tried to start using orange, my favorite color. I tried, and I just don’t like it. It’s not me. Back to black.

    So, when I finally set up my LLC, I was leary about calling my company Brandon Rike Design or something similar. In the haste of setting up the LLC, I called it Dark Collar.

    So here I am. Brandon Rike - aka Dark Collar. I may use tags like Art Co, Studio, Haus, etc - but I’ll be operating most of my projects under the name Dark Collar. I will be phasing out all BR related stuff, and hopefully trying to have a consistent Dark Collar brand across all platforms.

    The first things that put the Dark Collar Art Co name in the spotlight is the poster and print shop that I launched last month. The other, more recently is The Racing Machetes. On the neck tags of The Racing Machetes shirts, you will read: “By Dark Collar Art Co.”

    My intent is for you to know that your products are coming from someone who is dedicated to art, and makes a living with creativity. These products are my blood, sweat, and tears, and I intend on doing whatever I can to make sure that everything I sell is the finest quality.

    This sets the stage for a series of brands, lines, and products that I plan to roll out in the future. I am very excited about what has already happened, and what is to come. I want to make great art, great products, and I want to share them with you. Thanks for coming along.


    Introducing The Racing Machetes

    The Racing Machetes Store Is Open - Go pick up some tees!

    As many can assume, I’ve been intending on putting out my own t-shirt lines for quite some time. After doing thousands of designs for bands, I’ve gotten quite antsy to roll out some labels of my own.

    The Racing Machetes are a vintage motorcycle team in Seattle. A good friend of mine, Randy, is a member of the Machetes, and asked me a year ago to create some graphics for them to use on t-shirts, patches, etc. I did a few designs for them, they loved them, and that was that. I posted the graphics on my site, my dribbble page, and a few other outlets, and I got a ton of positive feedback.

    After a visit to Seattle last fall, I sat down to have coffee with Randy. We caught up, and he told me how much the whole team loved the designs, but they just hadn’t had the chance to get anything printed up, yet.

    Which sparked an idea in me, that I could make The Racing Machetes be one of the first labels that I roll out. I could help see these designs that I loved to fruition, while also building a system with which to roll out multiple labels in the future. All the while, raising some money for the team, to keep their bikes running, and to keep them out on the track.

    With the creation of The Racing Machetes label, I also decided to resurrect Dark Collar. Dark Collar, as many of you know, is the name that I called my design operation since 2002. In 2011, I decided to drop the name Dark Collar, and simply go by my own name. I tried it for a year, and I didn’t like it. So, I’ll be using Dark Collar Art Co as an umbrella for all of my ventures. The print store, The Racing Machetes, and hopefully many more labels to come. I will elaborate on Dark Collar in a future post.

    For now, I want to introduce to you The Racing Machetes: First Edition by Dark Collar Art Co. This is the beginning of many labels to come, and product that I saw through from start to finish. I was quite particular about the blanks, the print techniques, the woven labels, and the sewing. The product was created in a print shop about five minutes from my house called The Sullivan Company. I had a blast being in the print shop as the product was being created. Heather Young and Jared Hoppel managed and printed the project, they were as particular about the printing as I was, and I was delighted to print with them.  I cannot wait for you all to have it the product in your hands. Thank you all so much for being a part of it.

    This is a limited run, and quantities are quite low, so I encourage you to get them while you can. Visit The Racing Machetes store.

    You can see a more extensive gallery: Building The Brand: The Racing Machetes at the Dark Collar Facebook Page.

    Bumps on the Freelance Road

    I’m not one to sulk, and I do my best to not be one to complain. I pride myself on pushing things forward, and convince myself, regularly, that my situation is ideal. There are a lot of mind tricks one must master in order to have success in self-employment, and I’ve employed plenty of them over the course of my career.

    I first started getting paid regularly to design graphic tees for bands in 2002. This year marks a decade of doing this sort of work. Early on, I ran off the sheer excitement of what I was creating, and the quest to be able to create better and better work. Around every corner, there was excitement, and my eyes were continually opened to work that other designers were doing, that completely blew me away. I couldn’t get enough, and my bag of tricks was teeming with ideas that I had that I hadn’t yet worked into a project.

    In 2005, my band stopped touring year-round, and I would be left on my own, to continue creating art for bands. This time, with no distraction. No shows to play, no bouncing van, no hotel rooms. Just me, in my bedroom on a Powerbook. I hustled my butt off, and took on every project that was asked of me. The years prior gave me a taste of steady freelance work, but here I was, lucky enough to have a flood of work, and the excitement of actually having the time to do it.

    I consider 2005 my first year of being a full-time graphic designer. The only switch was a  month in the summer when my band did a headlining tour. I convinced myself, that year, that I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I could make a great income off of freelance work. Lucky dude.

    So with my new found confidence and steady income, I asked the love of my life, my girlfriend since 1999, to marry me. She said yes. We got married in March of 2006, moved to Columbus, and it was time for me to step up and show that I could support a family with freelance. I could, I did, and I am.

    So this high was still fueling me. My excitement for band tees grew and grew, and I set out to be the best I could possibly be at this one little thing - band tees. I bought a house, renovated every square inch of it, and still kept the freelance operation afloat.

    We’ve been married for over 6 years now, and we’ve been in this house for 5 years. Life has stayed about the same for the past 5 years, so it’s been easy to compare each separate year of freelance. I can remember each of the past 5 years pretty well, mainly because they all happened right here in my 10’ by 12’ office in the upstairs of my house.

    I remember having an entire wall full of project cards. I remember doing 20-30 designs a day. I remember waking up with an unimaginable amount of energy excitement for the projects of the day. I remember how many times I’ve been “in the zone,” with music blasting, sketches and xerox copies every where, doing whatever I could to create what I had in my head. I remember being a well-oiled design machine, no one bothering me, just me doing what I loved to do.

    But I also remember a few panic attacks. I remember hitting into brick walls. I remember doing whatever necessary to just get out of my office, because I never wanted to be in there ever again. I remember days of staring out the window in silence, worried of why such intense passion didn’t show up on that particular day. I remember the countless times that I was convinced that I lost my knack. I remember feeling like somewhere along the way, I had completely lost my identity as a designer. I remember crashing. I remember giving up.

    All this to say that I still believe I have an impressive freelance operation, and I still believe this can sustain me for a long time, a lifetime, even, if I play my cards right.

    The reality of being a freelance work-from-home designer, and an entrepreneur in general, is that you are ditching convention to follow your heart. Convention provides you with plenty of comfort, but very little excitement. Convention makes it quite difficult to remember your identity. Now, this freelance operation - you’ll get passion, excitement, admiration, the ability to carry out your ideas — but that comfort is a tad more elusive.

    You are choosing your own path with freelance, a path that is quite bumpy and undefined. You have a general idea of point B, but there is no clear line that connects you to it. You are figuring it all out on a daily basis. But the conventional route is paved and easy, but I don’t think there is much of a point B on that route. The conventional route is more about being on a path than it is about where it’ll lead you.

    So in taking the freelance route, know that the bumps are the essence of the journey. Take comfort in knowing that you have chosen your own path, and that you can handle a few of the barriers that will be placed in front of you. All the while, you’ll have a better idea of who you are, and what you are doing, and what you want to do in the future. There is so much more possibility on the freelance route - it can take you anywhere.

    The path is long, but there are moments of such extraordinary scenery, that it makes every bump well worth it. Keep pushing.

    Satisfied Customer: @BrentGalloway

    Big thanks to @BrentGalloway for sharing a photo of his mail-order goods. Glad they got there safely. Pick ‘em up in the store.

    Prices Sliced

    Wow. What an amazing opening couple of days to the webstore. I was overwhelmed with the quick attention that it received. I’m happy. So happy, that I’ve sliced all of the prices. Go buy stuff.


    My Store Is Open!

    Finally got the Dark Collar webstore live. I have a ton of posters and prints that I’ve been working on this year stocked up and ready to sell. Spread the word, and go to the store!!

    The first batch of goods include my Alpha Bravo Poster. The WMC Skull Poster. Two versions of the Pinchflat Poster, as well as the WMC Words Of Wisdom Prints.

    Good Times @wmcfest

    Another Weapons Of Mass Creation has come and gone, and this was, as we all expected, the best one yet. After having a table, and a small Q&A the first year, to being a featured designer again the second year, I am so grateful for the fest that I decided to be an official gold sponsor of the event this year.

    My buddy Josh flew up from Memphis, and came along to Cleveland with me. We set up our monster-of-a-table in the iLTHY Workshop, and began seeing some old and new faces at Friday night’s mixer party.

    Saturday and Sunday, we got in, and got to slingin’ goods alongside the likes of OKPants, Oliver Barrett, Dan Cassaro, Nate Utesch,  Rachel Novak, Brian Jasinski, Dan Christofferson, Glen Infante, and Jen K.

    While I’ve been a freelance designer for a long time, this is the first time I had any product to sell. It was overwhelming to see people appreciating the work in person, and telling me so. I was humbled and excited.

    Highlights that pop to mind are getting to meet and have conversation with both Johnny Cupcakes, and Jacqui Oakley. There are just too many people to list, but I had some very great conversations with so many people. My throat has been sore all week.

    I guess the concept that I’m taking away from WMC 2012 is the fact that this camaraderie in the design community is rare, and this is an opportunity to connect with a bunch of creatives that spend most of the year with their heads down, grinding out great work, but can get a change to converse with other creatives who actually know what each other is talking about.

    The overall theme that I kept coming back to in most of my conversations was the idea that we have to work hard to make art our living. While the image of an artist tends to convey some hippy skipping through a field, the reality is that those of us who actually make our living with our art, love making that art so much that we fully immerse ourselves in it, working longer than the majority of nine-to-fivers. We have to fight to make this our living, and as someone who IS an artist for a living, I can say that it is SO worth the fight.

    My man Kevin Maestros was clutch. He shot this quick recap video below for me. Check him out here.


    First Look at WMC Fest Goods

    I’ve been waiting a whole year to get back up to Cleveland for this years Weapons Of Mass Creation 3. WMC Fest is a rare chance for designers like myself to connect with other designers, and finally put faces to some of the names we hear in the design community. It’s going to be a great weekend. As a Gold Sponsor of WMC Fest this year, I’ll have a table set up with a bunch of stuff to sell. Posters, Mini Prints, Stickers, Buttons, and even the very first pressing of The Racing Machetes line of shirts. I cannot wait to see you all up there, and to talk shoppe with so many creatives.

    Here’s thee first look at what I’ll be hauling up to Cleveland.

    Updates To The Site

    So we added a few little upgrades to the site, many have been going live during this past week. I want to thank the talented Ben Albaugh for developing out all of these new features, Ben is a web ninja, and I’m happy to have him on my team.

    Please take a stroll around the site. New features include a client list, a revamped profile page, random work thumbnails on the main page (which allows some old work to step back into the spotlight), a dribbble module in the sidebar, a reworked twitter module, and a more stable server in general.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Purchase Pinchflat

    Had a great time at the Pinchflat opening this past Saturday. You can purchase my print here:

    Printed by the fine folks at Vahalla Studios. Sized 20x16. Signed and numbered. Here’s proof.

    To Inform And Delight

    If you’re a graphic designer, and unfamiliar with Milton Glaser, then you should do what you can to learn about Milton Glaser.

    Milton’s most iconic piece is probably the I Heart NY icon, for which he didn’t get paid a dime. My favorite, among many others, is his Dylan poster.

    I watched the documentary Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight last night. I’m a sucker for these types of documentaries. In graphic design, there are very few films that we can watch about our craft, so when the chance comes up to watch other people talk about what we do everyday, well - I love to indulge. (by the way, AppleTV with Netflix is life-changing.)

    Now I normally hate to hear people over-talk design. I’d rather them just get to work. But Milton is one of the few designers who I believe have the wisdom and career to know what they’re talking about. If you’re gonna listen to anyone go on and on about god-knows-what, this is your guy. Check it out.

    Follow up
    I was thinking about Milton Glaser a lot, as I continued thinking about the film. While I respect the amount of work the man has done, I can’t help thinking - Is Milton Glaser the reason the 70s and 80s we’re so corny? Is he solely responsible for some of the design of that era that makes us cringe today? I feel like his style sits around in brass frames, getting bleached by the son, making you realize that the dentist’s office you’re sitting in is horribly outdated. It’s a matter of taste, for sure, but I cannot help but to feel like his style may be everything that I hate about that era? Or is our work of today going to be hated by designers of the future? Why do we love the design work of the fifties, but then stark to gag when we start moving into the popular art of the 70s and 80s? Was Milton Glaser the end of nostalgic, timeless design?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment.

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