As Levine/Leavitt’s newest intern and part-time design geek, I relished the opportunity to speak with Craig Redman of iconic design team Craig & Karl. We met in Craig’s Lower East Side studio space on a chilly February afternoon, surrounded by in-progress designs and fantastically colored knick-knacks that seemed to belong in their own quirky Craig & Karl boutique. During our candid chat we covered everything from his process to his favorite Pantone hue. What he revealed to me might come as a surprise to young creatives; sometimes the best partnerships are made and maintained halfway across the world, and no matter how long you’ve been in the game, art is still sometimes hard. And yet, it remains, infinitely rewarding.
More of our interview after the jump.
As a creative, I’ve found it’s helpful to illustrate or put my surroundings down on paper, visually, so I can make sense of the ins and outs of day-to-day life. Many of my friends swear by having a sketchbook on hand all the time to jot down ideas that come up unexpectedly. My question is, then, how do you keep up with the millions of thoughts you have in a day? Sketchbook? Notepad? Other?
My sketchbook is my blog Darcel Disappoints. It began as a way to remember all my thoughts about my New York when I first moved here and has additionally become a testing ground for new ideas. Darcel is my way of simplifying things, focusing more on the message rather than technique.
What inspired Darcel as a character? He’s not unlike an anti-hero. I love that he portrays this spirit who sees city life for what it, unfortunately, can be. Does he help you deal with less than stellar emotions about New York?
Ultimately I think what makes Darcel appealing is that he’s very relatable. Darcel isn’t a fantasy character that lives on a rainbow with butterflies as friends, rather he lives in a crappy apartment, he has to line up for his coffee everyday, and he gets beaten down occasionally by the relentlessness of New York – just like anyone else that lives here. I remember a friend referring to our group of friend as ‘eggs on stilts’, basically out of shape bodies stuffed into skinny jeans which is where the look of Darcel himself came from, ha. So yes, Darcel is me, sort of, everything he’s done on the blog is something I’ve done in some form or another.
What are some of the biggest challenges that come with working so far away from your partner? Do you find it easier when you work in the same city or across the universe?
So far we haven’t had any issues, Karl and I have known each other since we were 17 and have been working together in one form or another ever since. We know each other very well, we worked in the same studio side-by-side for almost 10 years, so by the time we ended up in different cities the distance between wasn’t a problem because we understood each other so instinctively. We talk on Skype most days to discuss projects and we’ve become pretty good at dividing up our time, having the distance between us forces us to be more decisive and efficient with our decisions.
How do you pick patterns and colors for the faces of famous personalities? What is the selection process like?
I try to make the color palette of each portrait dependent on the subject’s personality, or based on an attribute affiliated with the person, for example – Carmelo Anthony’s portrait has a big expanse of orange to represent the Knicks, and Valentino’s is predominantly red to reflect the color of dresses he’s known for.
How did Craig & Karl make the transition from design brand, to fashion?
I wouldn’t say we were a fashion brand but a lot of our projects are fashion based for sure. It’s something that has naturally evolved, both Karl and I are interested in fashion and most of our friends are in the industry (designers, photographers, stylists etc) so we’re constantly surrounded by it and that’s why a lot of our projects come from within that field. Once you work on a project with one big brand lots of other opportunities pop up, it then becomes a matter of being selective about who you work with and the types of projects being offered.
Which artists or styles do you find yourself gravitating towards when not working on Craig & Karl pieces?
It changes all the time but current favourites are Jonas Wood, Tauba Auerbach, Olaf Breuning, Michael Queenland, Laura Owens, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Spencer Sweeney, Chen Chen and Zachary Susskind.
What was your favorite part of art school?