Interview: Chuck Anderson
by Joshua / September 27, 2006

Chuck Anderson (aka NoPattern) is a 21-years-old graphic designer that has managed to cull a list of clients that would make a seasoned designer envious. Nike, 555Soul, Pepsi, Sony, Garcia Marquez, and Reebok- just to name a few. If you ask him to, he'll talk your head off. With a new NoPattern book- 28-pages offering a vividly saturated cross-section of his time, style, and genre- fresh off the presses, we talked to Chuck about his inspiration, his work on products and spaces, and why his world is so shiny. Jw

When did you decide to become a designer?
I don't honestly think I ever actually decided to become a designer. I've just always been an artist - since I was a child. It's always been a part of me to create things. There was a time, however, that I made the decision to try to get my work out there to the world. That was about 6 months after I graduated high school. Early 2004. But it was less a decision to become a designer and more something I had to do because I had no money, no job, no degree (besides high school), and no plans for my future. Instead of becoming a designer, I feel like I was just always an artist to begin with. I truly believe it was God's intention for my life to do what I'm doing now.

Where do you do most of your design work?
From inside my office in my apartment at the moment. I'll be moving next year though and hopefully have more of a studio to work out of. But I have to work with what I've got and make the best of it, so my lonely little apartment in the suburbs of Chicago will have to make do for now!

The DJ Shoe collaboration with Reebok (left), and Lupe Fiasco's "Food & Liquor" album cover (right).

Where, or from what, do you get inspiration for your work?
I draw my inspiration from seeing other people fail and succeed. When I see failure, I try to take notes from it and do better and learn a lesson from someone else's mistake. Or even my own. When I see success, it just inspires me as it would anyone else. Take Michael Jordan. He is success. He embodies success 100%. That's why he's so inspiring. People want to accomplish a fraction of what he did. So when I see another artist succeed, or a young entrepreneur, or anyone, really, it pushes me to do great things myself. On top of that, I take a lot of inspiration from my friends and family and my surroundings... and from the things I see in my life during travels and things like that. I visited Barcelona over the summer and came back fully inspired. Just the pure beauty that comes naturally from an amazing place can inspire me. There are of course other artists that inspire me, but I try to stay away from being too inspired by other artists for fear or trying to emulate them. Maybe I should get over that hurdle and just try to learn from them, but I just do my thing. Music is of course very inspiring for me too. Jazz, metal, hip-hop... I run the gamut when it comes to music. But it's always on when I work.

What is your favorite part of the design process and why?
Just looking at the direction for the project and taking those first few steps. Almost everything I do is unscripted... there are rarely mockups or pencil drawings or sketches. I just get my hands dirty right away. I just get right into it. The first few minutes when I finally start to nail down a solid look for a project- that is the best part. The feeling of a successful beginning can be more gratifying than the feeling of a successful finish sometimes. Hey- what a quote!

Garcia Marquez purse collaboration with +81 Magazing JP.

Does your process differ when you're working on environmental graphics or "real world objects", such as in the AirMax 360 Wallpaper for Nike, the Untitled Chicago store graphics, the Garcia Marquez purse, etc.? Does the context shift (from print to physical space) play a part in this case?
It's interesting, really. All three of those projects were pretty much created in the same way I create everything else. On a flat, blank canvas. The art directors and talented designers at those companies took them and made them into what they became. The process is usually always the same - it really just becomes different when I have more limitations with the space I can create in. Sometimes things are going to be printed or made very small, so it has to stay simpler, fewer layers, fewer elements, and just a lot bolder. Larger pieces always end up with lots of detail. Anyways, the process is usually the same - create as I go along unless I'm instructed to work within certain limitations.

NoPattern book.

Tell me why you decided to put out a book. You are a presence on the web, contributing on Design is Kinky and The Brilliance, and have many high-profile projects. What audience are you reaching with the book?
This book was created to get my work in people's hands, literally. Not on a website, but in the actual physical hands of actual physical people. This, versus getting my website in front of the faces of people I knew only through email or over the phone. The book really was about making my work tangible and something you could feel and touch and hold in your hands. You can really appreciate it in the form it was intended to be: on paper, not in pixels on a screen. The presence I have on the web is incredibly important still- always has been and always will be. But I wanted to reach out to anybody who, like I said, appreciates an actual product in their hands. Think about it, not only can people buy this for $10 on my store, but I can send these out to friends, clients, contacts, stores, and whoever else is interested - often for free just to get it on their desk. I've already gone through my entire massive address book and gotten in touch with most every art director I've ever had any communication with and made sure to get them a few copies. The goal with the book, ultimately, is to get some great jobs because of it and have new people see my work and keep it on file or on their shelf or coffee table. A website [might get] tossed aside now- everybody has one. Doing a book - even this small one - honestly just helps me stand out and gets people talking!

How would you label/categorize your work?
I don't know. I have no idea, honestly. I have some work you'd easily be able to label as illustration, some of it as design, and other work... I guess it's graphic photographic treatment or collage. I don't know. It's BS to label things that are better off uncategorized. I don't want to really feel tied down to any sort of label. Hence the name NoPattern. Once I'm categorized, I'm limited- and that is not interesting to me. My work... it's like... it is what it is, really. Call it what you want, at the end of the day, it's really just my imagination in visual form... just art, I guess. I have a feeling that if I'd gone to college and pull this kind of answer off, I'd get ripped to shreds *laughs*.

It may be artwork to you, but to your clients, your work is a selling tool. Is this something you consider? Alternately, is it something that anyone ever demands that you consider?
Well that's the beauty of being a freelancer. Nobody can really demand anything of me. I make sure I go into jobs knowing what I'm getting myself into. If halfway into it they start telling me to make it look more like another designer's work or just start veering away from what is at the heart of my own personal, original creativity, I push back and make sure they're aware that they hired me for a reason - and that is to have me be myself with the work I create. I honestly think maintaining that will give the client the best I can give and let me still feel like I maintained the integrity of my work. It's artwork, yes, but like you said it's still a selling tool. So I go into it knowing that and willing to be flexible though, for sure.

Nike iD Store (left), with the Air Max 360 wallpaper detail (right).

Do you have a signature style? If yes, what are the hallmarks of your style?
Of all the styles I work with, I'd say the bright lights, colors, and glow look is kind of my "signature style" that most people are familiar with. It's an always evolving look, really. I love to take a photo that is originally lifeless and add an energy to it. Just a surreal feeling of energy that appears ready to explode at any moment...Or the photo collage thing. Photography is a huge factor in my work - I love to put photographs together, combine different colors and forms into chaotic messes and just see what happens.

One thing that I find interesting is that you are able to pull off your "signature style" among a wide cross-section of material, from spreads in NYLON, to Teen People. Do you attribute this to any particular elements?
I think it's attributed to the fact that I have figured out a way to take something that looks mundane and plain and make it more exciting looking. The stuff in NYLON I did a while back. They sent me photos of makeup products. That was it. Nothing special about the photos, just 'blah' photos... it was my job to make them thrilling, exciting, colorful, and vibrant. I think that's definitely the element that makes my work interesting. Making boring things interesting or at least nice to look at, if nothing else.

Who are your favorite designers and/or architects?
I don't have any particular favorites, but some standouts that come to mind right away would be Geoff McFetridge, Phil Hale, KAWS, A-Ron from aNYthing, Jim Phillips, and Mark Romanek. A few of those are more straight up artists than designers, and as much as I love architecture in all its forms, I don't have a particular favorite. People are always surprised when I mention Mark Romanek - he's a very talented and renowned filmmaker. His use of colors and lights is seriously amazing to me. What he did with Jay-Z's "99 Problems", Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Can't Stop", Fiona Apple's "Criminal", and especially Audioslave's "Cochise" videos are some of the most inspiring things in the world to me. His director's label DVD is my most valued piece of inspiration I think I own, along with Hardy Blechman/Maharishi's Camouflage Book set. Wow.

What item (PC, pen, etc) can you not do without when you are designing?
My trusty scanner and my camera. Of course Photoshop, but most of what I do starts as a raw hand-done element or a photograph.

What's next?
What isn't next? I'm very excited about the future, near and distant. I'm getting married next year in August 07, so that's certainly on the "what's next" list! (I love you Holly! That's for extra points right there.) As far as my work goes, I'm thinking a gallery in Chicago is on the horizon. I've been saying it for a long time but I want it to formulate soon. Large, digital printed pieces on canvas is likely. More collaborations with musicians and skate brands, NoPattern shirts, and hopefully more speaking invitations. I love to travel and meet new people, and speaking is always one of the coolest ways I get to do that. I'm so honored and blessed to work with the people I do. It's amazing the level of talent in this design industry when you look in the right places. What's next for me is in God's hands, but I'm confident it will involve a lot of exciting new projects and opportunities I probably could not even begin to imagine right now. The possibilities for new ideas and collaborations are endless.

Installation for 555Soul's NYC store.


Full name: Charles William Anderson III
Location: Tinley Park, IL
Size of team: One. Just me.
In business since: Early 2004
Claim to fame projects: Lupe Fiasco's "Food & Liquor" album cover, 555Soul installation in NYC stores, shoe and ad collaborations with Reebok.
Spare time: Scrabble player, always doing personal illustration and photography, professional bookstore lounger, The Office (US) expert...


Favorite website(s): THEBRILLIANCE.COM!,,,,,,
What music is on your iPod or radio?: Lately, it's been meWithoutYou, Sufjan Stevens, Lupe Fiasco, Red Sparowes, Isis, Minus The Bear, Jesu, Matt Pond PA, Zero 7, Fiona Apple, Botch...
Your favorite magazine(s): Islands, National Geographic's Traveler, LTD, Juxtapoz, and most of all, Dwell.
Last or current book you are reading: The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg...the last one I read was Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller - that was a great book.
Last movie you saw: Little Miss Sunshine, but I recently got to see a screening of the movie Trade from Lion's Gate. Wow...pretty much deals with the issue of human trafficking and children being taken into sexual slavery for profit. It was very intense and really opened my eyes to an issue that does not get enough coverage in the world today. I'd urge you to see it when it comes out in 2007.

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