Frank Chimero wants to give you the visual wink. Don’t worry, it’s not some new age equivalent to the widely feared and offensive Facebook poke. The Visual Wink is part of Chimero’s philosophy of good design, and the conceptualisation of the creative process; the thing that delights; “that thing that needs to be deciphered”. We learnt a lot of things when we sat down and had a chat with Frank, and even though we’re pretty sure he was joking about the advice to “write drunk and edit sober”, we did it anyway. For research’s sake.
Our interview with Frank is one of the easiest we’ve ever done. His enthusiasm and passion for design is so electric and contagious that pretty much all we needed to do was press record on Voice Memo and try not to interrupt his train of thought; for fear of missing out on any pearls of wisdom. When we met, Frank wasn’t wearing a cap; but if he was, there’s no doubt that it would have had many feathers. A designer, illustrator, writer and teacher, suffice to say Chimero is actively involved and widely influential in many aspects of the creative industry. What does the back of your business card say?
New York born (i.e. instantly cool), Chimero developed his interest for design in high school, “the same way other people do”; wanting to be in a band, but lacking in any actual musical talent. While unfortunately this minor detail has failed to deter many from the music industry, luckily for us Frank recognized he wasn’t handy with a banjo and instead began developing merchandise and promotional material for his more musically inclined friends. After studying both anthropology and design at college, ultimately it was the latter interest that won out as his career path; and what a successful decision it has been.
Working as a freelancer, Chimero has amassed a pretty broad and impressive client base. Have you heard of Facebook or Twitter? A little zine called The New York Times? Just to name a few. With a wide array of creative forces and media superpowers vying for his input and skill set, it’s not surprising that Chimero has found himself over committing in the past. So what is it about the projects he chooses to undertake that appeal to him?
“Before I would have said reach. Maybe the job didn’t pay the best, but a lot of people would see it”, Frank says of his past selection process, “now that I’ve kind of gotten that out of my system, I go for resonance over exposure and reach. It’s not necessarily that one is better than the other, it’s more about where I want to see my work going”.
This past year has been dedicated to the writing and publishing of his first book, The Shape of Design, which explores the significance of design beyond a purely functional level, and the ways in which it can incite change and ignite passion. While working as a freelancer in the creative industries can be a liberating experience, ultimately one must work within the parameters of a client’s expectations or requirements; and more often than not, ideas are left to the mercy of their discretion. However for Chimero, the creation and development of his book has “been completely different, because I’ve had full control over everything”, a luxury that has been both “a blessing and a curse”.
Judging by the buzz of energy that practically radiates from him, it’s not surprising to hear that Frank wrote, “five times more than is actually in the book”. If only we could get our paws on a copy of that unused material, we would totally sell it on Ebay for a million dollars: Buy It Now.
Except that it ain’t all about the money. What’s so interesting about Chimero’s approach and philosophy is how design has the potential to affect humans on a profoundly intimate level, and how it can influence change.
“Whether it’s the design of an appliance, the design of a product, or creating the ambience of a city, there are hundreds of influences in your day based on these design decisions”, he says, “and I think that the ambience has a huge affect on how we live… dollars and cents are an important part of design… but it’s about more than just commerce. People can really care about the work that you produce.”
In a generation where everyone has something to say about everything, Chimero has emerged as one of the most eloquent and intelligent voices not only in the field of illustration and graphic design; but the concept of the design landscape as a whole, and its significance to our day-to-day lives.
We asked Frank to show us what his speech will look like. Here’s a sneak peek: