Name Gunnar Swanson
Nationality US
Currently in Ventura, CA
Occupation Graphic Designer, Educator, Writer
Place of business Gunnar Swanson Design Office and East Carolina University
E-mail
THE STORY (all links below will show as pictures on the left)
I grew up in Garden Grove, California about the time the strawberry fields and orange groves were disappearing. (It was nothing like watching “The O.C.”) My parents built the house I grew up in. More accurately, they bought, moved, rebuilt, and added to a house. It was many years later before I knew that they did that because they didn’t have the money to buy one. I just thought that people were supposed to build stuff. I suppose I still do.

So after a happy childhood, getting thrown out of high school a lot for long hair and sideburns and other stuff (“long hair” was much shorter then than it is now), I studied photography and oceanography and pretty much anything that interested me and dropped out of several schools. I worked in injection molding plants, doing oceanographic surveys, as a lifeguard and a gardener and I taught swimming and scuba diving. I spent most of my time rock climbing and ended up with a degree in art history from UCLA. (Just so you don’t think that I wasn’t practical and career driven, I was one class away from a second degree in Scandinavian languages and literature. Don’t worry. That long-outgrown flirtation with Scandi-atavism is as close to nostalgia as I get.)

Then I worked making costumes for musicians and television shows, as a carpenter, a stagehand, and briefly selling management consulting door-to-door. Somewhere along the line I decided I wanted to be a photographer. (Remember? Studying photography was somewhere in that last paragraph.) In the process of hustling up photography work I ran into people who said they wanted photos for ads but didn’t have anyone to design or write them. I’d always done artwork of one sort or another so I started creating ads so I could hire myself to shoot photos. I taught myself advertising, design, and business and somewhere along the line I realized that I wanted to be a graphic designer. Damn. Autobiographies seem so self-indulgent. Enough about me. Tell me about you. Okay. I’ll finish. I got an MFA and taught at Otis and other places around L.A. Then my wife, Rosemary, and I moved from Venice to Northern Minnesota where I headed the graphic design program at the University of Minnesota Duluth, to Davis where I taught at the University of California, and then to Ventura (ext.link) (around the strawberry fields and citrus groves on the coast south of Santa Barbara.) I headed the multimedia program at California Lutheran University then, just when the economy started to tank, I went back into the graphic design business. Then the romance of all those old songs about cotton fields and tobacco roads called to me and I moved to Greenville, North Carolina [ext.link] (Greenville, North Carolina; not to be confused with Greenville, South Carolina [ext.link] or Greensboro [ext.link], North Carolina.) I teach at East Carolina University [ext.link], home of the pirates.

So. An underemployed, probably-unemployable semi-itinerant graphic designer who seems to overcome a short attention span just enough to yammer on and on—who better to be a Speak Up author?

Photo Credits
Michael Hewes
Anthony Nex
and others. ©
Thanks.