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Art Chantry Speaks Up

Renowned graphic designer Art Chantry is synonymous with Seattle’s subculture poster and album cover design that many have come to admire - and often imitate. Remaining as one of the few lo-tech designers in an industry that relies heavily on computers and software, Art looks to tangible materials and improvisation to inject that Chantry magic to his well-thought-out work.

Chantry is an American icon that has had great impact on the history of graphic design.

> Read the interview

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Nov.18.2002 BY Christopher May
Garrison’s comment is:

Great interview. Chantry speaks to some of the real problems facing the entire graphic design industry, and he gives some inspiring ideas for how to "design" a career.

On Nov.18.2002 at 02:49 PM
Stan Chin’s comment is:

On the final lecture day of this year's AIGA:Voice conference in DC, some people decided to paste up large blank sheets of paper on the hallway outside the lecture hall. Supposedly, this was an area where attendees could write down their dismay and criticisms of the conference. Questions ranged from "Why are there no new media design workshops?" to "How was this worth $1000?" I found it kind of asinine and humorous, and being the goofball I am I wrote, "Who Put the Bomp in the Bomp-She-Bomp-She-Bomp?"

When I came back from that afternoon's lectures someone had answered under my question, "Art Chantry." I agreed.

On Nov.18.2002 at 03:22 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Nice interview. I think he comes across a bit better in print than in person...which is perhaps appropriate for a graphic designer.

On Nov.18.2002 at 05:27 PM
Tom’s comment is:

Great Interview! I'm gonna read it again. It's funny that he talks about a lot of the stuff we've been discussing the past couple weeks.

On Nov.19.2002 at 08:18 AM
Armin’s comment is:

This was my favorite part:

“How often does the client take your disk and personally re-work it? That NEVER happened before the computer.”

That is so true and so damn annoying. Any control that you had over the graphic standards of a project goes out the door along with the CD or Zip.

I was also intrigued by how he uses quotes for every time he says 'my art.' Is that kind of weird or is it just me? Does he consider his work art or design? and I'm not judging him, I'm just curious. Seems like he has had to defend his work all the time.

>What I do can just barely be considered 'graphic design' anymore. But I haven't changed, the industry has changed. Strange.

Wouldn't it be counter productive not to change? even if the industry would require you to do so? I'll give it to him for sticking to his guns and doing what he does best, but one must change to meet the ever-changing needs of clients.

>People who treat me badly, however, get treated badly in return. I think this is fair.

An eye for an eye : |

Great interview!

On Nov.19.2002 at 08:49 AM
Tom’s comment is:

It would be counter productive not to change, if you are always trying to please others(clients) by doing what they think they need you to do. But, if you are focused on the quality of the work, perhaps change is not really neccessary. My guess is that he has changed in some areas of his work, but not in the area that all the others have as far as embracing the computer as the primary tool.

> We are almost at a point where we need to redefine the term 'graphic designer' in order to differentiate between what is going on in the industry of design versus the language of design.

I totally agree with this, and mentioned in the very first article I posted here:

Or maybe we are not really designers!!! Maybe we are something different!!! Commercial Artists? �If an Artist creates visual communication of their personal thoughts/ideas/beliefs and a Designer creates visual communication of a clients/products/brands position/strategy, etc...
On Nov.19.2002 at 09:08 AM
art chantry’s comment is:

armin -

i don't make 'art'. i make 'artifacts'.

art chantry

On Nov.19.2002 at 10:54 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>i don't make 'art'. i make 'artifacts'.

'gotcha' ; )

On Nov.19.2002 at 11:07 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

"We are almost at a point where we need to redefine the term 'graphic designer'"

Redefine? Aren't we still having problems coming up with a base definition to begin with? ;o)

Or maybe we are not really designers!!! Maybe we are something different!!! Commercial Artists?

We *are* commercial artists. That was pretty much what graphic designers were called a handful of decades ago. Every human (and some animals) is a designer, so in many ways, the term graphic designer is a lot more generic of a term than commercial artist was.

On Nov.19.2002 at 11:27 AM
art chantry’s comment is:

paul rand spent a lotta effort trying to change the terminology to 'art for industry'. pretty hokey, but it's not bad if you like being a corporate whore.

On Nov.19.2002 at 12:08 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>'art for industry'. pretty hokey, but it's not bad if you like being a corporate whore.

I don't think it's hokey, it's pretty much what we do.

Then again, I guess I wouldn't mind being a corporate whore.

But 'who' isn't, right?

On Nov.21.2002 at 12:04 PM
KM’s comment is:

'corporate whore' = the guy you hated in school because he got all the girls with the *benefits.* ; )

On Nov.21.2002 at 06:21 PM
art chantry’s comment is:

actually i was calling paul rand a corporate whore. he sort of invented the term in graphic design circles. he even designed logos that went on nuclear warheads. his final project was the enron logo. despicable, really.

On Nov.21.2002 at 07:34 PM
Hrant’s comment is:

It's really nice hearing a "successful" person say stuff like that, especially in public.


On Nov.21.2002 at 07:50 PM
Jon’s comment is:

>his final project was the enron logo. despicable, really

Would you have made that comment prior to Enron becoming the poster child for corporate irresponsibility? When it comes down to it, what is wrong with designing identities for large corporations? They need to be done. Shouldn't we attempt to 'spread the gospel' of good design and smart communication as widely as possible?

On Nov.22.2002 at 08:55 AM
art chantry’s comment is:

yes, i DID say that (in public) before enron collapsed. it was ALWAYS a very nasty organization with a reputation for sleaze that was obvious from the start.

when it comes to the old "well if i don't do it and make all the money, then somebody else will" argument is one that was used a lot at the nuremburg trials.

again, if this is supposed to be a "service" industry, who do you "serve?" the gospel of "good design" (whatever the hell that is) should never be an end in itself. and don't forget that ol' paul rand refered to himself as "God" in his final interview in ID magazine right before he died. so much for self-serving 'gospel'.

design is not a product to buy and sell. it's a cultural dialog that can be manipulated into anything we (as designers) want to convince and trick anybody who encounters it into changing their views to whatever we (as designers) so desire. we are cultural propogandists and general mindfucks. to simply offer our services for whoever is willing to pay us without any value judgements is putting a loaded weapon into the hands of a stranger and then helping them aim. i think that if we think of 'mindfucking' as our 'artform', then we should use at least some modicrum of judgement in who we are willing to empower. if you're all for the swindle that was corporate enron or you love the idea of politicians you didn't vote for decorating nuclear warheads with corporate insignia, then go forth and multiply, dude. at least that is a decision based on some sort of value system, and not the blind headlong rush into whoredom.

some random thoughts....

On Nov.22.2002 at 09:22 AM
Jamie Sheehan’s comment is:

Seems to me you don't have to change anything if you don't want to. While evolving certainly helps you to keep up with the design field of today, no one said you have to. And yes, the dinosaurs died out and so might those who don't change. But it seems this industry is nothing BUT change. It is amazing anyone can ever get anything going with regards to style or just learning design basics because you spend most of your time adjusting to new and "improved" graphic programs. And the rules about what and how to charge keep leaving me in the dust no matter how hard I try to keep up. I, for one, am tired of treading water in an ocean of just-got-outta-design-school-where-I-learned-Photoshop-and-now-I'm-worth-what-you-are mentality. Drowning actually sounds like a better option.

On Nov.22.2002 at 12:00 PM
felix’s comment is:


i always liked chantry. (some of him anyway).

strong minds have strong opinions and i strongly agree (but question "God") with chantry on Rand. Rand is overrated. Ever read anything he has written? How fast did you fall asleep? I read in a chat room one time that i was a Rand protege. Sweet Baby Jesus! Hardly! Rand once said (not verbatim) that clients should have a strong reason to question the motives of most graphic designers." In other words, Committees RULE you untalented idiots! Coming from the apparent elitist "god" of graphic design himself this statement always sat funny.

Why condemn graphic designers?

I like alot of rand's work. But alot of it, well, seems methodical and unimaginative. My old

boss Rick Boyko (who retired last week) hired Rand to design the Enron Logo.

I guess eveyone gets what they deserve in the end. With that, I wish you well.

On Dec.03.2002 at 07:22 PM
Aizan’s comment is:

When it comes to design practices, Art Chantry is at the top of a very very very short list of ones I can respect. Designers have been sitting on their hands since FTF 2000 and don't have the guts to make changes, while Chantry got it right from the get go.

On Nov.21.2003 at 01:15 AM
Armin’s comment is:

True, but his changes are within a very, very small realm. Too small to make any real difference that has anything to do with FTF 2000. Don't get me wrong, I do like his work and think it has a place in design history. History being the key word.

On Nov.21.2003 at 08:40 AM
art chantry’s comment is:

hah! that's rich!

armin, you're the best!

On May.03.2004 at 05:13 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Oy� Me and my big mouth.

On May.03.2004 at 05:25 PM
Emilia’s comment is:

Hi, we're trying to organize an exhibition of Art Chantry in Madrid (Spain) and I need an email address to contact him. Any suggestions? Thanks.

On Oct.05.2004 at 06:33 AM
Armin’s comment is:

(In case anyone else was looking to respond, I just did).

Emilia, Is Art Chantry well known in Spain?

On Oct.05.2004 at 10:23 AM
cchs’s comment is:

Great interview. I interviewed Art a few months ago for my book and he touched on many of the same issues. Sadly, of the 10,000 word transcript, I had to edit it down to 4,000. As I write this I am (painfully) editing those 4,000 to 2,000. I'm glad that that Art's unabashed and unedited voice has a chance to shine through here.

On Oct.05.2004 at 03:05 PM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:


the same book I'm in? if so, would be an honor to sit next to the chant-inator.

look fwd to seeing it... and/or in this case, reading

On Oct.06.2004 at 03:04 PM
cchs’s comment is:

Indeed, Felix. Also included are Sharon Werner, Louise Fili, Bill Gardner, Steve Sandstrom, Scott Mires, Cinthia Wen, Jennifer Jerde, and many lesser known but no less talented and interesting designers.

Should be out at the HOW conference early in the new year. Not sure if I'm allowed to promote the title yet, but I'll let you know.

Sounds like a shameless plug, I know. Guess I better get used to it...

On Oct.07.2004 at 04:49 AM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

Shame? To hell with you.

Should be a diverse book. Great!

gardners book comes out then

too. He apparently did well with

that logo lounge gig.

So was yours strictly on logos?

damn I have a bad memory.

Hope that stuff served/serves something/someone. Good

luck w/ it.... Preesh

On Oct.08.2004 at 12:25 AM
Jen O'Neil’s comment is:

The interview was very good. Art Chantry gave me some insights about graphic design. There needs to be a good relationship between the designer and the client. As a result of the digitizing the design, then people will no longer have to hire a graphic designer to create their artwork. Now, people are always trying to make things faster and easier. Sometimes that can be a disadvantage because people who has the skills for doing pre-press, typesetter, etc. are becoming eliminated by the digital pre-press. This is another point that Art Chantry had made. This can hurt designers. Experience with the pre-press production is helpful because then the designer can collaborate better with the production aspect.

On Oct.09.2004 at 04:34 PM
Ahrum Hong’s comment is:

I grew up in Tacoma Wa and came of age in the late 90's; by the time I graduated high school, 'grunge' was long gone and replaced by a music scene that didn't even make an attempt to appear honest, The Rocket (a defining Seattle music rag) had gone out of business, and I had never heard of Art Chantry, who by this point had already jumped ship to St. Louis.

So I went off to a design school on the other coast where I learned a ton about the old Swiss and the old Russians and the old Germans and Jan Tchichold. Not to say the other stuff wasn't encouraged, I was just left to discover it on my own. This last spring, a fantastic teacher and designer (Martin Venezky) introduced me to Ed Fella's stuff and got me to reconsider my hands. Well, this eventually brought me to Some People Can't Surf and to Art Chantry and back to my memories of Seattle.

As much as I disparaged sea-town in the first paragraph, two things about that city have always had a hold on me. First, I could never rightly call it home. Home was Tacoma, forty-five minutes away. Ugly, smelly, sprawling, character-less Tacoma. Seattle was the shining metropolis, home of Jimi Hendrix and final resting place of Bruce Lee (half of him, anyway). Growing up in Tacoma, I could dismiss the fact that Seattle is also home to Starbucks and Kenny G. I imagine the relationship is similar to Long Islanders' feelings about Manhattan. (Art Chantry also grew up in Tacoma, and this helps me understand why he put up with Seattle for as long as he did)

Secondly, I still think of Seattle fondly because it was graphically honest and vibrant (and here I get to the point of this post). Judging by the posters and weekly rags, one would suspect that the city had an active counter-culture full of all the vim that counter-cultures are supposed to be full of. Of course I now realize that what I was looking at was Art Chantry's work or at least the product of his influence. And looking at a catalogue of his work, it makes me wish I could have seen the city in the eighties, which is when he was still developing his style in response to the scene around him. The stuff I actually remember seeing - stuff from the mid-90's forward - was a carry over from an earlier time when the scene and the design were still happily married. The scene imploded, but Art was still there, making believe that it hadn't.

So, I guess I'm saying that Art lied to me. He presented me a city that didn't exist anymore. Damn good lie, though, and one that I'll always be grateful for.

On Oct.14.2004 at 02:28 PM
Ahrum Hong’s comment is:

Sorry, I posted that last comment before discovering that many of the contributors here are based in Seattle.

With that in mind, however, I have a question: what's the current status of the 'chantry-style' in the northwest? Aped poorly? Aped well? Or have the band/cd designers moved on to explore their own territory?

On Oct.30.2004 at 07:18 PM