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
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 ( (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 [] (Greenville, North Carolina; not to be confused with Greenville, South Carolina [] or Greensboro [], North Carolina.) I teach at East Carolina University [], 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. ©