Name and Year: Quintin Marcus, 2012
Major: Fine Arts, Concentration in Communicative Design
Medium of Choice: Anything I need to create what’s in my head
Street: How did you get started in graphic design?
Quintin Marcus: When I came to Penn, majoring in Fine Arts was the furthest thing from my mind. I come from a family of artists, my mother working primarily in knitwear and beadwork and my father a musician, so despite an affinity for the arts, I saw that it is not always the most profitable. I looked to other things to potentially major in, but each semester I realized that the only classes I truly enjoyed were in the fine arts. As I took some photo classes and digital design foundations, I found myself becoming more interested in design. When it became time to finally declare my major I decided to bite the bullet and do what I love, having faith that my drive for design and art would push me to be successful.
Street: Do you look to any professionals for inspiration? Do you have a favorite artist or graphic designer?
QM: I look to all kinds of people for inspiration, from serious highbrow professionals to thousands of internet fiends that post way too much on their Tumblr. A few of the artists/designers that I’m interested in right now are Daniel Eatock, Oscar Munoz and Damien Hirst. My favorite is Eatock. Eatock’s works are fascinating in that they are all over the place and many times seem entirely purposeless. There is something really intriguing about his process. He seems to get an idea in his head, and no matter how arbitrary it may be, he sets forth to do it as rationally as possible. From what I can tell he creates a lot and isn’t afraid to censor himself or stop the execution of an idea just because it may not be a good one.
Street: What other media have you experimented with? Which is your favorite?
QM: Recently I have pushed myself to work more outside of the computer, crafting things physically rather than digitally. This semester I am taking a class on silkscreen/relief printing and have been applying what I’m learning to my work outside the class. There is something really rewarding and enjoyable about physically getting your hand into the work, manually preparing the image, applying the ink and finally pushing it to the paper. You get that print at the end and you can really say, “Wow I made that happen, it was all me.” There’s no computer or printer doing the work for you. I have also dabbled with some installation pieces this semester, another great way for me to get out of my comfort zone and delve into three dimensions. It isn’t always the cleanest process, and I most certainly am not an expert at doing things the most efficient way, but I am learning and building some things I’m really proud of — overall a good departure from the digital world.
Street: Do you distinguish graphic design and art? If so, what do you think are differences. If not, what aspects of graphic design legitimize it as art?
QM: This is a debate that seems to go back and forth in the Fine Arts department. For me, graphic design and art are two different beasts entirely. This is not to say that art cannot be design or that design cannot be art. The two are able to bleed into each other, which is why I think this debate goes back and forth so much. But in the end they are two entirely different things. Graphic design is done with a purpose, a prompt. It is primarily client based, even if the client is made up or the designer themselves. The designer works to achieve a goal, to communicate a message and satisfy a client. Art, on the other hand, is much more free form. It doesn’t necessarily need to have a purpose. It can start in a much less structured place, and the product doesn’t have to be, and many times isn’t, functional. Now of course, great design can be so beautiful that it is considered art, and art can be done in such a way that it could be considered a great design, the two are not mutually exclusive in this regard. However, in my opinion, this is secondary, and when it comes down to it, design and art are two separate entities.
Street: Tell us about what the process is like when working for a client. How much creative freedom are you allowed? Do you prefer working for a client or just working for yourself?
QM: Working for a client usually goes in one of two directions. The first direction that I have encountered is when the client is completely rigid and thinks they know exactly what they want and attempt to use you as a tool as opposed to a designer. The second direction I have encountered is on the opposite end of the spectrum, when the client has no idea what they want and gives you complete creative license with little or no direction. At first glance this seems great, you get to do what you want and get paid for it. However, many times I’ve gotten stuck with not enough information to work with. Other times, I continuously get shot down because, in actuality, the client really does have a specific idea in mind. It truly is a game of push and pull, back and forth, lobbying with the client in an attempt to make something both the designer and the client can be proud of.
Street: What is the most challenging project a client ever presented to you?
QM: Most of the projects I have worked have been fairly similar in difficulty and level of complexity. I haven’t been able to work too many jobs while still juggling classes, a job and, of course, having a life. Because I don’t seek out large jobs, not too many have been particularly challenging. One job in particular that I worked on over the summer was a bit difficult in that the client asked that I design a fully functioning website as well as supplementary materials (brochure, business card, etc.) with a week or so turn around. A lot of clients do not realize the amount of work required to create something like a complex website or even a simple brochure. There is a lot of thought that has to go into not only the design but, in the case of a website, the actual code to put that website online. It is something I just have to consistently remind the client of so they understand.
Street: Do you prefer working with or without technology?
QM: At the moment I am really enjoying getting my hands dirty, and I have preferred to work minimally on the computer and more with pen and paper, silk screen printing, building, collaging and other methods. A lot of the ideas I’ve had this semester have stemmed from switching into this new way of thinking, ideas I would have never had if I limited myself to the computer. I still use digital means to make some of these ideas a reality. For example with a computer I can quickly make a halftone of an image in Photoshop, whereas I would have no idea how to do that without it. As with most things, it is a balancing act between the two worlds, that of digital and physical, and I think finding that balance is what really makes great work.
Street: What are you working on right now?
QM: Right now I am working on a project that addresses the idea of the LGBTQA community as an “invisible minority” by etching LGBTQA members’ portraits into mirrors. Unlike something such as ethnicity or gender, LGBTQA is not something that you can see when you meet a person or when placed in a crowd of people. You can never really know how many people are LGBTQA or which ones they are unless you make an effort to know them or if they tell you upfront. As a member of the LGBTQA community, I know this is something that I struggled with when I was in the closet. I never knew who else out there was like me, or whether there was someone I could relate to or reach out to. No one ever knew this entire side of me, ignoring this entire aspect of my life. It’s a difficult thing to wrestle with, and something I wanted to address in these mirror portraits that I’ve been creating. Etching onto the mirrors leaves a faded here–or–there image, but still places that portrait into our world via the mirror.