RokRiot Reveals: Don Clark & Sasquatch 2012

I’ve now submitted “donclark” to the people at Webster’s numerous times, strongly suggesting it would be a fitting noun to add to the English language that would describe, “A multi-talented designer and musician whose skill set includes (but is not limited to) illustration, graphic design, conceptual thinking, and a deep connection with woodland creatures.” But until Don Clark becomes common vernacular, I feel it necessary to share a bit of his back- ground, for Don has been a creative force both inside and outside of the music industry for a number of years.

From 2000 to 2009, Don was the rhythm guitarist for Demon Hunter, an amazingly talented metal band that his brother, Ryan, still fronts. Even during his touring and playing years, Don was designing (alongside Ryan) and managed to launch two influential design firms—both based in Seattle: Asterik Studio and Invisible Creature. The Clark brothers’ accolades and resumes are WAY too long to get into here, so just think Target, NIKE and MTV. And, oh yeah, there are those four Grammy nominations for packaging that Invisible Creature has received. I think they may have a future.

Don and Ryan parted ways with Asterik in 2006, and the two went on to form Invisible Creature together. Most recently, Don has been designing posters for the ever-growing Sasquatch Music Festival, which takes place just a couple hours outside of Seattle. This year’s festival runs from May 25th through the 28th—yes, that’s this weekend!—and will feature bands such as The Shins, Jack White and Silversun Pickups. Don was generous enough to jump on the phone recently and contribute to another installment of RokRiot’s Reveals series by dissecting the design process of his 2012 Sasquatch Music Festival poster:

How did you first get involved with the Sasquatch Festival?

DC: Adam [Zacks] kinda owns Sasquatch and I had done some posters for him for some one-off shows and got to know him a bit, and then got a chance to work on Sasquatch in ’05—I believe that was our first year—and he dug it. I think we skipped a year, did another one, and then Adam asked us to do it each year, so I think this is our sixth year that we’ve done it, it’s a real cool thing for us, he gives us a lot of freedom. One of the things we enjoy is getting to change the character and giving him a whole new vibe and theme each year.

Let’s talk a bit more about that. With a repeating general theme to adhere to, how do you keep things fresh from year to year?

DC: In the beginning, my mindset was, “Let’s keep this Pacific Northwest related,” and always have that vibe, and Adam was like, “Let’s just make it cool—it can be anything, and maybe we just throw in a little bit of the Northwest.” Each year I think we can be a little more liberal with the theme. We pitch all kinds of ideas. Every year, I’ll throw him five to 10 ideas—just real chicken-scratch—rough ideas like, “What if it’s sasquatch in space, what if it’s superheroes?” This year, one of the things he wanted was based on The Dude, Lebowski-style, but mixed in with, “What if he was a closet Bon Iver fan—kind of a hippie thing.”

Considering your history and familiarity with Sasquatch, do you continue to share your design process with the client, or can you count on them being happy with whatever you deliver?

DC: With every client, I really like to show them progress because one of my pet peeves is going too far without them seeing anything, and then they say, “Oh, that’s not what we had envisioned.” So I show them a sketch, and then start going into final [design].

Once I’m done blocking out all of the shapes, before I go to shade and line it—I show them flattened vector art before I dig into the shading and lining because that stuff just takes so much time and it’s easy to manipulate a vector piece if they’re not diggin’ something, but its really difficult once I get it into Photoshop and get painterly with it. I do this with every client—I get to a stage of, “What’s the point of no return?”—I don’t want to get too far, I can still make changes, I’m going to show it to them right now, just to see what they think.

There are a number of fun details and interesting characters that accompany sasquatch in this year’s poster, can you talk more about these added elements?

DC: I had this idea that the gas and break pedal were actually part of a La-Z-Boy fold-out that comes out of a chair that he modified. His little crew is just more woodland creatures. Last year, we had the mountain man George and then the year before that, we had a dude in a car—the more I do this, I like throwing in more little characters, secondary characters. I felt like it would be cool if he just doesn’t understand how to make a headlight on this thing, but he does think it works to have a flashlight, on a helmet, on a bird [laughs.]

I like how you also incorporated a record player . . .

DC: Yeah, he’s got the iPad there, but no—he’s going to go old-school and somehow rig this to his headphones. It doesn’t quite make sense. Humor is a big thing each year, the client always want to keep it funny and different each year, and art is a big part of the festival. They do a big Sasquatch poster show each year in which they ask different artists to create a poster for every band that’s playing. It’s cool, a lot of art integrity goes into the festival, and I may be biased, but I think it’s one of the coolest music festivals in the nation. It’s a beautiful venue and he’s always got the coolest bands. We were talking the other day, and a lot of the bands he’s had—that were at the very beginning of their career—will go on and take off.

How do you deal with the large amount of text required on these posters?

DC: It’s definitely a trick. In years past, we’ve just done blocks of type and so this year, he [Adam] said, “Let’s try to incorporate more with the art and change up the composition a bit more.” I thought it was kind of a cool idea because I have tended to just throw it all at the bottom. This year also marks a change in the weight of some of the band names. Every year prior, it’s been the same, so that’s also a bit of a trick to get to look right. It’s obviously a poster that is advertising the festival—we want people to know who’s playing, but at the same time, it’s also a collectible item and it’s also something people buy to throw on their wall and the art takes the front seat there.

We played around with making the type bigger, changing the colors, but we didn’t want to trump the art when it comes to the actual poster because it is collectible. It’s cool though, because any other client would probably say, “No it needs to be bigger, let’s make the sasquatch smaller!” Adam is real cool about having the art take center-stage.

. . . and it looks like you hand-rendered the Sasquatch logotype?

DC: Usually every year, I’ll work with a typeface that exists—and modify it, and that’s kind of what happened this year—this is based off of a typeface, but I went in and hand-altered the characters and adjusted some of the kerning and added some of the ligatures to it, so it’s not entirely from scratch, although I did go in and re-create it.

From initial sketches to print-ready file, how long does it typically take you to complete a Sasquatch poster?

DC: Last year was totally different because we were making a toy and you need nine months preparation time to actually create a figure, so we started right after the festival ended in 2010—we started working on the character itself, and made sure we got the toy dialed-in, and then we went to make the poster, so we had Sasquatch and George done, and then I created the scene later where they are in the forest.

I probably started this [year’s poster] in August or September, and then I was done at the end of November. He [Andy] likes to get it done before the beginning of the new year because they announce some of the info in January/February, and he likes everything buttoned up by then, so I usually get everything done before the end of December.

. . . so no need for marathon Sasquatch design sessions.

DC: No, for the last 12 years, we just juggle a bunch of stuff, and we work on it when we can, and sometimes if the deadline is gnarly, then we’ll focus on it, but we’re always juggling numerous projects here. We like to get started as early as possible to give us enough time to make tweaks. They’re local, they’re here, so it’s cool, we can just meet up, we can talk about stuff and I can go back and work for a month on something. He gives me plenty of time.

And your color palettes—they are always reflective of the Pacific Northwest . . .

DC: I definitely take liberties with his color, he’s in brown, he’s been in light brown, he’s been orange, but I do want to keep him in that realm of, “He is a sasquatch, he definitely should be earth-toned.” Even in ’09 we had the lineup of the superheroes and they all had the same kind of golden brown hue because we want them to register as a mountain creatures.

I’ll throw out my color ideas and they’ll definitely have revisions and changes to it, so I don’t think this is my original color palette—it is for the character and the things going on, but they definitely want to see different backgrounds and type color changes.

Can we expect any vinyl figures to come from your 2012 poster design?

DC: No, we did it last year because it was the 10th anniversary, so it was kind of a unique thing. It is expensive to create a figure—it’s also a risk because you make “X” amount and you just hope people dig it and buy it, but that’s not always the case. I collect toys, but that doesn’t mean other 36 year-old grown people collect toys, it’s just one of those things where you don’t know. We [Invisible Creature] know our demographic and we can sell figures fairly well, but if you put them in front of a festival crowd, it’s a crap-shoot. Last year went pretty well, they sold a pretty good amount, so we might do it again in the future, but we’ll probably hold off for the next few years.

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Don’s poster for Sasquatch 2012 is NOW AVAILABLE for purchase at the official Sasquatch Music Festival store, which you can access right here. All of the festival information you would ever need is located at sasquatchfestival.com.

To really get a grasp of Don and Ryan’s amazing talents, be sure to visit their portfolio at InvisibleCreature.com and pick up some well-designed goods at their shop.

And, of course, I can’t ignore an opportunity to try and help Demon Hunter gain a few new fans—click here for the reason I became one.

The Don Clark portrait above was photographed by Ethan Luck.

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