How long have you worked from home? And where is home? Home is Atlanta Georgia, where I’ve worked as a graphic designer for just about twenty years. The bulk of my work has been as a consultant working out of my home office, though temporary stints commandeering client conference rooms is common. My company, Matador, takes an editorial approach to graphic design with a focus on typography for all media. By that I mean graphic design that starts with the content and works out to a finished product my clients can take to market. We do graphic design, but there’s a bit of writing to it as well. Some folks we’ve worked with: AT&T, Coke, IBM, ING, Mercedes AMG, Nintendo, and Time Warner.
Typography plays a major role in the practice beyond simply picking a font or knowing a particular brand’s guidelines. Every typeface has unique requirements in that it has to be set just so. It’s up to the graphic designer to understand what a particular typeface wants. We work within those bounds to let type communicate as it was intended. Everything else follows.
Being so enamored with type, I took time off from 2006 to 2009 to write The Typographic Desk Reference (TDR), a dictionary of typographic terms and form. The TDR’s in its third printing and we’re looking to start localized versions before long. At the moment, we’re on the hunt for a European publisher.
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? Initially I’d have to say I don’t have a specific style. My work requires adapting an aesthetic to the company or product I work for. But it could be said I have a modernist aesthetic. I don’t do postmodern, but if a client wants it I have a stack of postmodernist resumes I can haphazardly pick through. That’s a joke… well sort of. Postmodernist clients usually call back in five years, wanting to trade for a modern approach. Overall I’d have to say my approach is typographic, which could be considered an aesthetic at times.
How do you keep your office organized? I’m thinking here of the physical space but also your computer. Are there any particular programs you find really useful? I have some Bouroullec Valise boxes I use to file work documents. For archiving print work, I use some very refreshing plain white (with no advertisements) file boxes from the Container Store. Larger work gets tube rolled.
I have a server which gets backed up redundantly. Network user accounts get backed up to the server automatically, so adding a new MacBook is just a matter of logging in to the server with it. My music is on the server too—all 100 days of it.
For project management I use the 37 Signals Basecamp and Highrise apps. Nothing is proprietary, so the logistics of working with talent in Osaka is the same for someone in Copenhagen, or my printer here in Atlanta.
When you were designing your home office what did you keep in mind? I start with a book called Human Dimension & Interior Space by Julius Panero and Martin Zelnik. After brushing up on a little physical anthropology, I get to work realizing the space. Designing a physical space is no different than graphic design or typography where size, proportion, and space are equally considered. I’d say well placed furniture makes for high performance, but more importantly a better quality of life.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you most enjoy? My Eames Soft Pad Group Executive chair. I’ve had it for ten years and it just gets better with age. It doesn’t wear out, it wears in. Second would come my Eames Oval Table. It’s the only desk I’ve had that, placed diagonally, functions error free. I’ve just started to break-in my Ikea Billy bookcases. We’ll see how that goes.
What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? Where does the accessory end and the tool start? What often find their way back to the desk are my Pantone fan books. These are what I’d consider desk accessories to keep color organized, lest I imagine there’d be loose color all over my desk.
As difficult as it is, I try to keep things off the desk. My sideboard drawers are filled with little fiddly stuff like pens, paperclips and whatnot. This is a “desk accessory” I can’t do without. Open one of these drawers and you’ll clearly hear the theme music to Sanford & Son.
What would you change about your own workspace? The office is just big enough to fit two people comfortably, so I’d make it bigger, add more open space, and a half kitchen. A chaise for naps would be nice. I’d also like it to be detached from the house to slightly de-blur the work/home aspect. While we’re at it, just make the whole thing aluminum and glass and resurrect Donald Judd to design it.
What do you most love about your space? The view of the backyard through the sliding glass. The windows let in lots of natural light which is ideal for reviewing proofs and picking colors. It’s also good for the eyes to focus on something far away after staring at the computer screen.
What inspires you? For work related inspiration I look outside of graphic design to architecture, industrial design, music, and literature. And nothing beats traveling to see how other people do things.