An Interview With Chris Allen

Published on February 4, 2009

Chris Allen is a Vancouver based freelance Graphic Designer and Art Director, an Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design graduate and has strong roots in the Skateboarding industry.

Check out this interview I conducted with him to find out more!

Hey Chris, could you tell me a bit about your background(live, born, age, work, school, whatever!)?

Age 31; Work and live in Vancouver, BC Canada; Studied graphic design at ECIAD; Freelance designer currently working with Studio: Blackwell.

What do you think of Vancouver, in terms of graphic design work and whatever else stands out?

Vancouver is a beautiful city and [has] recently been rated as one of the worlds move livable cities. In regards to graphic design, I feel opportunity is a little lacking and as a result Vancouver has an over abundance of interactive studios and advertising agencies. Vancouver is not on the international radar of design hotspots by any means, but I feel confident in saying that good work is good work and can be produced anywhere. At the moment Vancouver seems to be working for me but [I] would love to experience living and working in a large city like London or New York.

Do you remember working for your first client? Anything to tell?

My fist client was a friend who required help in branding a small clothing line he was developing. With no formal training, technically or theoretically the intent was there and at the level we were operating it that was the most important thing. We knew what we wanted to do and how things should look it was just a matter of making it happen. No rationale, no theory—just make it look good. We photographed and produced a brand book/catalogue and developed a logo. It was all very simple but proved to be effective and as a result landing him the Urban Outfitters account.

We knew what we wanted to do and how things should look it was just a matter of making it happen. No rationale, no theory—just make it look good.

I noticed your older work is largely based around the skateboarding and street cultures, how did that come about?

As a freelance designer I try and pursue projects that compliment and reflect my interest. Much like the work I did with Transworld Skateboarding. At that point of my life I was was heavily involved in skateboarding industry and also being a skateboarder myself it was only natural that I pursued work in which I was knowledgeable and had a love for. A Canadian friend of mine was the art director at Transworld in San Diego while I was attending Emily Carr. He contacted me to design an editorial feature figuring I could use the break, not to mention the cash. This proved to be a great way to get my feet wet in editorial design and also achieve a childhood dream of working at a skateboard magazine.

And now, your new work shows some great strategic branding, was this a natural progression moving to that kind of work? Which type of work do you prefer?

I think this is a natural progression for most designers. The more experience a designer gains the more knowledge they can apply to larger more complex projects. Honestly I prefer whatever project allows for the greatest opportunity for a new experience and a chance to create something I have not done before allowing me to constantly progress as a designer. My fear is doing the same thing over and over again, I think that is why I have been so reluctant to work in advertising, I am scared of the formula, the punch lines.

Are you able to tell us about any current or recent projects you are working on?

Currently I am working with Studio: Blackwell designing exhibition catalogues and artist monographs for the Gagosian Gallery and Rizzoli. Kelsey Blackwell is amazing and has taught me so many valuable lessons, not just with regards to design but theory and life itself. I feel honored to have such an incredible mentor.

What would be your ultimate dream project?

At this point I can't really give you a specific answer to that question. I guess my dream project would be to start a small publishing company and work remotely from a detached home studio with floor to ceiling glass in the middle of a forest.

What tracks, artists or albums are you listening to right now?

This is an interview in itself. The following are what I pulled off the records shelf in no particular order:

  • Led Zeppelin - II
  • Booker T & The M.G.'s - Melting Pot
  • Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks
  • Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
  • The Doors - Strange Days
  • David Bowie - The Rise And Fall OF Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
  • Bill Withers - Still Bill
  • Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon
  • Heart - Little Queen
  • Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg - Self Titled
  • Santana - Abraxas
  • Unicorn - Tyrannosaurus Rex

Some Artists, designers, companies your into right now?

There are too many to list but I do find the following people although contemporary very interesting and influential: Storm Thorgerson (Hipgnosis), Bruce Mau Design, Spin, Build, Underline Studio, 2x4, Made Thought, Browns, Pentagram, Experimental Jetset, Non Format, Graphic Thought Facility, NB: Studio........

The essentials of every day life?

Family, my lovely girlfriend, friends, my animals, nature, food, music, photography, art and design.

Many thanks to Chris Allen for being my first interviewee! Please check out his website for more work and info.