Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Five Whats With Strath Shepard

Hi, it's Chad here, Christine asked me to write a little intro to this Five Whats with Strath. I met him about eight years ago through our friend Lily of sunshine and shadow. Being both record and design nerds we instantly became great friends. Strath is an amazing person, from owning a cult Hip-Hop record label in Seattle and touring with Mo' Wax greats, to stints at Martha and Visionaire, he has some amazing stories, and along the way has gained an incredible eye for design. In one effortless breath he can talk to you about Christain Louboutin or Rei Kawabuko, then move to the psych band July or the breaks on a Johnny Lewis record, and end with something about Antonioni's Blow-Up or any similar great movie meets great design and great soundtrack combo you can name. Obviously, we have had a few of these conversations, and on top of that he has a great since of humor, so on that note, here are his Five Whats:

What did you have for breakfast?
I had some egg whites with salt and Old Bay seasoning, and an English muffin. I have one of these Bay's English Muffins just about every day, they're really good toasted with nothing on them. And four cups of Cafe Bustelo coffee with half-and-half.

What do you like and dislike about freelancing?

I like it that I can set my own schedule, but that's also what I dislike about it, because I end up working 'round the clock a lot of the time. So it has its ups and downs. I've been really lucky to get some amazing projects though, so the work itself is generally really good.

What are your inspirations?

Ah jeez, there are so many, that's a tough question. Every designer has a laundry list of references (Brodovitch, Lubalin, Graphis annuals, old records...) and I do too, but it's really about the state of mind of just always observing things, always taking things in and looking for patterns, colors, typography, etc. I have these black books that I've been taping things into forever, just as a way to collect all that stuff as much as possible. Here are some of the pages:
Aside from all that general inspiration, I'd say a couple other things that are constants:
PHOTOGRAPHY. That's really broad but as a designer I think it's a requirement, in that taking snapshots just hones the way you think about spacial relationships, balance, and what to include or not include. I find it to be sort of an exercise in minimalism—of trying to figure out the minimum you can include to convey what you're trying to capture. I also just love the history of photography and seeing what new current greats are doing (Sims, Sorrenti, et al). When I worked for Visionaire, we used to take little five minute breaks and all the designers would go on abebooks.com and look for cool photo books. We'd always be checking out new photographers and sharing them with each other—it was a really good exchange of information.
MY WIFE EMILY. She is an amazing writer and thinker and definitely the most inspiring force in my life. She's a lawyer but could just as easily be a fashion designer or graphic designer or gallerist or genius librarian. She has good ideas at all times. This is one of my favorite pictures of her, at the Cube Houses in Rotterdam.

Can you suggest what we should do to enjoy staycationing?

I recommend spending a day in Red Hook—go to the ball fields for the best Mexican food in New York, or to Hope & Anchor for brunch; hang out on the docks, get some key lime pie from Steve's, get a beer at Bait & Tackle, and then end up at Sunny's (pictured). Also, it's fun to make a day of taking the train to Cold Spring—it's about an hour up the Hudson, and the whole town is in walking distance of the train station, right on the river. There are good junk stores, an antique toy store, and a respectable dive bar. On the way back, you can stop at the Oyster Bar saloon in Grand Central for drinks and snacks. Belmont is also really fun.
What are your plans for the rest of 2008?
Well, tons of stuff is still up in the air, but suffice it to say that the plan involves Emily and I taking the second most significant roadtrip of our lives this September—the first being our move from Seattle to NYC almost ten years ago. No matter what, it's going to be an adventure.
photos: Strath, thanks for your super-organized files!

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