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Eric Elms: The Graphic Designer-ARTIST

A playful graphic illustration of a pencil and a joint leaning on a hand-drawn type that reads “Never not working”. This is the motto of New York based designer, Eric Elms.  Starting his first job screen printing posters for the well-known designer, Shepard Fairey, Elms has landed multiple projects with reputable companies such as Nike, Panasonic, Asics, Stussy and Obey. Elms isn’t just an average designer who got lucky and met the right clientele, but rather a designer who is looking to bring the artistry back into design.
The high school job he had with Fairey was the start, but Elms has done quite a lot of work to get to where he is now.  He began taking art classes his first year of college, before he decided to transfer to Pratt Institute, and finally dropped out and began work in the professional field.  After leaving Pratt, Elms took his first real design job working with Supreme, a New York based clothing brand which is one of the pioneering brands for the streetwear fashion industry.   Since then, he has been able to designing graphics with several T-shirt brands, such as Obey, Stussy and Supreme, who are blossoming as street fashion is becoming more prevalent.  Working within a realm of different brands can be a tough job, since he must create something with his style, yet convey the overall look and feel of the individual brand.  His approach? Elms explains that “It is more about balance in the line then conveying a certain theme.  The designer has put in a numerous amount of logo-based designs that are unique to his style, which boasts a strong importance  on typography.  Elms was given the opportunity to design the aNYthing logo, a T-shirt brand founded in New York. The logo reads “anything” in a rounded, sans-serif typeface, with the a color emphasis on the letters, “NY”  as a world play for “a New York thing.” This simple logo uses the the basics of color and composition, with a touch of creativity to form a design that is effective and unique to the brand.

Elms has been able to capture the personality that each typeface he uses, whether it be hand-drawn or from a computer program, and make it fit with the design. For example, one of his collabrative graphics for street-wear label, Stussy, reads “Built to Destroy”, with the word “built” formed by planks of wood nailed together.  The word “To” has a cartoon illustration of a bomb replacing the “o”, and the type “destroy” is in a scribbled, all-caps drawn text which gives a sense of destruction, while still fitting compositionally well with the  overall design and meshing with the youthful demographic that Stussy is a dedicated too.  Each of the illustrations he does for printed and web design start as drawings or collages on paper, which are then scanned and redrawn in vector.  This ensures that every design he does has his own artistic touch.

There is no doubt that he fits well within the design world, and he certainly knows what he is doing, but how did his work get around to these big corporations? Elms relies on his reputation for being ambitious and his perfectionist pieces to get him jobs as he explains in an interview with Format Magazine, he explains, “People hear about me through somebody or other ways. I haven’t really done a lot of self-promotion stuff.”  This may sound a little too easy for a starving designer, but this may have been the reason why his name is still an entity, as he has only done jobs that were looking for his creative spirit.  The fact that Elms’ artistic integrity is always shown first is most likely why he has been trusted to work on tasks with these big name companies.  Through the portfolio of his work, Eric Elms was recently selected to work with Panasonic and Renegade Marketing to create Panasonic’s “Share the Air” website, which was a campaign that showed how panasonic plays a role at the action sports event, the AST Dew Tour. Using shapes and images to create a collage on a grey background, Elms creates a simple yet utilitarian homepage design.  The shapes are divided by colors, which correspond to different pages of the website. Silhouette illustrations are also added to the design creatively, such as a skateboard illustration which appears to be rolling down a triangle.  When the site visitor clicks on each link, a similar collage of shapes appears in a grey color-scheme, with color emphasis on the shape that defines the section. The colors overall bring a strong unity to the website as a whole, while each page uses a different shape arrangement and color scheme to create a unique layout, and makes each page unique and inviting, as well as a strong basis for the content of each page.

Whether it be through a t-shirt graphic, website, or installation, Eric Elms has proven that he is  one of the many great designers to come up in this day and age, and his inspiration lives through his work. Perhaps Elms has been selected because he proves that designers are artists, and not just a person who is good at scrolling through fonts.  His work shows that typography is actually an art of type design, and not type selection, which many designers may have forgotten.   He has worked for corporations, but has used his unique artistic style is what has boosted his credibility and proves that designers can use their artistic abilities and shouldn’t limit their creativity.