Ms. Charm’s Chic Exclusive: Super Rad Design

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself. What was the first piece you made?

I’m a freelance illustrator, graphic designer, and cartoonist from Albuquerque, New Mexico who grew up in the 80s and 90s. As a kid I would make Crayola marker pottery designs influenced by Native American pottery. I also spent hours drawing my hero Michael Jordan, and much of my creativity was sparked by building with LEGOs. Those particular influences from my childhood each played a part in forming my artistic style and are still at the core of what inspires me today. Super-saturated colors from Kool-Aid, 90s Hot Wheels paint jobs, and16-bit SEGA Genesis graphics also enhanced my love of color and design. And the creative genius behind Disney animation, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Back to the Future fueled my desire to maintain my own creative visions.
The first Super Rad t-shirt graphic I designed was based on the repetitive “THANKYOU” design found on plastic bags – the kind you typically get with Chinese takeout food or a purchase from the thrift store. Early on in my graphic design education at MICA, (The Maryland Institute College of Art) I became incredibly aware of the power of referential design. The idea that re-interpreting or recontextualizing a familiar image, or visual experience can generate an almost instantaneous response from an audience with whom the reference resonates purely fascinates me.

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That is not a new idea by any means, it is found everywhere in our culture, and shortly after college I became a big fan of the street artist Shepard Fairey who is known for his use of appropriation. I was also intrigued by musicians and DJs who heavily sampled, mashed-up, and remixed material such as Girl Talk, The Hood Internet, and Pogo.


In my opinion the most-successful design work either directly, or indirectly references an idea or experience that is currently at the forefront of our cultural collective consciousness. This phenomenon has only further coalesced with social media and the expansion of the internet into our daily existence.


2.How has your designs evolved since your first piece? How would you describe the process of coming up with a new item?

I would say the references in my work have evolved more than anything else in that they’ve become more intentional. Beyond that, my execution of those references has developed meticulously. I would also say that my awareness of the pool of influences I currently draw from has increased dramatically, mostly through research and exposure to ideas over time.


Within the past 2-or-3 years I’ve made a habit of self-archiving my influences by visually mapping out my childhood, and I have developed methods of cataloguing my experiential perceptions by collecting specific visual images which can be anything from photographs, to logos, illustrations, and print ads. I like to focus my inspirations on pop-culture and aesthetics from the 80s and 90s, but there are inevitably references in my work from earlier decades as well.

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It may not look like it, but a lot of research goes into each of my t-shirt designs. That is the beauty of graphic design – it’s meant to look effortless, simple, and instantly recognizable – but in order to do that well you really need to understand your subject matter, both from a historical standpoint, and from a contextual viewpoint.


3. How would you describe the Baltimore fashion scene?

Self-aware. I feel like people in Baltimore are very in touch with their surroundings. Baltimore can be a very hard place to exist at times. The city of  Baltimore, more so than a lot of other places actually has it’s own unique identity and it’s not shy about expressing it. The city is constantly yelling out for attention, it is constantly evolving, and it’s yearning to grow and reinvent itself. I feel that as a result the fashion scene in Baltimore very much reflects these traits, values and ideals.


People in Baltimore don’t need to show off, they don’t need to put on a facade, or pretend to be what they’re not, as a result people wear exactly what they feel most themselves in. Similarly the fashion scene in Baltimore is very honest, authentic, down-to-earth and accessible. People in Baltimore dress true to their cultural experience and true to their city. That strong sense of identity and community is probably why that arts are flourishing in so many different ways right now.


4.What are your plans for your brand in 2016?

We have several new designs in the pipeline, including a couple exciting new Natty Boh designs! We’re also looking into launching a line of embroidered snapback hats and a line of skateboard decks! We’re hoping to throw some screen printed posters into the mix as well.


Carlos Vigil – Super Rad Design

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