Art Chantry is the graphic designer credited with creating the look that helped define Seattles world-shaking music scene of the 1990s.
Back then, Chantry was art director for the Rocket, an influential magazine that covered Pacific Northwest music. He designed album covers and posters for bands and record labels including Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, the Flaming Lips, Neko Case and Presidents of the United States of America. When the world discovered grunge and its relatives, Chantrys work provided a visual dimension to the sounds that broke the rules of rock.
Chantrys trademark style was to create mechanically. He cut lettering out of existing texts with X-Acto knives and pasted it into new formations. He used photocopy machines in inventive ways to create different effects.
Computers changed graphic design forever, but Chantrys contrarian mind for design remains renowned. His work has been displayed at the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art and the Louvre.
Chantry lives in his hometown of Tacoma. Next Thursday hell speak at the University of Idaho about his design methods, including efforts to get young designers off the computer. He answered some questions for Inland 360 via email. Weve left his responses as they arrived, uncapitalizatized. When asked why, he replied: just lazy. i fell out of the habit years ago. now its just the way i type.
-Jennifer K. Bauer
Youve been credited with creating the look that helped define grunge and the Seattle music scene in the 1990s. What did you want people to think and feel when they looked at your album covers and posters from that era?
hopefully, they think innovative creative thinking. the reality is that its become a snapshot of a place and moment in history. graphic design is a language form and it constantly changes just like language does. slang, accents, dialects, vocabulary, grammar, structure etc. all constantly changes into new variations. the mere fact that i was able to influence a brief moment in popular culture history? thats pretty great.
What advantages are there to working mechanically verses using a computer?
so many i cant go into much in this forum. one good example is that everything i design has to be small enough to fit on a desktop scanner to process digitally. that means i cant design posters (or anything larger than about 11x17). that means i have to work so small!! i cant design full size any more. do you realize how MUCH that dumbs down what i can do? that alone is frustrating beyond words for somebody like me. thats just ONE tiny example. the tip of an iceberg, really.
Do you try to convince young designers to work by hand?
yes, i do. i work by hand faster than a person using computer (ive done contests). and its direct decision making. i have the advantage of using hand-eye coordination. it becomes a more direct process starting in the mind and literally flowing out of your hands. its so marvelously direct. and when that process starts up, its like a trance state your subconscious creative mind is taking over your hands (your conscious mind is thinking about what is on the radio or what you want for dinner). i compare it to driving a car when you drive you think about everything imaginable EXCEPT driving. yet you are driving expertly. how is that possible? same process. its not goofy mumbo-jumbo. its science. LOL
IF YOU GO
WHO: Graphic designer Art Chantry
WHEN: 5 p.m. Oct. 18
WHERE: Agriculture Science Auditorium, University of Idaho, Moscow