Downing tequila shots, ogling over Mila Kunis, and wanting to be the next Mark Zukerberg – just a few of the things on the mind of a twenty-something guy. But the bygone days of the industrial revolution? Probably not on his top-ten list. Yet, for twenty-somethings Paul Wilkes and Scott Hill, the über talented founders of Oklahoma City-based design firm Foundry Collective, both their philosophy and design style are uniquely rooted in the memory of their forefathers – Midwest hardworking Americans who earned their keep toiling in oil fields, farms, and factories during the industrial revolution.
But the designers’ fascination with this era runs far deeper than pure aesthetics. Not only did both their grandfathers fight in World War II, the artists are keenly aware and appreciative of the hard work and hardships their forefathers endured to make it possible for them to be where they are today – college educated with tools to pursue their artistic passions. “We don’t want to forget that, we want to honor it. That’s why we’re so drawn to this aesthetic and why we kill ourselves over our work.”
With an impressive portfolio that more-than-nods to a vintage/retro style and includes Hill’s stylized illustrations, Wilkes’ eye for photography, and the killer typography of the two, their passion for the past is clearly reflected in their work. They explain, “We love the utilitarian look of the industrial era and the functional design that came with it. Those were hard times and designers back then took a little extra time to dress things up using banners, flourishes, etc…I think those types of visuals and the era from which they came will always be our main inspiration.”
Even their location and company name beckons back. Housed in an old service station from the 1930’s, Foundry Collective (whose name intentionally connotes the hardworking factory days), now resides in a converted building once owned by the Deep Rock Oil and Gas Corporation.
And just like businesses in the olden days, Foundry Collective’s client mix is composed of like-minded friends, small shops, and community folks. Many of the small businesses Foundry Collective works with came about as a result of lost corporate and 9-to-5 jobs. “Suddenly finding themselves now in control, our clients often yearn for a nod to the ‘old days’ before things were streamlined.” But old fashioned their customers certainly are not – Foundry Collective has possibly the coolest roster of clients including rockin’ bands, photographers, film companies, and artists of a similar vein.
Since opening their doors in 2009, success has come quickly for these hardworking Oklahoma boys. But like their forefathers before them, the designers owe it all to “simple hard work: put your head down and get to it.”
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