Not long ago, we went hunting for some pop culture design-rich work at the Wizard World Louisville Comic Con. We spotted Andrew Heath’s work from across the conference floor. After lightening our wallets on a couple pieces of said work, we chatted with Heath about his process, how to stand out, and the role pop culture plays in design today.
What’s your background?
I’ve been designing professionally for about six years, but have been involved in some form of art my entire life. … Once I got into college, I started taking design classes and learned as much as I could. After getting used to the programs and learning all of the ins and outs of design, I got an internship at a greeting card company, which eventually led to a full-time job. After working there for three years, I decided to head out on my own and started working as a full-time freelancer.
What led you to the Pop Culture series?
I’ve always known about comic conventions, but I never really put two and two together about it being a possible outlet for getting my work out there. For college, I moved to Lexington, KY, and the second year there, I started seeing advertisements for the first Lexington Comic and Toy Convention. … Pop Culture is something that I’ve always been passionate about, but never really worked with.
When did it start to take off, and what has it led to in your career?
The Lexington Comic and Toy Convention was the first time that anyone other than friends and family saw my work. Initially, this convention was supposed to be a one-and-done kind of thing, but it really exploded. My work was very well received and I began getting freelance job offers almost instantly after the con was over. I started looking into other conventions in the area and ended up booking three more for the year. Each one was incredible and it got me thinking that I could actually do this full time. For the next year, I booked 13 conventions and decided to take a risk and quit my job at the greeting card company. The year went very well and now I’m doing 19 conventions this year.
What’s your process in general, and when designing a new installment to the pop culture series?
I usually start off by making a list of everything I can think of, such as video games, movies, television shows, etc. I only stick with things that I’m familiar with, though, so I can do the subject matter justice. Once I finish the list, I go through and start to think of ideas. If I have a good idea, I’ll doodle it down as a placeholder and then keep it away until I begin working. I don’t start working on any of them until I have all of the ideas down, whether it be a complete idea or just the beginnings of one. As far as any kind of sketch, the doodle is the only time that I touch a pencil to paper. I work completely on the computer from start to finish. In my mind, I’ve become so accustomed to the way the computer programs work, that it’s easier to edit and fix things on the computer rather than waste time sketching something out. When I finish, I just move straight on to the next one. I try to set aside a month or two out of the year to work on my Pop Culture series.
One of the things that struck me most about your work in Louisville is how much it varied from the traditional art (comic, fan) seen at such shows. Did you go into the field striving to set yourself apart?
I didn’t really go into this trying to be different. In fact, it didn’t even cross my mind about what other people’s work would look like. I’ve always loved minimalism and vintage graphic design, so I decided to try out how these would work with pop culture. My first series of designs were really where my style started to develop.
How do you view pop culture’s role in design?
I grew up on a lot of the movies and shows that I work with, and since learning graphic design, I’ve been completely mesmerized by it. I look at myself as a graphic designer more than an artist when creating these prints. That’s something that I just can’t turn off. Overall having one foot in both has really helped define what my style is and so far the people who see it get where I’m coming from.
Your work blends a visual reference of the material with a deep-seated knowledge of the subject. What’s the key to achieving your overall aesthetic?
When I approached these with that minimalist mindset, I also wanted the subject matter to be minimal and subtle as well. For some of my pieces, you don’t know exactly what it is until you look at it for a minute. I think growing up on a lot of this stuff helped me achieve that. I feel like if you don’t know it, don’t bother doing it. One of my favorite things to do is have conversations with people about my work and the subject matter. I would hate for someone to buy a print and then ask questions and me have no idea what they’re talking about.
What about your work connects and resonates with people?
One thing that I hear a lot is that my work has a good pop culture feel, but isn’t so “in your face” to where you can’t hang it up in your living room. That’s a really big compliment to me, and after a while, that’s how I started to feel about my work as well. It was still pop culture and fun, but also had that “arty” vibe to it.
What do you think is the best way for designers to stand out today—whether at comic shows or in the art and design worlds at large?
I think the best way to stand out is to be confident in your work and in yourself. If you’re having trouble finding your niche, just keep at it. It took me awhile to get my style to where I was satisfied with what I was doing. Once you’re satisfied, keep working and build on it.
What’s your best advice for young designers?
Get your work out there as much as possible. We live in such a technological world that you can post something online and thousands of people can see it in seconds. Whether it’s Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or even Deviantart, just get your stuff out there.
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