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Design Bureau of Amerika speaks, part 1


Ty Burrowbridge and Keith Bowman

Burrowbridge and Bowman at their exhibit opening night at FreeJade Gallery (photo by Roberta)

After seeing the terrific nostalgic cartoons and drawings at FreeJade Gallery, created by Ty Burrowbridge and Keith Bowman, aka Design Bureau of Amerika, I wanted to know more about them. I also was intrigued by their enthusiasm for the Japanese-made, now defunct Gocco printing system. And mostly I was interested in how two graphic designers were making work that reached far higher than graphic design.

The first hint about the collaboration is that Burrowbridge is the talker of the two. Burrowbridge, 24, is originally from the Poconos. He is the son of an artist, and has a degree in digital arts from LaSalle. Bowman grew up in the ex-urbs and is 37, and is a bit shy. Here’s what Burrowbridge had to say:

LR: How did you get into fine art after being a graphic designer?

TB: When I was in 8th grade, I started to teach myself how to program web pages. I fell in love with it. I’ve stepped away from the computer and realized the computer is just a tool. It’s only part of a design process, at least my process and Keith’s process.

I really missed the smell of chemicals and paint under my fingernails and ruining my jeans.

Poster by Design Bureau of Amerika

poster on street outside FreeJade gallery opening (photo by Roberta)

LR: And Keith?

TB: Keith’s process is similar, and we have an obsession with things that are hand-crafted.

[Ty and Keith already knew each other through some online design forums like How Design Forum. Then they met at work, where they do design for pharmaceuticals–interactive kiosks, touch screens, delivering media through ipods, and web design.]

Keith’s much older than I am. He found himself doing design. He sold everything he owned and travelled in Europe and came back with no money. So he went to work at a machine shop 16 hours a day, came home and did design work two more hours, getting five hours of sleep a night. He started Design Bureau of America [which is now a partnership and has done work for Habitat for Humanity, local recording artists and other good causes].

LR: Tell me more about the partnership.

TB: There is a kind of ying-yang. Our personalities are different. It gives us two different perspectives on the same design problem.

With his new suit, Gary is ready to rock the prom.
With his new suit, Gary is ready to rock the prom.

With his new suit, Gary is ready to rock the prom.

LR: So how do you generate ideas?

TB: Usually, we sit around and we’re joking about something, or we see something in our daily life and it’s kind of comical. So then we ping-pong how to illustrate it. We try to find some imagery that supports our idea. …Some of the images, like Gary rocks the prom–Gary is actually Keith’s uncle. The suit Gary was wearing was so ridiculous that we had to illustrate it. The image came from a wedding in the ’80s.

Keith comes up with these really great titles.

The process is very hands on, but there are very illustrative qualities. Keith and I just consider ourselves designers.

[Coming soon: Part II: The Gocco printing system]