Graphic Designer Jordan Minardi's Imagined Grand Canyons Are Man-Made Wonders

Using computer graphics, handmade techniques, and ingenuity Minardi creates epic fantasy landscapes.

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Jan 29 2014, 3:39pm

Jordan Minardi’s newest, untitled series of design pieces is hard to classify, and even harder to turn away from. Are they ominous or beautiful? The answer is yes to both. Each work takes the breathtaking monumentalism of canyons and mountains, and translates it into a digitized, graphic captivity; essentially giving off the appearance of natural wonders, though they're generated via machines and hand design.  

Recently TCP reached out to Jordan to talk to him about his recent series, his work in clothing design and production, and what he’s got planned for 2014.

The Creators Project: Give us a history of your career as a graphic designer up until today.
Minardi: I grew up in Southern California, and while I was in High School my graphic design teacher Jason Bowen inspired me to start developing my illustration skills on the computer, and transferring that into silkscreen on tee shirts. I was a complete addict once I was shown this process from sketch to computer vector, to printing methods, etc.

I worked in a silkscreen shop with my brother-in-law for a year, but quickly after started attending Laguna College of Art + Design in order to try and develop a stronger grasp on Graphic Design. I covered both commercial and contemporary types of design work. I had to develop myself in all mediums before I got to focus on the computer.

While in college I started working in the action sports industry. I worked for everything from small up-and-coming brands to huge commercial brands, as well as freelancing on the side for all sorts of projects. This quickly gave me a stronger sense of how that industry worked.

I'm currently working for Chapter clothing, alongside head designer Devin Carlson, as a design assistant and production manager. Production is new to me and has definitely given me an advantage in the design field. I feel like most people don't venture off into that realm. It’s helped me become a very technical graphic designer.

How exactly has production helped you become a more technical designer? What would you say makes one designer more technical than another?
Production justifies whether or not your design is functional in a physical form. It’s something that I think has been lost with the freedom of using computers. I enjoy taking what I make on the computer and giving it a physical form. A lot of the time its natural form is a pleasant surprise. A designer who understands exactly what the end result is has a strong grasp on design.

Aside from your full-time work, you recently freelanced some t-shirt logos for Patagonia. How did that relationship happen?
I applied to Patagonia awhile back, purely because it’s without a doubt the best rounded brand in the world. They truly care about their craft and they set a perfect example of how a company should operate, internally and externally. I gravitate towards brands who care about sustainability and craft, so I applied but was sadly not hired on full-time. The creative director enjoyed my work and gave me an opportunity to do some freelance designs, which was great to be a part of.

Now away from the t-shirt design. What inspired this series of design pieces that you started putting up on your website last December?
Each piece I'd like to believe is kind of like a personal ink blot. I make one piece daily, I'd like to look at it as a simple practice en route to achieve something that I enjoy looking at. I stare at these things on and off for hours.

The process is unique. I develop this abstract visual in Adobe Illustrator and manipulate the lines by adjusting the points and angles till I achieve what I'm looking for. It becomes visually complex and thus I reach an almost unrepeatable look, which is interesting to me since it’s a computer and usually in my field you are rated on how well you can copy. No one can copy these. In the process they become automatically linked to me. The last steps are just a simple xerox and scan method, to post to my site.

The series is still in development. Even though I've been making these for years I'm still trying to figure out what they mean.

What does printing and Xeroxing bring out in each of the pieces that isn’t present to you in their raw, digital state?The grain achieved in the xerox stage gives them a unique depth. It’s flat, the true blacks and whites are kind of lost and it’s purely up to chance if it’s going to look good or not. A quick scan and photoshopping helps me achieve the desired end result.

It makes it look as if they’re made with charcoal on paper. At what point in your work on the series did you realize you couldn't create what you wanted strictly with digital mediums?

The reaction between mediums and they way this reaction exists in connection with the image has a huge impact on the viewer. All the elements, in some way, support the message. In my work the print outs were too accurate at first, clean and seemed very digital - no element of randomness. Once I applied the xerox to it I achieved that random, uncontrollable state that drives the series. It was one of those "ah ha" moments that I love. Another paralleling element in this whole process.

You said design artists are “rated on how well [they] can copy” in the industry. Do you believe that's true for everyone working with digital mediums? Or do you mean just specifically the design field you're in?
In the industry I work in a lot of times I've been given projects that start off with a reference of imagery from other brands. The boss says "hey this is trending, make a ton of shit like this and our problems are solved." Obviously, this is not the noble way to go about things but I can understand if they are hurting in sales. People need to get a paycheck at the end of the day.

I try to stay clear of that mentality, but it was definitely an important lesson that all designers have to witness if they want to obtain some knowledge of how to accurately develop any type of design for a client who has needs. We all need to eat.

You also said these pieces are your own form of ink blot - something which is generally created with physical mediums and is meant to imply a subconscious element of its creator. But whenever technology gets thrown in as a medium, any produced artwork is then associated with calculation and precision - complete opposites of a traditional ink blot. Does working with computers still allow you to capture that natural, visceral randomness? If so, how?
The way I've always approached using software and computers was to seek out digital tools that still allow some elements of chance. I wanted to produce something that was mostly subject to chance, that I would’ve never been able to obtain by just using my own judgement. I find that unintentional elements give the design something beautiful, especially on a computer where everything is about precision.

I embrace randomness in my work - it’s almost like the piece developed on its own and exists on a different playing field, we are finished tinkering with it when it speaks to me.

You’ve always been somewhat reclusive when it comes to promoting your portfolio, and even though you’ve been actively working as a designer for years, your website’s archive only reaches back to December 2013. Is there a hesitancy to let others see your past works?
I like my to promote myself as more of a thinker. The design work I've done for brands is my profession, not my calling. I would rather have someone visit my site and see my personal design works -  not something I was told to make for a brand.

On a final note, are there any other series you've been working on recently? Any new designs coming out in 2014?
I've been trying to take my work into a physical realm, and really put my production knowledge to the test. My friends have suggested 3D printing and possible creating a series of sculptures. I'm curious to see what the full 360 view of these pieces would look like.

If you were to 3D print any of these, which ones would you choose? What would you hope a 3D printed design would bring out in these pieces?
Not sure, I've always experimented a lot with different mediums. Usually the end result is something I don't like. Who knows, it could lead to discovering another visual for me to obsess over.

If these were printed I'd like for them to give the viewer some kind of enjoyment, whatever that may be. For me I like to just let my mind wander to wherever. Maybe the viewer and I can share that? It's purely up to their interpretation and I like that.

ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT JORDAN MINARDI

Follow Johnny Magdaleno on Twitter: @johnny_mgdlno

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