I was delighted to be able to pick the brains of another awesome up-and-coming designer recently. Kevin Hartranft is super talented and works brilliantly accross a veriety of media whether he is creating an eye-wateringly cool tshirt, skate deck, poster or even brand identity. He is a great all-round graphic designer and illustrator. You can check out his portfolio and hire him here.
TH: What is your background and how did it lead you into design?
Kevin Hartranft: It definitely started way back when I was around eight or nine years old growing up in the middle of nowhere, Hamlin, Pennsylvania. Raised by a mother who worked three jobs I was left home alone a lot with my imagination to run wild. My mother would rent ten or so movies at a time keeping me occupied and influencing my imagination. Horror, sci-fi and adventure movies were all I watched, such as The Goonies, The Gate, Beetlejuice, The Lost Boys, Big Trouble in Little China and others that have become movies I love
and still watch til this day.
Around sixteen when I was able to drive I got heavily in to graffiti. Actually when I think about it, at that time it was kind of a way of life for me. I was part of a little crew of friends
who did it, walking around with our black sketch books doing pieces, characters and bombs in each others. Then after school planning out whole walls on “not so legal” locations in
Scranton, Pennsylvania to display our art on.
After that I got a computer and started messing around with Adobe Photoshop 4.0. Around the same time I also started playing guitar in a couple different bands and soon realized I
could do my own album artwork, tee designs and flyers on the computer. That was the start of it and since then have been doing graphic design self taught for around twelve years. I’ve worked for a few design firms and learned things like interacting with clients, the business end and a few things I didn’t quite understand about the print process.
For the past three years or so I’ve really taken it back to the old days of drawing when I was a kid and my graffiti years. Appling what I’ve learned from them to illustration and realizing the love I had for drawing. Along with some online sites such as emptees.com with many really great artists on there that have pushed and inspired me to do what I love.
TH: What do you enjoy most about designing and why?
Kevin Hartranft: I would say for me its two things one the fact of creating something from nothing. That blank canvas that you fill with your vision. The ideas, experimenting and the fact that its totally your creation that will symbolize or represent something or someone. Second I would say is the satisfaction of finishing and the reward of a client that loves what you’ve created for them and appreciates your hard work.
TH: What are your tools of the trade?
Kevin Hartranft: I’m a die hard Apple fan. I use Painter X and the Adobe Suite for pretty much everything. I Also use a Wacom Intous3 6×8 tablet which I couldn’t live without. As far as traditional medium, I use Strathmore Bristol Smooth, Faber Castell brush pens (when I decide to ink traditionally, a kneaded eraser, sometimes Prismacolor Non photo blue pencils and good old Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils (same as I’ve always used since I was young).
TH: Why do you think tshirts make such a great medium for designers and artists?
Kevin Hartranft: It really is a phenomenon, haha. I think its the fact of being able to wear yours or someone else’s art. Also in a way its kind of self expression like most fashion. I know many designers don’t wear their own or other artist tees, but personally for me I do. I can’t help it I love them, I mean seriously that is kind of like a farmer that doesn’t eat his own crops after working so hard to grow them.
TH: What is your personal favourite tshirt design you have created and why?
Kevin Hartranft: People ask me this all the time and to be honest, its usually the most recent one I’ve done, haha. I know this is over used but Leonardo da Vinci said “Art is never finished, only abandoned”. For me this is true in the fact that when I finish I’m already thinking and on to the next idea. I can’t help it I’m a scatterbrain thinking about a thousand things at once.
TH: Who, of anyone in the world, would you like to design a tshirt for?
Kevin Hartranft: Well as far as brands I’ve always wanted to do something for Paint the Stars, Pyknic and Fright Rags. They are my favorite brands. I always wanted to work with film companies making tee designs too. Promoting the movies.
TH: What have been the highest and lowest points of being a working designer?
Kevin Hartranft: The high points simply would be doing what I truly love to do for a living. As a freelancer I’ve come to really love being my own boss. Making my own hours (which actually is 24/7 most of the time, haha.), designing in my pj’s and the freedom to work with clients I choose. No more ads with enormous “50% OFF” sunbursts on them! The lowest is definitely the struggle with budgeting and paying the bills on time. One thing with being freelance is that you might have periods of a ton of work and then slim to none the next. So you have to really learn to conserve and budget. But for me its worth it, a small price to pay to get to say I do what I love.
I would like to express a massive thank you to Kevin for his time and inspiring words. Check out his website here!