Adam Garcia: Designer for Nike, Rhymesayers and Arcade Fire (interview)

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Just by the headline you can tell Adam Garcia must be a talented man, and like all talented men, they move away (not even hiding our jadedness!). Garcia, known back in the day in the Twin Cities as "Snakebird" was an instrumental designer in the hip-hop and street art scenes before moving to Philly in 2006, leaving his work as Art Director at Rhymesayers behind for us to gaze upon fondly with a hole in our hearts. He's since been recruited by Nike and has managed a Portland move, and yet somehow he still sneaks in a freelance project or two for his hometown people (e.g. the Soundset logo and Wants vs Needs dance party tee-shirts). We knew an update from Garcia was long overdue and it's always uplifting to hear about one of our own doing great things from across state lines, so this week's Artist Spotlight presents a good healthy dose of Snakebird.

Dressing Room: What have you been up to since leaving Minneapolis? Tell us about your journey and where its taken you.

Adam Garcia: Well, I left Minneapolis in October 2006. I had graduated from MCAD the previous winter, and immediately started working in an office at Rhymesayers as their Art Director. Since I was 17 (in 1997), I've been involved in the Twin Cities independent music scene as a dancer, rapper, promoter, designer and supporter, so I kind of felt that a transition was due. To be honest, one of my dreams was to do art direction for a record label. I did it, and it was amazing, but I quickly realized that I just wasn't experienced enough. I was also getting out of a relationship that I kind of messed up, and it felt like a good time to leave the city.

Where'd you go then?

I began working as a designer at a branding/design studio in Philly in November 2007 called 160over90, living right downtown and learning a whole lot about marketing, design, presenting, managing client relationships, that kind of thing. It was also great because based on my experience working on design for artists like Arcade Fire, MF Doom and Atmosphere, I was able to make connections with a lot of great Philly folks (Amanda Blank, CityPaper, Two.One.Five Magazine, U.City, etc). The time there was great, I grew a lot, but Philly's different from Minneapolis. It's more aggressive. It's harder. It wasn't for me.

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How'd the move to Nike happen? Tell us about your job there.

After two years, I quit my job to start my own studio, and serendipitously received a call from a Nike recruiter. They needed someone in Nike Sportswear out at the world headquarters, and they thought I would fit. I accepted the job, they moved me out here to Portland. I've only been here since November, but it's a really cool city. It's smaller than Minneapolis, and even more easygoing. As a company, Nike has been absolutely amazing. I've never really been a sneaker guy, and I've never been that into sports (unless you consider popping, locking or Dungeons and Dragons "sports"). I actually said that to my Design Director when I met him in NY. I said, "I honestly think you have the wrong guy." But they thought I fit the role, and I was up for the challenge. My role is as a lead graphic designer in Nike Sportswear's footwear division. I work doing seasonal lines and I work specifically on the "Nike Icons," which are the Air Force 1, Dunk, Blazer, Cortez and Air Max. We help create the global line for these shoes as well as collaborations with musicians, retailers and other fashion brands. It's kind of a mix of product design, merchandising and marketing. I've even gotten to help physically design a few models, which was cool. I work with an awesome team and it's really been a phenomenal experience so far. Many of the things that I've been working on start hitting the market for a few months. I'll keep you posted.

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So where can your influence still be seen in the Twin Cities? We know you help design shirts and swag for the Wants Vs. Needs party ... anything else you've still got your hands into here?

I don't know about my "influence," per se, but I try to stay involved in Minneapolis as much as possible. That city is part of my creative core, and I know that my point-of-view and aesthetic is hugely influenced by that city. You're right, I'm part of a crew / event there called Wants VS Needs, which is a collective of deejays, promoters, and me as a kind of artistic director. Wants is the third Thursday of every month, at Club Jager. I've worked on the last three Soundset festivals, thrown by Rhymesayers, and I'm trying to do more editorial illustration (CITY PAGES, WHAT UP?!) for the local pubs out there. I've done some stuff with Vita MN and currently I'm working on things with a Doomtree project that should be amazing. I'm also really looking forward to a large collaborative artshow / event that I'm doing in the near future with Joe Belk, Mike Davis, Wes Winship and Ted Quinn. We've been kind of building the idea for the last few months and we're all pretty excited.

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If someone likes your work, can they buy it or commission you to do a piece?

Definitely! I really love collaboration and working with people in general, so I'm always down to connect. I work under the studio name The Pressure, so there's a lot of different kinds of work in there. But yes, please be in contact. Hell, just say hi. I like people. (http://www.thepressure.org)

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Tell us what your favorite project to do has been.

In general, anything letterpress I love, so any of the Studio on Fire collabs are some of my favorites. I didn't technically build it, but seeing the Soundset '09 as a sign (built by Doomtree's Sims) made me pretty happy. The MF Doom animation is short, but still a fave. I'm also pretty excited about transitioning my hand-done lettering onto three-dimensional objects, like the woodblock and the DWR Optimism script chair (right).

What's next for you?

In my spare time here I work with a lot of musicians doing artistic direction, and pretty soon I'm launching a blog called Illustrated Etymology (I have a love for words), doing a shirt with the NY-based Weathermen hip-hop group that I'm pretty amped about that my buddy Yak Ballz hooked up, and this summer I'll be doing some big public art projects here with The Love Movement in a pretty high-profile area of Portland.


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