You know when you meet someone and it feels like you’ve known them forever? Joel Speasmaker is like that. Comfortable, intelligent, down to earth… an old soul. Joel is an amazing designer and a sort of jack of all trades. From publishing to making art to designing, he blows me away with everything he does. This is why we tap Joel for a majority of Poketo’s special projects. The poketo colors and identity you see on this website, Joel helped create. The Poketo for Target website, Joel designed. Now, Joel has lent his visual design to our newest Colorparty wrist watch we launched just a couple weeks back. Here we go, lets chat with Joel Speasmaker.
You do so much work from art shows to commercial work to zines. How would you describe yourself — artist, designer, publisher? Anything you absolutely love over another?
I think that I keep each of those things — artist, designer, publisher, whatever — separate in my thinking. But this isn’t intentional. They are obviously all related, and I try to keep a consistent philosophy throughout, but I’m less confident with some, and more confident with others. There are positives and negatives in this.
We first met when you created and published The Drama quarterly arts magazine. I believe at the Alternative Press Expo back in 2005. How has making that magazine shaped your current work and personal life.
It shaped everything, really. On top of learning so much throughout that period of time, I inadvertently set up this huge network of insanely talented and kind people that I’ve been able to eventually work for, collaborate with, live with, or simply be a friend of. It’s pretty amazing, actually, and I don’t think I realized the significance of it at the time while it was happening. But I appreciate it so much now. If only I could find the time for one last related project I’ve been planning…
Tell us about your design firm, Forest. What is the philosophy, what type of projects do you enjoy working on?
The easiest way to explain my method behind working is this: you have to create your space. Something can’t exist without a framework. Create the space for the something to exist. Empty your mind and allow it to move through you. Don’t look at the internet. Don’t obsess over what your peers are doing. Be thoughtful and honest. Forget about design. Learn other things.
Give us a glimpse of your Brooklyn studio. You are also surrounded by other great artists and designers in the building. What is a typical day like?
I love my studio. Super tall ceiling, tons of light coming through, a train going right by the window. Brooklyn is crazy and frustrating and loud, and my studio is a nice escape from that. Lately a typical day starts a little later, tea in my thermos, working a bit in between watching soccer.
Your aesthetic is clearly seen in all of the commercial work you do. Do you feel like there is a distinction between your personal work and the work you do for clients? How do you work both harmoniously?
I actually struggle much more with personal work, as opposed to client work. The method and form seem to present themselves to you as you go through the motions with a client. I’ve learned to separate myself from this work, while still taking it just as seriously as my own. I have a hard time with design awards and accolades, because there was so much more going on than just me on any given project. Shouldn’t the client be just as recognized for something that is successful? Whatever I’ve created wouldn’t exist without their problem needing to be solved. And in the end it is simply that, a solution created within the restraints of my aesthetic combined with the process of reacting to a clients desires.
On the other hand, personal work is so intensely personal for me that it is difficult to share it. I love the process of it, I spend more time thinking and doing research than actually creating something. But when finished, there is of course that human need for some sort of recognition or validation. Some people thrive on this and create their whole career around it. But I try to fight that instinct.
As most people know, you created our Poketo visual identity we see today. Give us your thoughts on designing the Poketo identity and how that translates to your latest project with us, The Colorparty Watch.
We went through a large amount of variations and ideas, before eventually coming to what you see today. I think it portrays (at least how I feel about) Poketo in such a simple and strong way: a modern sense of fun and collaboration. It’s been rewarding to then apply the identity to new and unique projects, namely the line for Target, and now the Poketo watch with Furni. We were limited in a sense to what we could customize on the watch, so I’m glad we went with a simple application of the Poketo colors. Each of these projects seem to inform the next one, I wonder what’s on the horizon?
Three words that describe The Colorparty watch:
Subtle color statement.