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Adam Garcia used to call Minneapolis home, like us. Unlike us, he moved to Portland, OR and started The Pressure, a creative design agency. Also unlike us, after college he has since worked in the record industry, at branding industries, and for Nike designing footwear. He gets to tap into his super-human right side of his brain for designs that can make you just stare, and slowly say “Wow...”
1. You have quite the resume. It sounds like your career journey has been one wild adventure. Is there one experience or job that was super developmental for you? I appreciate the kind words! You know, overall, it hasn’t been that much of a wild adventure, actually. I find that the best opportunities come from being open to trying new things, and taking risks for the sake of creativity. The trajectory thus far has all been quite organic, and I feel like there is no other place I’d rather be right now. As far as an experience or job that was a kind of “developmental” landmark, it’s hard to say. Not to sound corny, but every day there really is something learned that hopefully adds a brick to the foundation of whatever this is that’s being built.
2. Past clients of yours include Target, Nickelodeon, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Star Tribune, and Nike, to name a few. Impressive. Do you feel like you still have the freedom to follow your design intuition when you work for the big dogs, or do they typically limit your creativity to something they “had in mind” beforehand? I think that with experience, there is more freedom. For one, there is the understanding of what is necessary to sustain the “model” that one has set up. I only take on work that I really want to do; it’s never to meet a bottom line. In that way, there is a lot of freedom. Also, there is freedom in working with collaborators and clients that you choose. In that way, there are expectations and an understanding of different processes, and usually with clarity and management of said expectations, there is freedom. I think that that also comes through experience.
3. I get the sense that a lot of care goes into each project you undertake. Do you have a philosophy of design or a motto that guides everything you create? There is no single philosophy or motto that guides everything I create. There are criteria by which I will take on new work, however, and that is usually making sure that I’m working with people that I want to work with and that I will learn something new from the project.
4. If someone says to you: “Typography? It’s just letters. It’s not that big of a deal,” how would you try to convey to them the importance of making letters look good? That would depend on the person, and my mood. :) You need to pick your battles. One day I may say, “That’s true, type is just letters,” and other days I may say, “Typography are the symbols by which our language is constructed, and our language is our reality. How could you be so dense?” Usually I save the proselytizing for the classroom.
5. Design is everywhere - it’s all around us. Sometimes, it isn’t that good. How do you take your ideas for design and make it affect people, almost at the soul level? I have a general attitude of openness and enthusiasm that I feel somehow seeps into my work. I also really like people, and enjoy social interaction on all levels. Design is communication, and there is a direct link between my love of energy and the work I create. For example, the Hey You! cards that I made with Bryan Haker are meant to be anonymously given out. They are all about passing on a positive mood. “The Pressure Is Good For You” statement itself is a hugely motivational statement (while also being a direct promotional service mark), and it’s kind of become tied directly to me as a maker, which is great. I also do a lot of collaborative projects, which hopefully provide platforms for other designers and illustrators to get their work out, meet others and work in new processes. It’s all about energy and connection.
6. Can you share about the Nike products you designed, and what it was like working for Nike? Coming into Nike, I really didn’t know much about the company. I actually usually wore other brands before being recruited, but knew that it would be such an amazing opportunity for growth that I didn’t want to pass it up. Overall, working there was absolutely great. I got to travel the world and now have a whole new set of eyes by which I understand product, new processes, material and nuances of craft and design on a global level that I never had before. I still do quite a bit of work with Nike through my studio.
7. It’s a long way to Oregon from Minnesota. How would you describe the differences in west coast culture vs. midwestern culture? That’s an interesting question. There are many similarities between Portland and Minneapolis. I would say that overall, this city is even more laid back and easygoing than the Twin Cities. I was in Philadelphia for a few years from 2008-2010, and when I arrived in Portland from there I almost had culture shock as those cities are so far apart in culture, history, and energy.
8. Tell us more about the breakdance crew you took part in in the 1990s. Ha. I was in a crew called BattleCats, from about 1998. I’m still a member, although I only dance at home and when out with my lady. We used to travel and compete and perform, and I stopped being really active when I went back to school at MCAD in 2003. I was a popper, primarily, which is a form of dance that focuses on isolation and heavy rhythmic impulses and is quite visually arresting.