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Portraits of Creativity Portraits of Creativity: Ladies and Gentlemen, Corey Holms.
 

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Veer:

Tell us about yourself and what you do.


Corey:

For the most part, it’s in one of two areas. It’s either entertainment design - which would be movie posters and all the ancillary bits that go along with that, like billboards or one-sheets. As well we tend to do quite a few international projects at Mojo, where I work.

I also have, on the side, my own private practice. And in that I tend to do a lot of identity design, typeface design, and a little bit of fashion. What I mean by fashion is collateral... brochures and whatnot. You know. Invitations and cards.


Veer:

What drew you to design?


Corey:

I was thoroughly poor, so I decided I was going to go to a junior college and get all of my general ed out of the way, because I could afford to do that on my own. I was going into biology. That’s what I was really interested in. And I had to sign up for a work aid or a work study class.

I didn’t want to be out doing dishes or anything like that, and the only thing I kind of knew how to do was computers, so I signed myself up for the Mac lab. The times I was in there, they were teaching design. I had to start learning all the stuff they were teaching so I could help the students. The more I did that, the more I started finding it really, really interesting. Then I found myself doing their homework just for myself. And just loved it. It grew from there.

A friend told me, on a dare, “You have to apply to an art school - apply to one.” So I applied for California Institute of the Arts and ended up getting accepted, never having had an art class in my life, other than this thing I audited. I got accepted into third year, which is totally insane. I got dumped right into media and advanced classes. The first semester was utter misery. I was in tears every night because I was so out of my league.

Then we had Christmas break and I had a special deal with the school where I could stay in the library. They gave me a key and I got to be in the library, and I looked at every book I could find, trying desperately to find something that was gonna help me out. I started going through issues of Eye magazine and picking up more of the culture of design and understanding more about what was happening in design. I started getting it a little. It was two weeks of total immersion.

I also got kind of a mortal fear - I think that’s probably my biggest driving force in design. Mortal fear of sucking terribly in school, so I had to somehow better it. By the end of the year, I was doing really well.


 

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Veer:

When did you first realize who a designer was and what they did?


Corey:

At my first job. My teacher was Brett Wickens, who is now the vice president of MetaDesign, and I went to work for him. It would be like these marathon sessions of working ’til midnight every night. Brett would instill in me what ended up becoming my values in design, and what we did. He showed me that design was about solving a problem for a client, and not so much about expressing your own vision. There’s always room to express your vision, but you have to be solving a problem or meeting your clients’ goals.


Veer:

Are there any influential figures from design that have had an effect on your work?


Corey:

Oh yeah. The first time I noticed design was the Designers Republic. It was one of the things where all of a sudden I realized that every single piece I was interested in was all done by the Designers Republic. There also was a fine artist who used type really interestingly, Dave McKean, who does comic book covers. Later on, obviously Brett Wickens was flat out my father figure. Everything I learned in design was through him. And also Peter Saville, who I later had the great privilege of working with. Michael Place, who used to work at Designers Republic and is now with Build, was a big influence on me as well. Malcolm Garrett. A lot of the usual suspects. Wim Crouwel was obviously a massive huge influence on me. But not until much later. The people I like a lot were influenced by Wim.


Veer:

Can you name a couple of specific projects that you saw or pieces of designed objects that inspired you early on?


Corey:

Joy Division’s Substance album was one that I was drawn to by the whimsical alphabet. I was fascinated by it because none of it made any sense. I could read it without any difficulty, but none of them were actual letters. And everyone would be writing AC/DC and Def Leppard logos and I’d be tracing “Substance” on my notebook, which was a source of ridicule among certain people because everyone else had the butch heavy metal stuff.

The Designers Republic - the Orb’s album Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld was another one, because it was a combination of vector art and photography, and it blew me away. I had never thought that Illustrator and Photoshop could go together.


Veer:

Describe your process. Do you have a consistent way you tackle projects?


Corey:

I take copious notes and keep Post-it notes with me. I write down on Post-it notes all the ideas I have about a project. I don’t just start designing. I start thinking about whatever pops into my head. Things will start feeling right, some things won’t. I have a sock drawer at home that is full of little Post-it notes with, like, “Baskerville.” No friggin’ clue what it’s a reference to.

I tend to write down everything I can think of. Even when we’re presenting ideas internally for crits, I don’t sketch anything. Everything is written. Then it just depends on what is appropriate for the project, be it hand drawing things or designing straight away on the computer or going out and taking photographs. I also tend to procrastinate, let things fester in the back of my head for a while and then panic and write everything down at once.


 

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Veer:

You’ve done a lot of film logos. Is there any artistic input from the filmmakers that affects the direction you take?


Corey:

Oh, absolutely. We’ve got revisions from M. Night Shyamalan for his new movie and it’s the kind of thing where you’re going “The color green doesn’t work for me, the movie is much more blue.” It’s literally down to that level, where you’re like “Rock on, blue it is!” It’s little things like that, or they’ve got this hair that’s rolling around and they keep wanting to work in “Well, what if she has these keys in her hair, or what if we have feathers in her hair?” He really got into it. “I want to see twigs, I want to see feathers. I want to see keys in her hair.” Sometimes you end up getting really direct minutiae detail from people.


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