Illustrator, designer and teacher, Adam Busby, is originally from Minnesota (fun fact!) and now a permanent Brissy Boy (we hope!). We had a chat about how chairs may be the most perfect example of equal parts form and function; preaching design principles to his Shillington class, and his experience with The 100 day project!
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design? As a kid I suppose I used my spare time perhaps a bit differently. From about 10 years old I remember making stop motion and claymation videos, building and selling weird sculptures and bookmarks. I still take inspiration from this early ability to take boredom and turn it into something productive and creative (and sometimes lucrative!). As far as design, when I left high school, it was not even a concept in my mind. I studied Fine Art in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA) for 2 years when one of my lecturers called Lance Kiland asked if I was interested in the graphic design course they offered at the college, to which my reply was “what is graphic design?”. Fortunately that teacher was persuasive and I ended up switching to a fantastic Graphic Design course. I loved this course and my work is the way it is because of the curriculum, which was 1 year without touching the computer, so foundational art techniques like printmaking, illustration, drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture. Then in the second year we learned the software and design theory. I think these foundational physical skills are partly lacking in current courses and students.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? I studied at North Hennepin Community College in Minnesota USA. I have always been slightly ashamed to say I went to a community college, but these days I am actually becoming proud of the fact that A. I don’t have 100k + debts in student loans, and B. it doesnt matter what the credentials of the college are, the course and lecturers are what matter, and I had, I feel, one of the best experiences that I could have asked for. First jobs were mostly friends and family, then when I moved to Australia, I was pretty much starting from scratch with no network, so I was a dishy and waiter for nearly 6 months until I got a contract for a design role at City Beach. The next 5 years in a retail, marketing heavy design role at City Beach taught me many valuable lessons including: Don’t take your work or yourself too seriously, having sales as a driving factor in design isn’t the root of all evil and every job you have has the ability to teach you lessons if you are willing to listen and learn.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. I pursue visual greatness through Design, Illustration and Murals.
What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why? 1.“Steal Like An Artist” – Austin Kleon
Because everyone needs help learning how to properly have influences, use references and not feel guilty in the process, which is especially difficult in current times.
2. “Start with Why” – Simon Sinek
Because without a “why”, the “what” doesn’t really matter.
3.“The Obstacle is the Way” – Ryan Holiday
Because when times are super tough, and they will get tough, this book is an awesome kick in the butt to show you anyone can turn a bad situation into something great!
What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate? Definitely looking for the thinking behind designs. The grads that stand out always have an extra level of thought to their executions, its ideas more than the perfectly kerned type that set people apart.
Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if and how it shapes your practice? For sure! I teach at Shillington Brisbane campus, and most definitely it has changed the way I work. They say that the ultimate form of learning is to teach and this has proved to be very true, until you try and explain InDesign to someone who has never even seen it, you don’t really know InDesign. On another level, my passion has been re ignited since teaching, it’s fantastic and a blessing to be around the students that are wide eyed and bushy tailed fresh into design. Lastly, teaching is in a way the ultimate form of accountability, you can’t live with yourself knowing that the night before you are preaching this design principle to the class and then the next day you are ignoring it completely!
Any passion projects you would like to share? Yes please, My chair series is a passion project that has been a pretty significant turning point for me. It is what it sounds like, a series of chair illustrations. It’s significant to my practice because I can honestly say that it is the first project in a long time that I wasn’t thinking 10 steps ahead, e.g. what is the end goal? How will this translate into illustration work?. Funny thing is that it ultimately has turned out to be productive, as I have collaborated with a shop called FallonCo to sell some prints in this series. Why chairs? Because I love them and can’t currently afford to buy all the ones I want to have in my house, also I love the idea that chairs may be the most perfect example of equal parts form and function, utilitarian in their essence but overflowing with creativity at the same time.
How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others? I had to answer this one, because it has been one of the biggest ongoing struggles of my career. The answer is, my style is still developing and I have come to the conclusion that it will never be developed fully, because it is always evolving, growing and I am always wanting to be learning and open to new things. My advice to others is this, you find your style by doing work, not by looking on blogs and deciding. The 100 day project (originally started by Michael Beirut but I did the recent project with Elle Luna) greatly influenced my current style and this is purely because of the quantity of work I did over 100 days. A drawing a day, doesn’t give you time to think about what your style is or could be, you just have to put pencil to paper and go.