One Minute With…
Hi Matt, thanks for taking time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I am a designer, typographer, and letterpress printer based in Pittsburgh, PA. My official title at Bearded is senior designer, but we all do much more than our titles. I also started a Kickstarter project with Matt Griffin, whom I work with at Bearded, called Wood Type Revival which I will get to in a later question.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Matt Braun.
Oh the typical day as Matt Braun? Well I wake up like everyone else as my alarm goes off. Then get up and make my wife waffles and eggs before she gets out the door, walk the dog and then take out the trash. If I have extra time, I take a brief jog and hand deliver each paper off of my neighbors lawns to their doorstep. Then I rush into work, always 15 mins early and high five everyone as they come through the door. I tear into my work, skip lunch and complete all deadlines with a week to spare. After work I head to the gym, pick out the biggest guy and challenge him to a lifting match. Once he is defeated I head home to cook dinner, make myself a scotch and sit down to continue my 12-book series discourse on design. That’s usually my day, but some days I skip the gym.
Much of your design work has a distinct retro feel to it. Where do you get inspiration?
I grew up on a small farm in rural Vermont where I was surrounded by old farm equipment, feedbags and other things of that sort. I think I really acquired an appreciation and love for that type of aesthetic from that. However, I often find ongoing inspiration at yard sales, old letterpress shops and manuals, online, at Dribbble and Flickr.
How do you approach a new project, and what is your design process like?
Every project, of course, is different with its own set of requirements, limitations, goals, desired results, etc. So in order to approach any design task it’s good to try and gain a full understanding of the project. Once a possible direction, or directions, is decided, I then usually begin to sketch. Sketching is the quickest way for me to get some thoughts out and get a general sense of what they are accomplishing. From there I will usually try and get some outside feedback. I find its helpful not only for a different perspective but because it usually leads to views that might not have been intended, both good and bad. From there I will bring it into Illustrator or Photoshop to flesh out the final idea and begin the long process of working out the fine details.
Tell us a bit about Wood Type Revival. What is it about letterpress blocks of yore that you find so enchanting?
Wood Type Revival is a project started with Matt Griffin to preserve and convert old, rare wood type to digital fonts. Matt Griffin, also an avid printer, and I had been tying to think of a way to incorporate letterpress into the business since I joined Bearded. When we thought of this it just clicked and we wasted no time creating a Kickstarter project. With the support of a lot of people in the design community we were fully funded… and away we went. Now the site is launched, our first five fonts are out and there are many more to come.
Originally I got into letterpress because I was sick of looking at a computer for 10 to 12 hour a day. Working in a field where you will never touch the tools or the outcome of what you make can sometimes be a very unrewarding task. Wood type is different. The blocks have been used for many decades and each holds a unique narrative of their creator as well as the many printers that used them along the way.
How did you find your first design client?
Most of my first clients were found through referrals from friends. Most were also very low paying, which is a good thing, because some of them were kinda rough.
What design tools could you not live without?
Without a doubt the Behance Dot Grid book, which I have been asked about more times than I can count. Sponsorship anyone? With this I use a Twist erase mechanical pencil 0.9m due to the fact I am heavy handed. Most of my projects start from these tools. Aside from that we recently got a Wacom Cintiq 12WX at Bearded which I love.
Aside from design, what do you like to do in your free time?
If I get a good block of free time I enjoy just experimenting with different letterpress blocks and cuts I have acquired. I also enjoy hanging out with the wife, my pup Bear, and reading. I am currently, although very slowly, pursuing a master’s degree in theology as well.
And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in typography, or just design in general?
My advice is simply to study and practice. Pick some of your favorite designers that are successful at what they do and really study their work. Examine how they solved problems for their clients and how they used different elements to communicate ideas, emotion or themes. While you do this practice, make up companies, make a logo for your dog/cat, find friends with companies or a start-up and ask them for work. This will help you to get used to making decisions and to begin discovering and refining your process.
Thanks a million to Matt for talking to OMW! I really enjoyed talking to him, and found his answers really interesting!