• Artist Editions: S. Bradley Askew X UO

    Designed exclusively for Urban Outfitters, Artist Editions is an ongoing series of limited edition graphic t-shirts created by a rotating roster of artists from around the globe. 

    Born in 1980, S. Bradley Askew is an American graphic designer and artist living in New York. For more than 15 years, his work has evolved around the concept of happiness or its perceived notions. 
    Photos by Noah Sahady
    Words by Anthony Pappalardo 


    What were the earliest influences on your work? 
    At an extremely early age, I was fascinated by the works of Saul Bass, Paul Rand and others from the “Golden Era” of graphic design. Later, skateboarding caught my attention, most notably Vernon Courtlandt John’s work for Powell Peralta and Jimbo Phillips for Santa Cruz. I was introduced to Frank Frazetta’s work by obsessively examining my dad’s Molly Hatchet records; Frank lead to my discovery of Ralph Bakshi. All of these artists fed my interests until I got online in the mid ‘90s. The internet opened my eyes to communities of artists and people exhibiting their work online and creating things specifically for this medium. It was this realization and opportunity that encouraged me to let loose and explore my craft. 

    What’s special about t-shirts? 
    The t-shirt is a universal object; it’s a staple. Almost everyone in the world owns a t-shirt. A t-shirt can say everything you want people to know about you, or nothing; it can be dressed up or down. The wearer makes the shirt, the char-acter it develops over time is what makes it unique. 

    Favorite shirt designs of all time? 
    Maybe not the question to ask a guy who has over 500 black t-shirts, but I’ll try to be brief. 

    Musically speaking: Black Flag, Misfits’ “Crimson Ghost,” Grateful Dead’s “Bertha” and “Steal Your Face,” Flipper, Daniel Johnston, Public Enemy, Lynch Mob, NWA, Guns N’ Roses, SUC. 

    Streetwear: Fuct’s Ford logo, Supreme’s Box logos. 

    Skate: Powell Peralta and Hook-Ups. 

    What are some of your biggest pet peeves and inspirations in typography? 
    Keep it simple and do what you’re vibing, you can’t make mistakes if you’re not adhering to rules. I used to scan letters from old newspapers because of the distorted and low-quality effect they had until I learned how to beat the letters up on my own using X-Acto knives, Xerox and Photoshop. 


    Smiley faces are a recurring theme in your work. What is it about this icon that’s made it a cornerstone of your design work? 
    Smiles have played a large part in my work for at least 10 years. I created all of my illustrations and art under the moniker Smile Maker, but phased it out in lieu of my government name. The first piece I did using the smiley face as a core element was actually for an Urban Outfitters window display in 2006. It was the original incarnation of the “Made It” design, a 5x8’ wood flag—a riff on Walmart’s “Home of Everyday Low Prices.” It was an unruly collage of Saturday morning cartoons and occupyism, but it perfectly summed up what was going on in my head at the time. 


    Your work for this project is a big, bold manifesto, wrapped in a smile. What inspired it? 
    “Killing Time” is about an idea for peace walking through life. It’s very indicative of my day-to-day mantra, “Stay Frosty.” Don’t upset the balance; just enjoy it. It was coined in the late 1800s by cavers and eventually was simplified down by counterculture, whereas “Made it in America” started as a satire concept but quickly evolved as a symbol of arrival. I do what I love everyday. Not many people have that luxury, and that icon has become very representational of my day-to-day life. 

    Shop Artist Editions 
    Head to UO’s Space 15 Twenty at 1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd in Los Angeles, CA on February 25th to celebrate the launch of UO Journal issue 2 and the second release of our ongoing Artist Editions series.