• Artist Editions: Jimmy McMillan 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. 

    Based in Bushwhick, Jimmy McMillan creates pins, patches all sorts of other graphics under the project monicker Suspect LTD. We visited him at his studio space to talk about the powerful iconography of his work. 
    Photos by Frankie Marin 

    Hi, Jimmy! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? 
    Hi! I'm Jimmy McMillan, and I'm a designer based in Bushwick. I head a project called Suspect Limited—an ongoing creative exercise for me outside my day job, where I make a living as a motion graphic designer.
    In other news, I am a pisces who loves long walks on subway platforms, giallo horror movies, spiritual jazz, and my terrible cat.

    Did you always want to become a designer? 
    Not necessarily. When I was a kid, I always found myself preoccupied with drawing, diorama construction, and drumming. In high school, that turned into stencil-cutting and screen printing, and in college, mixed media design work, motion graphics and music production. I always found myself attracted to tactile creative work in one way or another, but my focus continues to evolve as time goes on.

    So, I'm not really even sure if I will be doing work like this ten years from now, but that's part of the fun of it, right?

    Much of your work is based on the mashup of culture icons, have you always worked this way or was there a breakthrough moment that led you to your style? 
    For me, cultural cues are an accessory to social identification, as well as an opportunity to subvert that identity. Juxtaposing or transforming these references can illicit anything from dry humor to a wholly new message. 
    The breakthrough for this was probably my first Suspect Ltd. release last year, a pin that flipped the logo for the progressive rock group Yes—an idea I actually got back in high school. Simply reverting that "Yes" into a "No" operated as both a contrarian response and subtle nod to those who recognize the original.
    But incorporation of these icons aren't always central to my work. I think that too overt a reference can be a creative crutch.

    What does a normal day in Bushwick look like for you? 
    A normal day out in Bushwick for me begins with coffee at my downstairs cafe, followed by a walk up towards the neighborhood park. From there, I veer off towards Heaven Street for some record shopping, and wrap things up with a drink at Juno.
    Or I'm in my apartment, packaging products and shipping orders while I binge watch X-Files and wait for food delivery to arrive. I contain multitudes.

    Can you tell us about your designs for Artist Editions? How did they come about? 
    My work for Artist Editions was influenced in a few ways—at the outset, I'd had a few vague ideas kicking around which were connected by the general theme of dreams.
    At the same time, I was reading a novel called The Ghost Network, which touched on the concept of hypothetical spaces, in the form of unrealized subway stations.
    All of this catalyzed illustrations that depicted the dream state as a physical space. From there, I drew upon more immediate artistic influences, including old EC comics and kitschy new age self-help dust jacket designs, for typographical cues.

    Were there any other artists or designers who inspired your work over the years? 
    Ward Kimball / Will Sweeney / CF / Saul Bass / Moebius / Samuel T. Adams / Matt Thurber / Tomoo Gokita / Alejandro Jodorowsky / Brian Chippendale / many more...this doesn't even touch on the huge influence I get from generations of printed ephemera—from Indian matchbox art and poorly offset-printed magic trick packaging, to freemasonry book illustrations and photocopied punk flyer art, and so many things between.

    Do you have any favorite t-shirt designs of all time? 
    Right now, I really like the work at African ApparelBraindeadAlakazamCNY NYC,Cool Try and Our Psychic Hearts

    But as far as classic t-shirt designs are concerned, I'm a fan of plain black.

    What kind of considerations do you have to account for when designing a pin or a patch versus a t-shirt? 
    It's interesting designing for different formats, because each one comes with its own best practices as well as limitations.

    I prefer pins to be iconography-as-accessory, so I find myself reducing concepts down into simple imagery for them. Patches, on the other hand, afford more illustrative approaches and real estate for simple type, which provides an opportunity for an additional point of reference.

    Designing for a format like t-shirts really presents such a larger canvas, though, and I've had a lot of fun exploring a space of that size.

    What are your design pet peeves? 
    Commercially speaking, skimping on presentation KILLS me. If you make something, you should package it thoughtfully. After all, you should be proud of your work, and packaging/presentation can provide that much more context.

    Artistically speaking, I wouldn't say it's a pet peeve, but a preference: I find the works that are most successful can survive in a vacuum, referentially and aesthetically speaking, even if it's borne out of some sort of visual or cultural cue. Whether or not somebody "gets it" shouldn't affect whether or not they can like it.

    Do you have any advice for someone hoping break into the pin/patch game? 
    My advice for somebody trying to get involved in the pin/patch scene is to keep in mind that it's mostly homebrew operations by a bunch of hobbyists. It's really nothing to be intimidated about. Just make work that you're confident in, and it'll show.
    Equally important is not to limit yourself. I suddenly found myself branching out from pins and patches to make frisbees, condoms and tote bags, and now I've got a major cosign on t-shirt designs. Taking a risk and stepping outside your comfort zone is usually rewarding.

    What’s next for you? 
    Up next is prepping a new-age-via-anarcho-punk capsule release which is coming out shortly, as well as ordering some custom-stamped pencils for a misanthropic back-to-school set I'm working on—you can catch the process behind these projects on my Instagram. In the meantime, I’m sitting on a dozen or so records I haven’t cracked open yet, so I should probably give them a spin. Thanks!

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