• Artist Editions: Taylor Johnson 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. 

    Known for his long-time work for Adult Swim, So-Cal designer Taylor Johnson joins the ranks of our Artist Editions series and chats with us about his design inspirations and his latest endeavor, Mortis Studio
    Photos by Sam Massey

    Can you tell us a bit about your background? 
    My mother is a painter so she always pushed me to take art classes as a child so I've been in some sort of art class since I can remember. After high school I went to art school briefly but ended up dropping out and I just kept taking classes that I was into a community college and continued pushing myself in design and illustration. 

    Are there any artists or designers who have been particularly influential to you over the years? 
    Man it's so hard to narrow that down. I'm trying to constantly grow and push and learn more. I'm constantly learning about new artist and old ones. I think at a younger age around when I started to kinda look for my voice I really feel in love with the dada movement and even though I don't look back to them often enough anymore I think some of the ideals have stuck with me and they way I see creating things. 

    You worked for Adult Swim for years, can you tell us about the work you do there? 
    I worked for the off air creative group at Adult Swim which means we make everything to support the network that isn't on air. So everything from billboards to the adult swim music singles they do once a year to making socks or capes.  

    How that job affected your personal work as a designer?
    The great thing about them is that they really trust their artists and designers so you really get to explore your view on the projects you get. I don't know how to pin point any one thing I learned by working there but I know I learned a lot from the folks I got to know and become close friends with there. One thing I think I already knew but was really solidified there was to love what you do and work really hard at it. 

    Is there a philosophy that you can pinpoint that runs throughout your work?
    I'm sure there is but I honestly don't know. I try and work on everything that I do as a new project with fresh eyes so I'd like to say it lives on its own and isn't a extension of my last project but I'm sure anyone who knows any of my work would say different. 

    Can you walk us through the process of creating a new piece? 
    It usually started with a lot of sketching, looking at every book I have and old magazine and of course the Internet and trying to come up with a idea. 

    If it's a video project, then I'll write and draw a bunch of little story board about the idea then pick my favorite and start figuring out how I'll film or animate it. If it's a graphic I'll do a bunch of different sketches exploring how to convey that idea.  

    What makes a t-shirt design special? 
    As a kid I always drew and took some sort of art classes, but never really thought of it as anything more then something I liked to do. Probably around 4th grade I started skating and t-shirt and board graphics blew my mind. I would draw my favorite ones on everything. Later in life I figured out that people do that for a living and I never looked back. It is the reason I do what I do today it all started with t-shirts for me. To this day I collect shirts friends have made, bands I like or just purely nostalgic reasons, I'll wear them for a while then throw them in a Tupperware box. maybe I'll give them to my son when he's in his 20s.      

    Do you have any favorite t-shirts of all time? 
    Damn. The shorty's "horty" shirt. I had one of every color they came out with. 

    Can you tell us about your designs for Artist Editions? How did you get to the finished pieces? 
    The cold hearts design I wanted to play with cutting up some old images I've pulled out of magazines or books and tiling them together. The other one I got inspired by the back pages of old porn magazines with the little adds for sex lines. They look really rad with this weird early 90s sexy clip art. Be black holes and inner dimensional travel are always a fun idea so I just kinda played with those ideas. 

    What are your pet peeves when it comes to design? 
    I'm a huge hater at heart, but I won't put anyone on blast. I just try and do my thing and see people do great work and if I don't like it I'll try and not pay attention to it. 

    What’s next?
    Recently I was able to do a music video for earl sweatshirt and then helped out on a video for big grams and run the jewel. So I've really enjoyed making music videos. 

    I helped start a small creative studio with Dustyn Peterman and Derrick Acosta we do creative direction and video content, I'm really pushing that and trying to make us grow. 

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