• Artist Editions: Winston Tseng 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. 

    Graphic artist and art director Winston Tseng grew up surrounded by skateboarding in Redondo Beach, CA. Since then, his colorful and polarizing graphics have adorned t-shirts and boards around the world. We caught up with him at his NYC studio to talk about his latest designs for UO’s Artist Editions tee series. 
    Photos by Frankie Marin 

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? 
    I was born and raised in Redondo Beach, California and live in New York City now. I went to school at Berkeley and studied math and economics, nothing related to art or design. I guess that makes me a “self-taught” graphic artist?

    You grew up surrounded by skate culture, spent nearly a decade at Enjoi, and have made work for numerous other skate brands. How has that particular subculture culture influenced the development of your visual style? 
    I’d say it's completely defined my tastes and what appeals to me, and as a result dictates the kind of work I try to make. I never liked board graphics that had a lot of fine details because after you skated it and the graphic got scraped up, it just became a blurry mess. You couldn’t tell what it was anymore. That’s why I tend to use areas of flat, bold color and like to limit some of the details overall. And now it’s just the style I do all my work in, whether it’s a board graphic or not.

    Would you have become an artist if it weren’t for skating? 
    Probably not, at least not in the sense that I’m working today. When I started out, I don’t think I ever consciously thought about being an artist, my only goal was to try to design graphics for skateboards and tees. Back then I wasn’t really interested in “art" in general, skateboarding was 100% the motivation and inspiration.

    Are there any particular artists you’ve looked up to throughout your career? 
    I’ve always admired the artists that were in skateboarding before me, since it was their work that drew me to this path in the first place. Aside from them, Ron Mueck and Tom Sachs are two of my absolute favorites. Also Maija Isola and Steve Frykholm. I remember the exact moments I came across each of their work for the first time, they were both “ah ha” moments that kind of validated in my mind everything that I was trying to do and wanting to do visually. I also like that they’re both best known for their commercial work. 

    Your designs for Artist Editions both involve cheeky play with repetition and patterns. Can you tell us how you came to these designs? 
    Repetition and pattern is definitely something I like to use, it probably comes from the math side of me. Sometimes I do it to strengthen the concept, in this case one person taking a selfie wouldn’t be as good as a bunch of people all taking selfies at the same time.

    The cheekiness is just a reflection of how I tend to think. For the footsie design, I wanted to do something “racy” in a fun way because sex sells!

    You’ve described your work as something people either love or hate. What makes your designs so polarizing? 
    Well, oftentimes there's an underlying idea or message in each graphic that I want to convey to the viewer. It’s usually some sort of candid critique mixed with attempted humor, and just comes from my personal viewpoint on the subject matter. If someone agrees with the message they might love the design, but if they disagree then there’s a good chance they’re not going to like it at all.

    What is special about t-shirts? 
    Tees are a great way to share your work with a wide audience. Every time someone wears them, they’re spreading your work to others. Plus they never go out of style, so 20 years from now someone could be wearing a graphic I did or see someone else with it on. To potentially reach that many people is pretty cool.

    What are your favorite shirt designs of all time?
    I’ll have to go with skate tees from the 90’s that I grew up with, for that reason. Straightforward brand logos, printed relatively small, with center chest placement. Alien, Blind, Duffs, Planet Earth, Menace… the stuff that made me want to do this.

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