Jon [00:01:22] My guest is Eric Friedensohn son a.k.a. Efdot. He is an illustrator, designer, painter, muralist, letterer. Really, jack of all trades. Eric, thank you so much for joining me on this episode.
Eric [00:01:34] Thanks, man.
Jon [00:01:34] Thanks for having me. So I want to just jump right into it. And you are originally from New York?
Eric [00:01:40] Yeah, I'm from suburbs of New York. Westchester. Some people say it's like it's upstate, but actually it's about 30 minutes from here. So it's kind of silly to call it up here.
Jon [00:01:50] It's right outside. Where where did it all start for you? You know, what were you like when you were younger?
Eric [00:01:55] Let's see. I was always drawing and painting as a kid, just like we all did. I just never stopped, I guess. And I had one big creative influence in my life when I was younger. That was my grandmother. She made all kinds of different art, like watercolor knitting. She also made like stained glass art, which is her main thing. And she just spent hours and hours in the basement working on that. So I got to kind of see her process and then she would buy me art supplies. And then as middle school and high school went on, I just got like obsessed with art class and taking it more and more electives like black and white photography, graphic design, and then led me to study graphic design.
Jon [00:02:34] What was your grandmother making the stained glass for?
Eric [00:02:37] Fun. Just for fun. Like she had friends that had houses and she would offer to make them a window. Or sometimes she would actually get commissioned to make people windows and all of her kids had like a big piece in their house.
Jon [00:02:49] Yeah, that's cool. What came first? Your love for skateboarding or love for lettering and type?
Eric [00:02:56] Skateboarding. Yeah, I think I loved design, but I didn't realize design was a thing back then. I had a wall in my room growing up that was just covered in posters and magazine tear outs from skate magazines and there is typography all over it. But I didn't really know what that was back then. I just thought, oh, well, someone made this poster and that's cool. And I'll like, hang it up. But yeah, later in college I discovered what type is all about. And yeah.
Jon [00:03:20] I wasn't really a big skateboarder when I was a kid. But playing Tony Hawk, it kind of familiarized me with all the brands in that that world, that scene and all the graphics coming out from like toy machine. And like all of those like Element and those big brands that time were a lot different than what you would normally see in, say, advertising or anything like that. Were there any kind of standout skate brands or things like that that you wore as a kid?
Eric [00:03:45] I was really into Crooked skateboarding and Enjoi because they just seemed like the outcasts of the skateboard world and skateboarders are already outcasts. So they were like the outcasts of the outcasts. And I just really liked their their weird graphics. Mark Gonzalez art was a big influence for me. Yeah.
Jon [00:04:04] And I kind of, like you say, Mark Gonzalez, as I sort of know that from Tony Hawk Pro skateboarder like that that kind of. What was the first trick you ever learned in skateboarding?
Eric [00:04:13] First trick probably just to shove it.
Jon [00:04:16] Yeah. I tried to ollie and that's as far as I got. Can never like slip or anything like that.
Eric [00:04:22] Straight up. Break your leg on your first.
Jon [00:04:24] You know, like I learned how to Ollie and then I would try to like Ollie onto curbs and then try to grind but never made it past like an inch on the curb.
Eric [00:04:33] So that's the thing about skateboarding and it's kind of has a huge parallel to art is that it's an environment where you're you just fail over and over and over again until you don't. And it takes a lot of repetition and and wherewithal to just like make it through and do something that feels right. Feels good. And same thing with with artwork, especially if you're judging it, you know.
Jon [00:04:57] After high school. What were your plans? I think you eventually made your way to Philadelphia. Was that kind of the intention from the beginning or, you know, was that the mindset or, you know, what were you thinking?
Eric [00:05:10] Looking back, I feel like college was sort of forced on me a little ahead, just like I went to a public school in suburbs. So everyone was expected to go to college and get a degree. And so I didn't really think about taking a year off or going and doing a different route. So I looked at a bunch of different schools just like anybody would. I'm trying to see which one schools, which schools are offering the most money to me help me get through the program and not break the bank.
Jon [00:05:36] Sure, yeah.
Eric [00:05:37] And then I ended up getting a really great scholarship to Drexel in Philly and I hadn't even considered going there. It was like the last place out I had even thought about. I just was working at an ice cream shop and somebody had had to to Drexel and was working there for the summer. So in the middle of the summer, like right before college started, I applied, got in toured it, toured the school, and I went down to Love Park in the middle of orientation. I said, screw this lunch, I'm going to go skate down to Love Park. And I just fell in love with the the architecture and the culture. And I had seen all this stuff in skate videos already. So I think the skate culture was a big reason that I went to Philly. But also Drexel had this great program that was called a co-op where you were the kind of force you to do an internship in the middle of your studies and you take off some time from classes. And I like the idea of just not having an option but to graduate with some experience. And then also they would help you get into a really good co-op, not just you have to do all the work yourself, like there there's an advisor that would help you get a job in the field that you want to be in. And that was actually my that's my first job after graduating was I ended up working at the place. I did my internship.
Jon [00:06:41] What was that place?
Eric [00:06:42] It was a company owned by MTV called Scratch is back then it was called MTV Scratch. Now it's called Viacom. Scratch or scratch.
Jon [00:06:51] It's taking some different names over time.
Eric [00:06:53] Yeah. It's just basically an agency that used MTV as insights to do advertising and marketing for millennials.
Jon [00:07:00] Yeah, I noticed that you also spent a little time abroad during school. You went to Prague.
Eric [00:07:06] Yeah. Yeah. There were two options for the study abroad thing I really wanted to make it happens, but it was between London and Prague and I think I was just making a more of a frugal decision to go to Prague because London's like more expensive than New York? Prague is is cheaper. But I realize that Eastern Europe is like a treasure trove of undiscovered things that people don't usually see when they go to Europe. Usually people are going to London and Paris.
Jon [00:07:32] Everyone would choose London.
Eric [00:07:34] But I wanted something different and weird. I wanted to culture shock that I couldn't get because London, London in a lot of ways feels like New York has a much greater history, of course. But like Prague was, it felt like everywhere I went, I had never seen a photo of this place before. And I loved that.
Jon [00:07:51] Was this kind of the first trip outside of the states for you?
Eric [00:07:56] Let's see. I think I had been to a couple places on family trips, like I went to Costa Rica. My dad was in like the skin care and cosmetics industry. So we would actually travel to places where he had like business. So Costa Rica, there is like a big aloe industry. So we went there on family trip. He does. He does the same thing that I do like. He'll travel for work and then I'll tack on some like personal travel as well as I can. So I did a little bit of international travel as a kid like there in Mexico. I went to Peru with my friend Diego, who I grew up skateboarding with. That was my first time in South America. Yeah. Prague was awesome. I ended up going back and living in Eastern Europe for another three months because I quit that job at scratch. It wasn't really for me. Also, it was freelance and it wasn't really reliable.
Jon [00:08:41] Sure. Yeah.
Eric [00:08:42] Like I need to travel now. I still feel this way. Like ten years later. Eight years later, I guess I still feel this way. I need to travel while I can. I don't have too many commitments and yeah.
Jon [00:08:52] While, you can move still, right?
Eric [00:08:53] Yeah. I like living life and not being tied down right now. And I feel like I have a family later in life and I'm enjoying it before I do. Absolutely. To the fullest. Yeah.
Jon [00:09:03] You mentioned that like scratch. You know, obviously being there and learning that experience. You came across like this idea that it just didn't feel right. You know, what was can you talk a little bit about that? Like, what about it wasn't like what did you realize at that point? Was it just the work that, you know, you were learning, but you just didn't want to do that moving forward? You know, I think those are kind of big moments.
Eric [00:09:26] So one of the things I really didn't like about that job is we were serving clients that I wasn't passionate about. So I spent a lot of time making social media ads for this soda company called Sun Drop. And it was like popular in the south or whatever. And they're bringing it back and trying to make it cool. But in the end, I was like Photoshopping this stuff and like to sell soda. And I just didn't feel passionate about that at all. It was fun. I like people I worked with. Like we had some great times. But in the end, it's like, what are you spending your all these hours for? What? Why? What's the point? Is it just to sell more cans of sugar? So that was one reason. And then the other one is that they were just really inflexible with me. I'm not sure if you've heard of this idea of permalance.
Jon [00:10:07] Oh, yeah, I've definitely been in that kind of seat before.
Eric [00:10:11] So it's like, yeah, we're gonna need you until further notice. And then like one day they'll just say, okay. So. So next week might be your last week depending on if this project comes in. Yeah. It's like I that time I had a summer sublet. So it's like, well do I get a lease or two. I just hope that this works out. So I really didn't like not knowing if I should get a lease in New York. I didn't have much money back then. I was just nervous that if I got a lease and then this job went away, I'd be screwed. So I left.
Jon [00:10:37] And it's not something that I mean, I've never heard of permalance until I was actually in that situation. You know, everyone says you're either full time or freelance and there are sort of these degrees. And then in between that, you know, you're on a contract for a freelance contract for a limited amount of time. You're on a permanent contract, which is usually like a year or something like that. And those are things that you kind of don't really learn until you're actually like it, like hits you. And you're kind of like, oh, wait, like I do need to figure out a little bit more than six months ahead of time or, you know, look a little bit past the next week and things like that. So it's it can be kind of tough. But you also in that time, you freelance for a bunch of other companies. I saw you were at Brooks Brothers for a little bit.
Eric [00:11:17] You did your research.
Jon [00:11:18] I dig man I think you know, I think it's really interesting to see all the previous roles that kind of lead you to where you are today. What we're you know, what were some of the things that you were learning in those in those different roles?
Eric [00:11:30] One thing I learned is that back then, a lot of the higher paying gigs or just you had to sacrifice a lot, you know. So. Brooks Brothers was another job where I didn't really feel like I fit there. But they were paying me a day rate and I could do the work. And I liked the people. So I did it for a few months and saved up money so that I could do more stuff that I enjoyed. All right. So that was the sacrifice of doing things. And some people, like I used to think that I'd be a sellout. Even when I got the job at MTV, I was like, man, I'm such a sellout. But then thought about it's like, who cares? You know, it's just a company. And I'm going to get. I'm kind of a gold miner in terms of the way I look at my experiences. I'll listen to anybody or work for not anybody, but I'll work for a lot of different people. And then I'll take from it away the things that are valuable to me and then everything else. I'll just like, leave it. I'll ignore it, you know.
Jon [00:12:21] You sort of realize the things that you don't like and you make that choice. Like, I don't ever want to do this again.
Eric [00:12:27] Right. And then obviously use your best judgment. And I wouldn't I wouldn't do those jobs today necessarily. But like back then when I didn't really have many opportunities, I just said yes to a lot of different things. And people would help me out and I would return the favor. And it was great. Like both of those jobs came through, different people I went to school with. So it was just about relationships.
Jon [00:12:49] Yeah, that's cool. I think it also sort of led you to an opportunity where you went. Traveled again for for a job in Lithuania. I think it was with TED or something like that. Right.
Eric [00:13:01] It wasn't for TED. So let me backtrack a little bit because this is a cool story. So in Drexel, we had the idea to bring a TED conference to the university. So my friend D and I, we organize it together. We call it we made the speaker lineup. I designed the whole branding for the event using the TEDX guidelines and made it our own custom thing. Came up with a theme of the event and we hosted a conference. And the way that we advertise it was interesting. We tried to not just use basic graphics. We made the giant TED letters and brought them around campus and photographed them in different places and stuff. And so I really liked that experience because I was able to surround myself with these speakers who were doing amazing things that aren't typical careers. And it made it feel possible for me to do something like that. So it's my first exposure to just incredible career oriented people who are just achieving awesome stuff, whether it's like somebody who knows how to make special beer that has chocolate in it or like literally somebody who went to space. Like they were at our university speaking because we called them and they went and they came. So that was awesome. Then when I was working at scratch. I was getting the itch to travel and I was like, I want to go to Barcelona. That was actually my dream. I wanted to work for this one specific company, get transferred to Barcelona. Didn't all go down like I had in the company.
Jon [00:14:18] What was that company?
Eric [00:14:18] It was called Smart Design. OK, cool. You heard them? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Product design company. That was my minor in college. I didn't mentioned that.
Jon [00:14:25] Physical product.
Eric [00:14:26] Yeah. Yeah, industrial design, essentially. And I really wanted to work for them, but they're like the best of the best. And my portfolio wasn't really there. And I was actually even scared to apply because I knew I wasn't gonna get it and I didn't want to face the facts.
Jon [00:14:39] It's like the analysis paralysis sort of situation.
Eric [00:14:42] So, you know, I was like, how can I help is going to get to Barcelona. Maybe I just have to expand my search a little bit and look outside of Europe. And then once I'm in Europe, I can go to Barcelona or just see where life takes me and maybe don't even end up living in Barcelona. So I was just going on Craigslist every day, sometimes at the job at Viacom and just going through like dreaming about what it would be like to live over there.
Jon [00:15:06] Were you looking for international jobs on Craigslist?
Eric [00:15:10] Everywhere. Not just great. Not just Craigslist. But, yeah. And then one day I found a post that said graphic design internship in Lithuania. And I hadn't really known anything about Lithuania, let alone where it was. Yeah, but I like clicked a little bit deeper and then emailed them. And it turns out it was an American company that had an office here and they were setting up because it's a lot cheaper to hire developers and technologists out there. So they were doing that thing and ended up being a real experience. And I went out there, you know, in the end it felt like more of a vacation than an actual internship because the company didn't really have all their shit together. And we were traveling like three day weekends almost every weekend. Then just like I learned more about myself than I did about the craft during that time, which was necessary I think at that point. Yeah.
Jon [00:15:56] I mean, either way you're learning, right, whether it's about the actual job you're doing or if it's about yourself.
Eric [00:16:01] But I just I didn't resonate with the idea of going to Barcelona, teaching English, making, you know, money that way. I wanted to build my resume. I build my portfolio at the same time as traveling. That's always been my agenda.
Jon [00:16:13] So that was sort of the choice you had to make was you ultimately wanted to get to Barcelona no matter what and whether it was for teaching English or actually design, you know, illustration, but you didn't want to do that route. It was like, I want to continue to grow as a designer, as a creative person.
Eric [00:16:30] It doesn't make sense. And I've heard this advice before. I'm like, oh, if you want to do your own thing, you should get a day job in a different industry so that you can save all your creative energy for the stuff you do at night and on the weekends, which will eventually build up and become your fulltime thing. I never resonated with that advice because I couldn't imagine spending 30, 40, 50 hours a week doing anything but design. And because I did take so many different design jobs throughout these last 10 years or so, like I was able to find what works for me, what I don't like about the way companies are run in this industry. So I got a lot of different experience just by just by trying out all these different design jobs. And now I have these relationships as well. I like working with those people versus if I was in like a food industry job or teaching English, I wouldn't have been building connections in my world. Right. It would have been very random and not related.
Jon [00:17:26] Where we are in terms of time. When you get back from Lithuania, like, how long was that and then and what year is that is.
Eric [00:17:34] So I graduated in 2012. I worked at MTV the year, the summer before that and the summer after that, after graduation. And then in the fall winter I got sick of the job and traveled to Lithuania. So I was actually there for fall and winter.
Eric [00:17:48] So it was like four or five months ago and it was cold. It was cold and snowy and it got worse. Awesome. And then they actually asked me to come back and like become a full time employee because it was an internship. I said no. At the time, because I was dating someone who was from college and she was moving to New York and I wanted to explore that and move back to New York. It's funny because if I said yes, I would have had a five year European resident card. Which would have allowed me to live anywhere with no problems. But I don't know. I just I made the call and I'm glad I did it the way that I did it. But I always wonder what it would have been like if I got that European resident card.
Jon [00:18:23] Yeah, just thinking about that. I mean, I wish I was in that situation. You were born in New York and you're just outside the city. Yeah. Was there ever a moment as an you being born here from New York? Was there ever a moment when you're younger you think of like living in the big city, you know, being like, oh, yeah, you can air quotes real New Yorker or anything like that?
Eric [00:18:44] Oh, yeah, definitely, man. I mean, I like I said, I grew up watching those skate videos. And then when I was old enough, you know, 14, 15, 16 years old, I would take the train in with my friends and just get into all kinds of trouble, get kicked out of every single spot in downtown Manhattan. And I thought about what it would be like to live there and be able to skate around like every day. Sure.
Jon [00:19:04] It's like a big playground.
Eric [00:19:06] Yea living the dream. That was my dream. Yeah.
Jon [00:19:08] When does like lettering come into play? Right. When you really start to focusing on the letter form and typography and things like that.
Eric [00:19:16] Well, with every graphic design program, you have to take typography classes. So I was just really interested in that part of it and not so much working with typefaces because you're basically you're working with someone else's design. You know, when you're working with typefaces.
Jon [00:19:34] Huge type nerd. So, yeah, I'm ready to dig in.
Eric [00:19:38] And I like the idea of being able to create my own system or create my own letter forms so that no one could say, like, oh, you used to use that font. And there was one professor that I had that was an advanced typography class that you didn't have to take. But this guy was a genius. John Langdon, he if you ever read Angels and Demons or DaVinci Code, he did all of those lettering pieces that flip upside down and me down.
Jon [00:20:03] Ambigrams.
Eric [00:20:03] Exactly. He basically popularized that medium in his career so that he was just like a Jedi. Yeah, exactly. That's like some minds or Yoda, I guess. Yeah. Both. So he taught his whole process in that class of how to do custom lettering pieces. We tried doing Ambigrams. They're really hard. Yeah. And I just really liked that he was able to professionally be himself. You know, he said it like that, too. He said, I got lucky that I was able to be myself for a living. After enough projects, they just kept coming in. And I found something that was unique. And I really wanted to do that, too. So I just basically took his process and the parts of it that I liked, I just kept doing those and evolving and trying different tools and trying to make unique lettering, pieces that stood out. And at the same time, lettering was having this whole resurgence with Jon Contino, Jessica Hishe, Erik Marinovich, which like does the first wave of people popularizing the art of lettering back then. And then I think I caught the second wave a few years after them and it was still early enough where it didn't feel like lettering was everywhere and everyone was picking up a pen to do calligraphy, because now it seems like the thing about lettering is it's such a low barrier to entry. All you need to have is a pen and your handwriting and watch a YouTube video and you'll like learn how to get better at it, you know? So that was how that's how it came in. And, you know, when you graduate design school and you have this portfolio of seemingly unrelated things like, oh, I did a website and also a packaging project and maybe else and a product design and also did some T-shirts and a logo and that brand system.
Jon [00:21:39] This is a really awkward phase. You know, like growing six arms. I don't know which one is the best one yet.
Eric [00:21:44] And you're tempted to put all that in your portfolio because that's all you have unless you did a bunch of personal projects or freelance projects. But it doesn't make sense and people can't really place you. So I thought about it like what are the things that I loved so much from all these classes that I took? What can I eliminate from my portfolio? Which should I keep? And so I narrowed it down to a few categories, and that was photo, video, packaging, branding and type and lettering, lettering. And as I kept exploring those, I realized lettering was the strongest passion out of those. And I could use the photo, the video, the branding to sort of accent that. So whether it's taking a video of my process or turning one of my lettering pieces into a branding project, you know. But lettering was that was the common thread that I wanted to keep in those first few years out of school. This is like 2012 to 2015. So I really just lean into that. And whatever a full time job I had or whatever freelance project I had, I was always doing a personal piece, just like trying to get better at lettering, thinking of some cool phrase that that stuck to me and making it into a piece that could turn into anything could turn into a T-shirt or just something for Instagram.
Jon [00:22:48] Yeah, I think the thing that you said, which I think a lot of people struggle with, is that you have all these skills. You know, across video, web design, whatever it may be, photography and everyone is trying to do those equally. But you know, what you had mentioned is that you just decided to take those to elevate the one thing that you were really strong at. So lettering leaning into that and having that be sort of a focus and then using video to show that process and then using photography to for the final product or whatever it may be. I think that's a really good way of thinking about it. And then also, as you are going through and having these design jobs that are so I'm sure you know, you're doing advertising. Social media is lettering playing a part on the side as like a little side hustle or passion project. And how did you kind of balance that?
Eric [00:23:36] Yeah, definitely. I feel like I tried to work lettering into as many projects as I could. Even at these full time jobs like at Brooks Brothers, I got to do a little bit of lettering and then it actually got to live on their social media account. And I was like, this is cool. Like I am. This is all custom. You know, I wasn't an illustrator back then. I couldn't really draw that well. I think when I was a kid, I didn't care about how good the illustration was, but I liked that lettering had a system to it and it had rules that could be sort of bent and broken as necessary. And in illustration, there's not too many rules. Which was a little scary to me back then. There's too many options and I felt like I could stick to the lettering. I was yeah, I was better at that than anything else. So the question was like, how could how did I balance? Ah, yeah.
Jon [00:24:20] Did you. Was it when you really start to focus in on lettering. Yeah. Are you when you're not able to work it into your day job. Yeah. Are you working on it after work and how are you finding the time to do that.
Eric [00:24:31] Yeah. Well you know there's how many hours in a week. 170 hours in a week. You spend eight hours a day sleeping eight hours a day working like the other eight hours. It's up to you, you know. So that's there's a better quote where it actually totals up the number of hours of free time we have. And you could use it not watching Netflix or or hanging out. I mean, you use however you want, but I had a little bit of time every day or every other day where I could be practicing in my apartment. I started this project called Summer of Sketching.
Jon [00:25:02] I'm glad you opened that up.
Eric [00:25:05] Yeah, that was I needed an outlet, a series to create that. That wasn't just random lettering pieces. So I basically challenged myself to go to a different place in New York City every weekend and bring my sketchbook and create a lettering piece inspired by that place. Really simple. I wasn't doing it with anybody else. It was mostly just me. And if and if someone wanted to join me, that was great. And then I would post those on Instagram. This is like early days of Instagram before I had anyone really following me and I'd just like posted there and I noticed that lettering my art would get more attention than just a photo of me, my friends or the skateboarding stuff. So I at that point I was starting to take over my feed with more art and I use the hashtag summer of sketching. And then the following year I went to do it again and I realized a bunch of people had actually use the hashtag throughout the year. Maybe it was in different parts of the world where it's summer. But I was starting this series and it turned into kind of a community thing without me trying to do that. So I just leaned into that, turned it into a challenge where I would give a prompt every week in an email newsletter and I got really deep into blogging and newsletters then.
Jon [00:26:12] That's awesome.
Eric [00:26:13] And start to develop to develop this community around lettering. I feel like I skipped over a kind of important part of the story. But when I was in Philly, I don't know if you've been to Philly, but if you've seen photos of it, there's hand painted signs like everywhere.
Jon [00:26:24] Yeah, I actually was looking at a school there for a bit. Temple or the universe. Tyler Yeah.
Eric [00:26:33] There's a lot of beautiful hand painted signs there. And I just thought about why I like someone actually painted that years ago and it's like fading away now or I would see a brand new one and I'm like, wow, look, maybe someone's actually still practicing this this craft of sign painting because there's a lot of overlap with lettering artists and sign painters that people jump back and forth of like being a commercial lettering artist, doing digitally, doing it painted, you know, and I just wanted to learn more about that. So I actually made my whole senior thesis about that. And I made and I didn't actually get to do much painting because it was a design project. And I made a book about sign painting essentially and like a little kit about what you would need to get started. But I had no idea what I was doing, like how am I going to make together getting started? And then so after that, I had this drive to learn more about the craft and actually pick up a brush and try it myself. So I just hit up as many sign painters as I could find on the Internet and tried to be their assistant. And I got a few jobs through Craigslist, a few jobs through word of mouth, just people who I had reached out to for the book that I was designing. And I realized I didn't really want to be a sign painter. After a few of those experiences, because they were spending a lot of time painting someone else's designs, painting someone else's words. And I I felt like I had more to say and and more to create than just replicating. And that's not to that's not to say that there's a ton of there's a ton of sign painters out there that do both they can replicate design and they also do their own artwork, but didn't really like the idea of having to balance that, I wanted to focus as much as possible on doing custom artwork because it just feels like a yes, you're getting better with the brush and it's good practice if you're executing someone else's work. But if you're an artist. Which one would you choose? You know, yeah.
Jon [00:28:12] You want to have a little bit more creative freedom with every project.
Eric [00:28:15] But I do have a lot of respect for the craft of sign painting and replicating like those guys at Colossal Media. And the overall murals, like they're doing photorealistic stuff and like they're having to replicate this digital image. And I it still blows my mind. So I've a lot of respect for that and I understand why they love it. It's just not for me.
Jon [00:28:33] You eventually make your way to the agency, MKG. Which is I would say, you know, pretty big agency. They do a lot of awesome like experiential design and branding and things like that. Is this kind of the moment where you're able to take your work and and put it in situations that are bigger than just pen and paper or, you know, art, like you eventually start to do murals and stuff like that? Like, how does that come about?
Eric [00:28:58] First of all, nice job narrating and the segway, they like you, eventually make your way down the path of discovery and self actualization. Great. So yeah, MKG was I was there for about a year and a half. I didn't keep jobs that long actually. I bounced around a lot. Like I said. So it was a big deal for me to stay for a year and a half at this one company. And they were doing these events for big brands like we did a project for Delta Airlines where we'd been a party for at the Grammys like sponsored by Delta or whatever. And, you know, Google's code the road campaign where they took this RV on the road, like going visiting developer communities. And I like skinned out the whole RV and like design that. So I'm starting to see my graphic design work take on these different forms of environmental graphic design and like larger large scale graphics. But the problem was a lot of that stuff will end up in the trash like days later. So I was sick and tired of seeing my work not be permanent and not be enjoyed for what it really could be used for. So I was just looking for opportunities to go bigger in other ways. There was a big chalkboard in the agency in the office. No one was using it. So I just stayed after hours one day and I made a big lettering piece on the chalkboard and said Optimist. Is that right around that time? And it was awesome to see people come in the next day and react to the mural and be surprised and have conversations around it. And I just noticed while my art actually affected, these people's day and it's not going anywhere. It's not going in the trash unless we erase it. You know, we kept it up for a month. And then the next month we did another piece and then I started inviting my friends in. And every month we would collaborate and create a new chalkboard mural.
Jon [00:30:42] It's cool. Yeah. And you mentioned the Optimist project. It's interesting to hear that you drew it on the chalkboard because it happened out of a fire. You lost your apartment for the most part. You lost all yourself. Could you? Yeah. Tell us about that.
Eric [00:30:56] That was before MKG. I took the job at MKG because I needed some steady income after the fire. But yeah, it was 2015 and or late 2014. And it was a Friday morning just in the middle of summer. And I'm getting all my dates wrong. And I said it was late 2015. There was a summer. What am I saying? No. It was just 2014 or 2015, the summer. And yeah, I was I was just freelancing from home. I was painting a sign from my friends tattoo shop and the whole backyard of the apartment building spontaneously caught on fire. It was owned by a restaurant and they were keeping all their trash and recycling back there. If you can imagine those like go to those alleyways or whatever else, it just looks like a fire pit waiting to happen. And yeah, one day I don't know what on how it started. We still don't know how it started, but it went up in flames. And I was on the second floor. So it came in through the windows. And I basically I was home. I panicked. I just I just ran out of the apartment as fast as I could. After the windows had blown in and like, it was pretty crazy experience. And then I got to go back in afterwards and look for stuff because the building didn't collapse, luckily. And it was it was crazy in there. Like everything was black and the ceiling was on the floor. And I just imagine what it would have, what it was like, the fire spreading from one thing to the next thing. It's kind of like a scary image.
Jon [00:32:12] Definitely reality hits you and it's not something that you think would happen. You know, it's like everyone thinks they're invincible. And then that happens. And it kind of really brings you back down.
Eric [00:32:21] Because when I ran out of the apartment, like nothing was on fire, it was just smoke coming in. And I hoped that the fire department could get here and put it out. But now it's like they had to go to the source of the fire first and then put up the other part. So, yeah, basically everything got burned and it was really crazy and sad and scary that day. But we got to go back in and look for stuff. And one of the things that we found was my scanner and the scanner was melted shut. But we were able to pry it open because I remember that I had a drawing in there. I found the drawing and that was where the optimist drawing was, and I had been making that earlier in the week, and it just reminded me what I was thinking when I was drawing that and what it meant to me. And I remember like, yeah, I am an optimist, I can get through stuff like this. And it's this isn't the end. This is just gonna be a difficult season. And I had to keep my chin up and I'll get through this. And I realized, like, all the stuff that I lost wasn't that important. It was it was just stuff that's replaceable. There were a few things that were irreplaceable, I'd say, but I'm not holding onto that today. It was really something that pushed me forward. And like it had a really positive effect on my philosophy. You know, because I realized like if I was sleeping in that day, I probably wouldn't made it out of the apartment.
Jon [00:33:38] You know, I think it's I mean, I definitely want to touch on that. I think it's sort of amazing and it's beautiful how you're able to kind of just pick yourself up and out of all of the kind of darkness and that you you still come out of it with a shining light of, you know, being optimistic about it and turning it into something positive. And it's evolved into a situation where you start to raise money for charity, for organizations. You made really awesome prints. And I think that might have been one of the first times I ended up seeing some of your lettering work as well.
Eric [00:34:10] Oh, cool.
Jon [00:34:11] So you go through MKG. This Optimist project starts to pick up and then, as you said, you held it down for a year there because you had to start to kind of like have a steady income to pick yourself back up, to start to rebuild in a sense, and then you make it to WeWork.
Eric [00:34:27] Well, I want to touch on one thing, because I didn't just take that job because I needed money.
Jon [00:34:33] Totally.
Eric [00:34:34] I was trying to freelance. I felt like I was living the dream. But I was still getting jobs from Craigslist. I was still like being desperate and trying to make this freelance thing work. And it's hard when you're starting out, when you have this portfolio that if people weren't hiring me to do lettering that much, it was just every once in a while I would get something I'd be like so stoked. Oh, my God. They want me to actually paint a sign, like with my artwork, like I did a local cafe. I was just like, so happy. Like looking at looking back now, Mom and Pop Cafe. It's not a big deal. It's still awesome. But it's still cool to work with like great people and let them have them respect you and like, do your thing. But that was part of why I did MKG because I knew I needed more experience and I needed to just have something steady while I built up the freelance on the side. And then after a year and a half of that, I think I was just tired of working with so many clients and these bigger companies that sometimes tend to take advantage of the agencies. I'm not sure if you've heard, but agency life in New York is not always easy. The hours are crazy and it's just like the revisions. And I felt like I didn't get to actually speak and sell my work that much either.
Eric [00:35:42] It was someone else showing my work to the client and it was just different things about the way that it was run that I wanted to get out of there and try to do my own thing again. I had a friend's wedding coming up in India. So I quit my job, went to India and just like traveled around for a few weeks. And then when I got back, I started freelancing again. It was a little bit easier this time because I had built up the portfolio from MKG and like a few personal projects, like the murals and then the summer of sketching. And it was starting to to pick up a few months after I got back. WeWork hit me up and I wasn't even looking for a full time job back then, but it was a really cool job description. And I like this seems too good to be true. I did some research on it and it turns out that they were building this team, almost like an artist collective within the company and it back then it was called lunch money. And Joe and Jeremiah, who are the two first guys, they're doing that kind of work, were carving out this team where they could hire graphic designers who also were individual art, who could also pick up a paint brush and do a mural. And that was exactly up my alley. And I wanted to get more experience with that. So even though I didn't want the job or the schedule of a full time job, I said yes to it and I said, let's give it a shot. And worst case, I can always, like, leave a few months later if I'm not feeling it, you know? But let's give it a try. And I'm so glad I did and end up sticking with it for three and a half years. And like like I told you, a year and a half was a longtime firm. He's had three and a half years.
Jon [00:37:08] Yeah, I know. Last season I talked to Vin and he told me a little bit about the lunch money team. You know, I had mentioned that.
Eric [00:37:15] We love you Vin.
Jon [00:37:15] Yeah, shoutout. Joe and Jeremiah. I talked to them, too. It's it's amazing how the team has very much become, you know, it's not like label as a branding team, but you step into work. I currently work in one now. And every time I look at something that is designed, printed, you know, some kind of graphic or some kind of interior design, I'm like, that's the lunch money team, you know, like that's the brand almost in a sense, like having this elaborate, not elaborate, but like elegant feeling and things where each thing was thought about and designed and calculated in a way to make you feel something. I thought that was really awesome about the kind of the concept of the team. On lunch money you're able to kind of put your experience and your interests to really work, to do pieces that are physical, to do things that are printed. How long is it until you actually start to make your way to South America?
Eric [00:38:04] I think it was that WeWork for about a year. And when they started talking about how they're opening up a location in Mexico City and then they're gonna be opening up an allocation in Argentina. And every time I heard either of those things, I would just be like, oh, my God. Can I help? Like, maybe I can do a mural there or just even just come help you install or whatever. I just really wanted to get into those Latin America projects. And I think it was because I just I never got to live in Barcelona. And I kind of put that dream in my back pocket to live in a Spanish speaking country. I did get to visit Barcelona, but I didn't get to live there. So I kind of started thinking maybe it's possible to do this if we work. Eventually, we opened up our first location in Argentina and they said it's gonna be an HQ. So I knew that they were gonna have a team there at some point. And it was just a matter of time before they asked the team who wants to move there? Nobody else volunteered. I was the only one. I was like hand. I was the only one I was willing to pick up, pick up and move to Argentina.
Jon [00:39:02] That's awesome. Yeah. I also am one of my favorite pieces. The amore, the basketball court that you have on that rooftop and on that basketball court, there are these two what I'll call totems, these two figures. Where does where does this character kind of come out of something that you see a lot in your work. You know, very much in your work today. Yeah.
Eric [00:39:22] So I'm going to again go back like one step because I forgot kind of important piece of the story is before or right after I got the WeWork job, I broke my leg skating. I couldn't walk for almost a year. So I was working from home most of the time and they were really cool about it because a lot of the job is physical and we needed to be installing and going to the locations and stuff.
Jon [00:39:44] Couldn't have Eric in a wheelchair rolling around the hallways.
Eric [00:39:46] But yeah, I had crutches. I had the whole like beneath the knee scooter, which is like even worse than crutches in some ways. So I did that and I was doing physical therapy, doing all these stretches. And I would draw out the stretches and make little reminders for me around my apartment of just like little figures doing these poses and they didn't look like the character that I draw today, but they had some aspects of it that were similar. And I don't I just really like chunky blobby forms. That's also like noticeable and lettering as well. So I would bring that into my my little doodles as well. And then when I went down to South America, I was just looking for how can I use this experience to develop a new style that feels authentic to this place or this this this experience. And so I started following less lettering artists and following more street artists and illustrators. And it wasn't like super conscious every day, like, oh, I need to do this and that to develop a style. It was pretty, pretty organic. But I knew that I wanted to develop something that was relatively quick because I didn't have much time outside of work. And you can't always depend on your full time job to fulfill you as an artist. So to have any fulfillment from your job as an artist is like a bonus. And I was getting some of that from work, but I also wanted to be able to create on the on the side and go do street art collaborations and be able to get it done in like a day or less. So I was looking for artists and to be inspired by artists that did that kind of work like quick Keith Haring style doodle work.
Jon [00:41:18] Keith Haring big up.
Eric [00:41:19] So that was where the character came in and I made it first in my sketchbook when I was on one day where I was feeling really homesick and I just drew the skylight curl up in a ball and then that turned into the next version of it. And then I started getting color. I gave it as a gift to my girlfriend I had back then. And like then I showed it to Jeremiah and he is like, oh, that's cool. Like it looks like something from the Latin America style or the Aztec and Mayan art had made it into this character. So I just kept exploring it and pushing it. And then, yeah, I think we put it on at least like ten different buildings around Latin America.
Jon [00:41:57] That's awesome. It's kind of interesting to hear that it was it's sort of like a some amulgamation of your type and lettering work and sort of like this experience that you had when you broke your leg of drawing, like the exercises that you had to do. I think it makes it rings a bell now because I look at a lot of your lettering and it's like sort of the chunkier serif sort of letter forms. And I think now it's like now I understand why it's sort of sort of like a blob. I say an air quotes, but yeah, that's awesome. How long were you in Argentina for?
Eric [00:42:29] I had signed a contract with WeWork that was a one to two year contract. So I needed to stay minimum one year and maximum two years and they would help me get back to the states, which is a great deal, because if you ever relocated somewhere, it's complicated.
Jon [00:42:45] It's like a one way ticket really.
Eric [00:42:46] Yeah. And are they going to help you find a place? Are they going to help you with taxes? Because you gotta pay taxes in both countries if you're. So it is really complicated and WeWwork really help this out. Not just me, but the interior designers that move down there, architects. So I was there for a year and a half after a year and a half. I was feeling ready to move back to the states. And at the same time, they were splitting the team. So the Latin America team was in Argentina, but then they were starting to open more in Colombia. More WeWorks there. And they didn't wanted a presence up there in Mexico so that they could have us like a Latin America North and Latin America South. So they actually offered me to move to Mexico City with a few other people. And I really thought about it. But the deal wasn't it wasn't as good as what they're offering to when we went to Argentina. I just didn't really feel like I needed to move to Mexico at that time. And I said, no, but I think I got the best of both worlds because I was able to move back to New York and still stay in the Latin America team for a while, get to go to Mexico every few weeks and like help build a team and interview people. And and then I would tack on a few personal days to that and like take time off.
Jon [00:43:54] Sure. Yeah.
Eric [00:43:55] So Mexico is I'm going back there in like two months. Like I already have my ticket booked. That's just like one I have a one way ticket.
Jon [00:44:01] So making it back closer to New York and then you make it back to New York. You are you know, I think what is it like another year before you decide that you're gonna go independent?
Eric [00:44:12] Well, it's pretty complicated because I was actually thinking about moving to California back then. I was dating someone who lives in California. And right before I moved back to New York, my plan was to come back for the holidays and then eventually put in my notice and moved to California. And like the winter early 2019. But I we ended up going our separate ways and I said, OK, it's going to stay in New York for now. And it was a lot of change happening in my life. You know, like whenever you have a breakup. So I didn't want to just leave my job at the same time. So I held on to the job for a while and I always had it in my back pocket. Like if I build up my business enough, I will feel ready to leave because I've been there for already three years. So I wanted to continue to build the Latin America team and do that project justice and then eventually transition out of the team and and do my own thing. So it was very like much I'd say I like plotting my escape. It's like kind of terrible to say.
Jon [00:45:09] Well, you have a goal, right? And you just. Yeah, figure out slowly how to make that goal happen.
Eric [00:45:13] Yeah. A lot of people on lunch money like do freelance. I shouldn't call it lunch money because I don't call it that anymore. For a few reasons. It's like confusing for people. I think we're like an agency. So a lot of people in the art and graphics team, which is really what the teams called that do freelance and I think a lot of them in the future want to do their own thing. But we get a lot of WeWork. We got a lot out of it. So why it's hard to leave a job that's giving you a really great portfolio, a great team. So I understand why I stuck with it and why a lot of people continue to stick with it. Yeah, I don't know. I think I just felt ready to to move on and the business was picking up and I couldn't actually do both if I wanted to say yes to these client projects.
Jon [00:45:57] So, you know, I think that's key, right? Like, you don't just, like, step out and say, OK, I'm going to go freelance and I'm going to do this thing on my own now, you know, like how it is that slowly gain traction. And then I would totally not say it's plotting. Right. But it is being methodical and trying to do this in a way that is smart, that when you step out, you're not just like leaping off a ledge, you know, it's like you kind of build a bridge slowly but surely. And, you know, what is that process like?
Eric [00:46:24] Well, when I was in college, my dad always encouraged me to take business classes. I did not want to take business classes. I thought that was the stupidest thing and I just wanted to focus on my craft. But then after college, I started listening to podcasts that were all about business, business and marketing, taking from it like the bits that were less slimy than others and just whatever resonated with me. And that really helped me to grow my personal brand and my audience and my business to a point where it's actually making money. And I could use WeWork I could use them MKG, I could use personal projects as a springboard to help me boost my business. So it was a lot of just doing that consistently through social media and through email newsletter. I kept up for a while and keeping these relationships strong and just like showing my work to the people that I thought would care about it and maybe hire me in the future or just be, you know, be stoked on it.
Jon [00:47:16] You mentioned like managing relationships a little bit. What does that entail? You know, your doing work WeWork. Are you just communicating with people and just saying, hey, look what I made, you know, how do you sort of turn that then into an actual business relationship? Later on down the road.
Eric [00:47:36] I think it's whatever feels most natural for you. Like I said, I didn't take all the advice that I heard in those business podcast, but I knew that attending industry events, conferences, having some kind of blog or newsletter where you can go a little bit deeper than what you see on social media. Because on Instagram, it's like people scroll so fast and it's hard for them to really get to know what you do unless you're an expert storyteller or you're just like a filmmaker that can edit really attention grabbing videos. And that's not really my strength. So I would write a lot and just reach out to people and say, hey, let's like catch up. I know you are my creative director. Like a few years ago, at MKG or at similar job, like, I want to know what you're up to. And then they would ask what I'm up to. And it's just like managing those friendships.
Jon [00:48:20] Yeah, you mentioned like doing workshops and speaking at conferences. I think I saw you spoke at Letter West you did a Creative South a talk as well. And then you taught a workshop called The Art of Skate as well, you know, like. Does that all kind of lead up to or level back up to eventually starting your own business?
Eric [00:48:41] Yeah. Well, I started my own business a while ago and it's been in the background more or less that as compared to today. But I did have like an official business six years ago. Efdot Inc is my business title.
Jon [00:48:54] And you legally were there and did all of that stuff as well.
Eric [00:48:57] Yeah, yeah, I did. But after I went to my first design conference, I made a few friends that were also in the same boat where they wanted to build their own thing and and share their process and just be like an open, friendly person online and not be too cool for school like most New York artists are. They just don't I know I have a whole rant, but I just like surrounded myself with those kind of people that wanted to share. And then they started teaching workshops and I was like, Oh, I wish I could teach a workshop. I'll just share my lettering process. And it's like the stuff that John Langdon taught me, plus my own stuff that I've learned. And it ended up being a really fun way to meet people, share my share of what I love to do, make a little bit of money. And then it just kept growing from there. Letter West I didn't do a talk. I did a workshop. That's my first mural workshop. I don't think there's like a lot of people offering that type of workshops. I want to more of those soon. And then The Art of Skate was a collaboration with Good Type. Yep. And they had the idea for me to come in and do a workshop and we just can't we just threw back some ideas back and forth, but that that that workshop sold out really well because they have such a huge reach. I tried to do my own art of skate workshop and it didn't sell as well. This is also around the time where I was like almost moving to California and then not so. I had launched these workshops in California, didn't sell many tickets and ended up canceling them, which was which sucks. And I refunded people their money. But I don't think anybody really noticed designing a sequence. Yeah. Yeah. One thing I took away from that experience was like the workshop that I was teaching about drawing on skateboards was more of a hobby type workshop. You know, it's hard to make money from drawing with paint markers on skateboards. Whereas the mural workshop or the lettering workshop, those are more marketable skills that you can actually make money doing a little bit easier. So the people who are investing the money in the workshop tickets knew that they were gonna get a return on that investment, you know, whereas the skateboard thing is like, oh, that sounds fun, you know, it's like more of a hobby. Yeah. So I think if you're gonna teach a workshop, don't expect to sell a lot of tickets. If it's more of a hobby thing, unless you're marketing to people who just have a lot of time for hobbies. Like stay at home moms or that kind of thing will stay at home dads do. Who cares about people like the people who I was trying to reach, you know, 20s, 30s. They're investing in their professional career. They're going to take workshops that actually give back to their career. So I think the the Good Type one sold out because they have this massive reach in this brand. And then I try to do it on myself. I realize maybe I should do more workshops that are more practical and like career oriented rather than hobby oriented.
Jon [00:51:32] If someone was to come to you tomorrow and say that they're thinking about doing the same thing, what would be like three things that you would, you know, tell them to make sure they're bucket uptight and they have like ready to go before they actually decide to put in their notice at work. Eric [00:51:47] So I'm more of a planner than most people. So you have to temper this with your own capacity for risk. And if you're more of a risky person, you can ignore whichever ones of these are like, I don't need to do that. But for me, I felt like I needed six months of savings just to cover myself so I can think long term because I think a lot of these freelancers fall into the trap of, oh, no, I need to take this job because I need to pay rent. And if I don't take this job, then I can't pay rent. And then I'll hopefully I'll get a job again. But if you can think six months out and say, wow, I could literally spend the next month trying to land a higher value client and then that'll pay for my rent for two months or more. So I think being able to think long term is huge. So the savings number one. Number two, I think just getting. Some freelance products under your belt, so you know what's actually working for you. I've done mural projects a lot recently and then I also do sometimes like a T-shirt branding teacher project or a packaging project or applying my illustrations to different things. And right now I'm seeing that the murals are my bread and butter. People are actually they see the value in that and they're willing to pay for that. So I'm leaning heavily into that, not only because I love it and it's just my favorite thing to do. It also happens to be the thing that people are actually willing to pay a few thousand dollars or more for, you know, and I don't want to be painting a new mural every single every single day or are doing a hundred design projects in a year because that's like, what, three dollars a project? How many products you have to do.
Jon [00:53:19] A lot of math going on there.
Eric [00:53:21] Yeah. My point is, like you want as a designer, for me, it felt important to find something that I could charge more for and do less of versus if you're a T-shirt designer, you have to take a lot of T-shirt projects to get through. And some people do it because they just love that medium. For me, I love murals and it's working for me and it comes with his own set of challenges. Right. So figure out your business model is like the number two and then number three. Oh, no. I think just getting organized in general is important. I've learned how to use this tool called Air Table, and I learned that through we work because we use it to manage all of our artwork and all of our deliverables and stuff. And now I have an air table for my business and it's basically just a spreadsheet on steroids. Sure. Yeah. And it's way more user friendly than Excel or Google Sheets. I highly recommend every table book with project names and stuff like that. Yeah. Not sponsored if you're the kind of person that likes to just get everything out of your head and let the computer remember it for you then. Yeah. You should create some kind of system that works for you like that. So I have a system of like a spreadsheet of all my contacts, all my projects, potential projects, rejected projects. And then I can just look at insights like, OK, where which industry, which type of client hired me the most last year? Where did I make the most money doing? Maybe it was murals for tech companies and I can lean more into that or something like that.
Jon [00:54:42] So, you know, when you're not in a creative situation or that environment, I find that this is something that I tend to run in with just in passing. When you're hanging out with friends, like when someone asks you what you do. Do you ever have that awkward moment of trying to figure out how to explain, like, what it is that you do to someone?
Eric [00:55:01] Yeah.
Jon [00:55:02] What are you telling them?
Eric [00:55:04] I usually depending on the person, sometimes I say I'm a designer. Sometimes I say I'm an artist because people have connotations for both of those. I think when someone seems like they're further along in their career or they're older, I usually say designer or I say I'm a designer slash artist. But if someone's younger, I usually say I paint murals because they get it like, oh yeah, you can actually do that now. But the older people don't really get that. So I have to say, I'm I'm a graphic designer, but I also do like environments and I work with companies to help them like enhance their space.
Jon [00:55:38] Yeah, you're just at the beginning of having this independent kind of practice going back into having your own business set up. What are you most excited for? You know, like what are you looking forward to as you as you step out into this?
Eric [00:55:53] Just in general, I think freedom of schedule was like setting amount hours is really important to me. And even with WeWork, there are relatively flexible with me, which was great. You know, it wasn't like I had to be in the office at 9:00 every day. I could kind of work from home or work from a different location if I give them notice of that. And especially in Latin America, we were working from different countries, sometimes like as a remote team. So I like I really do thrive when every day is a little bit different from the last. And it's hard to do that in a full time thing. So even towards the end of work, I was like, I really just want to I don't really work that well in the morning. Not right. Not right now, at least. Maybe when I'm older, I'll become a morning person.
Jon [00:56:34] I'm kind of figuring that that. Yeah, I'm not I'm like either really good in the morning, the early morning before 11 and 12. And then my other peak creative time is like 12 to 4:00 a.m. in the morning or something.
Eric [00:56:48] Right. Yeah. So I don't want to be in that cycle of working super late into the night for too long. But that's what I want to have the freedom to do that if I want to or if I have to and not have to wake up the next day and be somewhere. That's what I'm really looking forward to. And then also traveling when and where I want to travel and not just when somebody else wants me to travel and where they want me to travel because. Yeah, traveling for work sounds awesome. But then when you're painting on a dusty ass construction site for a few days, it gets a little and you only have time to explore the place that you're in. I definitely made time to explore, but, you know, I'm only sharing the highlights of those experiences and sometimes I'll share. That's the thing is, like when I was working for them, I couldn't really share some of the challenges that we were going through on site because it makes it would make company look bad? Sure. If they if the construction sites were messy or whatever, like it was a bit taboo to share the real things. I'm excited to just be more transparent as well with what's going on. And I want to take on like artist residencies where I just cut off client work for a month and go somewhere and make art and try to evolve my style a little bit or figure out what I'm trying to say with my art. I feel like I'm still at the very beginning of that process, too. Like this is this is almost like been a shortcut. This the style that I've developed because it's like so painfully simple and easy for me and I feel like I'm in it. Maybe it's not a shortcut. It just comes naturally for me. And that's just what it's all about. But I think I have a lot more to dig into this next year in terms of like what kind of art I want to make.
Jon [00:58:21] Well, I mean, it's something I mean, just from that, it's something that you've practice. And now it almost becomes second nature for your art. And I think it's really interesting from an outsider's perspective. I look at it as like, you've nailed that. And to you, you're like, oh, man, I'm so excited to, like, keep on digging into what this could potentially be like, what what this form and what this figure is and how do I evolve that. So that's really humbling to hear.
Eric [00:58:43] But what kind of message do you get out of it? Is it just optimism and squishy ness like you? What do you what do you get from, like, looking at my personal work or my murals?
Jon [00:58:51] For me, I think it's like there is a sense of being having it broad. But I look at it from a practitioner as like you're just continuing to hone your craft and figuring out different ways to experiment. And in that, like, it's always sort of the message that I like to believe in and sign on to is that like when you create something that you truly love and that you think is cool, like other people will gravitate to that naturally. And it's you know, I'm sure there's always a moment of where you have to kind of put it in front of people sometimes. But I think that's kind of the thing that I really enjoy watching you do, is that you just continue to kind of hone in on his like this form, this figure, this totem, and you just continue to work on then that to me is something that inspires me.
Eric [00:59:34] Thanks for sharing them, man. Yeah, it's kind of like a vehicle for experimentation. Yep, where the form itself is pretty simple and then I can use that as a consistent thing and then experiment with the rest of it. Experiment with color, experiment with medium. And then the thing that stays consistent is really just what makes it recognizable, I guess.
Jon [00:59:53] Totally.
Eric [00:59:56] I'd like to think that there is a deeper meaning in there. I haven't. Like sometimes I feel like it's about like loneliness and just having like a figure. But that's kind of sad too. But let's make it bright colors and then it's about like explosion of. And then sometimes I'll do that pattern version of it, too, or just like a crowded city. So each piece is a little bit different, but it's really just like trying to. Like theres this is a quote from Shantelle Martin. You know that artist?
Jon [01:00:19] Oh, yeah. She lives in Jersey City. Shoutout, Shantell.
Eric [01:00:22] Yeah. She has this quote of talking about how she experimented with making live art to find her style. And she says that when you're doing live art in front of an audience and you're improvising, you don't really have time to be anybody else but yourself. I love that because I think that's graphic designers. We tend to overthink and we make mood boards and we. Very true. We, you know, pinpoint exactly the style that we want to do. We do hundreds of sketches and then refining, refining. But what if you're just going off the cuff at sometimes where the magic happens, like it's for the best stuff comes from. So I really like that philosophy.
Jon [01:00:55] I think with that, I'm going to end the podcast. Eric, thank you so much for being my guest. And you know, where can people find you? Where can people get in touch with you
Eric [01:01:05] Main platform is Instagram. So hit me up there. My handles Efdot. It's just Efdot and my website link is right in there, too, but it's efdotstudio.com.
On the first episode of Season 2! I sit down with Eric Friedensohn to discuss his introduction to design, traveling the world, and how he developed his unique style and signature character. Eric Friedensohn is a mural artist, designer, illustrator, and letter currently based in Brooklyn, New York. He has worked for companies like MKG and most recently WeWork on the art and graphics team before deciding to step out on his own. I remember when I first found Eric's work which was through his project Optimist. At the time I didn't know that project came as a result of Eric losing everything in his apartment due to a fire. Eric is amazingly talented and I am so happy that I got chance to have him as a guest and learn from his experiences.
Make sure to check out the last two episodes from season 1.