Steve Gordon has passion by the truckload and an amazeballs clothing line. He wears the crown at his one person shop RDQLUS Creative, and I figured he would provide a little insight to a completely different kind of studio.
Full disclosure: I have precious little experience as a one-man wrecking crew, but in the name of the Culture Vulture, thought all of you would enjoy an inside peek into how a solo shop can create a killer vibe with a party of one. BTW, Steve is one of my favorite people to spend a boozy night out with, or in this case, an interview.
You work primarily solo, so essentially there is only one decision maker when setting up your studio — walk us through your workspace.
As most do, I began squatting at local coffee shops with table space, ample wifi and a good vibe for people hanging all day. I still do "Communication Fridays" at coffee shops where I write and wrap up the week. The real work happens in two spots: my re-appropriated spare room in my home, and a space I rent at a boutique agency (The NewBLK) in downtown Omaha. My home-office setup is in flux right now, but it houses my design biz, my apparel line (RGC), and my music production studio (The Dustlab Project). My rented space is a very cool loft in a landmark building that used to be the headquarters for an architecture firm.
Do you have clients to your studio and if so, what is the vibe like during a meeting there?
In my rented space, yes I do. It's very informal. I'm very candid and I love to engage with people. I sit or stand on the same side of the table, let them know I'm on their side and with them.
Many ethnicities are represented in design, but there really seems to be a lack of black designers. Why do you think that is and what can we do about it? Part two of this question is how many times have you been asked to comment on the subject and how relevant is racial diversity today?
You know, I believe that in the Black community, we are still operating under the dreams of our immediate predecessors. When I studied fine art and visual communications in college, no one in my family or community even knew what to say or how to be supportive. It was as if they had never even known you could make a living in this field. And therein lies the basis of the issue; we are generations behind in knowledge and acknowledgment of the professional creative fields. What can we do? It's simple: get educated, get involved and move the needle beyond antiquated thoughts on simple societal norms of success. I recently saw a young high school painter and aspiring designer that I mentor at the art supply store. His grandmother had driven him to pick up new supplies. She was supporting his dream, and understanding the importance of art, design and creativity. That really touched me. We need more of the old guard to support and encourage art and design as a career choice.
To answer part two; in the Midwest, I am almost always the lone black face in any meeting or one of only a handful at small events. Sure, at a HOW Conference there are more, but not more than a hundred or so in a sea of 3000+. So needless to say, I notice it. But I rarely get asked this question. I can count on one hand the number of times a colleague has come right out and candidly asked me. So in all sincerity, thank you for acknowledging the subject and the opportunity to talk about it.
Let me throw a curveball: does a formal design education even matter anymore or is it enough to have the inclination, talent and desire to learn design from observation?
Education matters immensely. I'm not just saying that because I was a graduate of a 4-year institution with a Bachelor's degree and two minors. There are so many things that young designers lack—"ego" not being one of them—such as a solid understanding and mastery of composition and typography. In my opinion, it's the rounding-out and growth of thought and a widening of the scope that creates great designers. I learned composition from my History of World Art class instructor Dean Day, who challenged me every day. Applying myself in that class taught me immeasurable things that will stick with me my entire life. Sure, someone can have an appreciation for the arts and learn from observation, but merely observing and being educated are totally different things.
This might be out of line, but why the F#@& are you in Omaha?
HAHAHA! I get that a lot. I was born and raised here. Omaha, or "The ONE" as I call it (due to its initials of O, NE), has a lot of goodness going on. Like any midsized city, we have an internal PR problem that finds everyone in the city complaining about being here. Then leave dammit! There are not enough people shouting proudly about this city and that bugs me. I have lived in other well-known cities and I move about like a native everywhere I visit. I'm very urban and cosmopolitan, and I learned that right here in Omaha. It's all just more of the same—stacked higher—so why not come back home and stay global from a local HQ?
Is the Pharcyde's 1992 Bizarre Ride II the best Hip Hop record of all time? The answer is yes.
Without a doubt! It's a solid neck-and-neck with A Tribe Called Quest's 1991 Low End Theory, but yes is the answer. (Didn't they tour together and blow minds?!)
Steve Gordon is an independent creative consultant specializing in identity design, brand development and creative direction under the moniker RDQLUS. He is an outstanding Nebraskan and long time friend of Grip.