In studio with...

Brooklyn based artist and illustrator Zachary Kiernan

As told to Melanie Van Der Merwe

Founded last year by Zachary Kiernan, Cutless Creative is a small American Design Studio based in Brooklyn, New York. The multidisciplinary design shop provides a wide array of creative services and we caught up with the dude behind it to find out what makes him tick. 

Who are you and what do you do?

I am a Brooklyn based designer and illustrator who at this exact point in time is really focused on learning hand lettering and vintage illustration. I am most interested in creating unique brands and objects.

Tell us how you got into art. 

I grew up next door to an artist and could hear her working all day. My parents were both lawyers and I became fascinated by the fact that my neighbour's job was to create all day and night. She was, and always has been, a huge influence in my life. My earliest memories of creating are in her basement studio. When it was time for me to head off to college I got into an architecture programme at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. The complex process of architectural design refined my creative process. It taught me to try and bring discipline and layering to my creative process. I enjoyed learning in this capacity, but my heart has always been, and always will be, drawing and creating more abstractly. The past few years I have become really interested in developing brands. I’ve got a long way to go as a designer, but I am really happy with the type of work I am getting right now. Its really exciting to think that as a designer you can always be learning new things and growing new skill sets until the day you die.

What art do you most identify with?

I identify with thoughtful art that is positioned in the intersection of traditional practices and humanistic street grit. It’s really important to me that I can see a hand or a person behind a piece I am looking at. I have a really hard time getting excited about art that is too clean, too digital. I need to feel like I can see a person, a human being.

What themes do you pursue?

Right now I am really interested in getting into hand lettering and typography. I used to be really obsessed with font, now I am more interested in learning how to make my own fonts by hand. I ensure that any project that I take on is an entirely custom job. I want people to know that I am looking at every single detail. From the fonts, to the icon illustrations, to the paper we choose to print on.

What’s your favourite art work and why?

My favorite three pieces are the Siracha, the Levis and the In and Out Burger. I think they have the right amount of texture, simplicity and pastel color pallets.

Please comment on brand obsession in the US and how it forms the foundation of the collaboration between you and Carly Goldstein.

Carly and I grew up in the suburbs right outside of NYC together. I have always known that she was an awesome illustrator and had been seeking a platform for us to work together. Carly and I thought it would be really interesting to take a step back and examine our brand obsessions, and decided to take a handful of these brands and the culture that followed them and develop them all in a somewhat uniform, extremely simple print series. We’re really happy with the way the collection has come along and we have heard a lot of great feedback from it.

How do you decide on the brands/products to showcase in your art?

Carly and I wanted to examine brands and objects that seemed really relevant and super popular in New York right now. For instance food culture had been such a trend recently, so we thought Siracha, In and Out Burger, and doughnuts would be a really fun theme to explore. Also there are the fashion brands that I’ve always been obsessed with such as Levis, Redwings, Nike and Carhartt that I just couldn’t ignore.

What's your dream project?

Sometimes I wish somebody would call me and say ‘Hey would you be interested in doing a really complex Coney Island themed illustration series of 12 skate decks. Something super vintage, gritty and with tons of nostalgia."

Describe your space and how it's conducive to a creative atmosphere.

I am really excited about creating out my new studio space in my apartment in Brooklyn. I’ve always loved the idea of a live-work studio space, because when an idea pops into my head in the middle of the night, I can run downstairs and work through it for a few hours. It’s really great to get to wake up early, take my pup to the dog park and then lock myself in the studio for God knows how long and crank out some exciting new work. I’ve always collected old nick-nacks and different types of packaging. Those items tend to surround me in my studio and home. It always inspires me to see how much love and thoughtful design people once put into an old matchbox or a beer can. 

Favourite or most inspirational place in Brooklyn?

I love these classic old antique stores that can be found around every corner in the city. There’s so much amazing inspiration in antique packaging and branding. It seems like people put a lot more love into design back then.

Explain the creative scene in Brooklyn right now. 

The creative scene in Brooklyn is amazing. It’s obvious that over the last 10 years craftsmanship has made a huge resurgence, and it's amazing to look around at my group of friends and see these young people producing such great things. There is a true feel of creative hustle, whether it’s making new films, working in fashion or just being a part of the various art communities, it’s so apparent that creativity and craftsmanship are far from dead. Sometimes you just have to look in the right places… You can really feel this in Brooklyn right now.