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Designer Brett Yasko works from a one person studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and devotes the majority of his time to working with cultural-, community- and arts-related clients. His work has been recognized in exhibitions such as AIGA 365 and 50 Books, 50 Covers, and written about in publications and websites including Communication Arts, the New York Times, The Nation, Metropolis, Good, NPR and Design Observer. He’s a member of the adjunct faculty at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design and lives in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill with his wife, Sarah, and their sons, Nate and Jakob.


Enjoying Things As They Happen

If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a BA in visual media from American University and I graduated from Portfolio Center with a concentration in art direction.

Which designer (or design studio), other than yours, do you most admire? When someone says “designer” the first person I think of is Michael Bierut. He’s quintessential. Is he a great graphic designer? Of course. But he’s also a writer, an editor, an educator, an advocate, a commentator, a cheerleader, a comedian—and a husband and father. And he’s kind enough to always answer my emails.

What’s the strangest request you've received from a client? I’ve got nothing for this. The people I work with are all pretty reasonable.

If you weren't working as a designer what would you be doing? This is a question I’ve actually been thinking about lately. Not to sound like a walking cliché but when I turned 40, I started asking myself, “Do I really want to be a designer for the next 20 years? Is this all there is?” I have a list of possible career changes hanging above my computer. But the fact that I haven’t yet started in on one must mean this designer thing is a pretty good gig.

What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? It’s a three-way tie between Uncle Ben’s, Aunt Jemima and Cream of Wheat.

From where do your best ideas originate? I think my best work comes from working with clients who are really smart and have clear ideas of what they want from me but who are also completely trusting and allow me to do what I do.

How do you overcome a creative block? I honestly don’t get blocked that often. I’m not being facetious when I say that I wish I had creative blocks more often; I think it would make my work better.

What’s your dream project (not client, but project)? To work on something that never ends, that improves with each iteration, but is also manageable.

Do you have creative outlets other than graphic design? I have a six-year-old and a three-year-old so there you go. Just a few days ago my oldest needed help building a wheel and axle system for his science class. It took us two hours, I nipped my finger with the wire cutters and the dining room table is still covered in hot glue, but I just know Mrs. Rudkin is going to love it!

What’s your approach to balancing work and life? When I work late into the night/morning, everyone tries to be nice and quiet so I can sleep in.

What product/gadget can you not live without? YouTube is an important tool when you have kids and they ask things like, “Daddy, can a snake really swallow a whole mouse?” Also, whenever I hear a great old song while I’m driving, I’ll make a note of it, then instead of reading a book before they go to bed, we’ll watch the music video, which leads to at least five more videos from YouTube’s “Suggestions.” Their favorites right now are “Waiting On A Friend” by the Rolling Stones, “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers and “Oh Sherrie” by a solo Steve Perry. My wife only lets me get away with it about once a week, but oh the memories my sons will have.

What’s your favorite quote? “Half of the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.” —Robert Frost

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Work for someone who is very good (even great) at the type of design you want to do. Don’t worry about the city in which the person’s located. Don’t worry about the salary. Don’t worry about any personality defects they might have. You don’t have to work there forever. But your first boss will almost always help define the path your career takes.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? To enjoy things more as they’re happening. But that’s not just a career lesson...