Duration: Brian Gunderson has been working professionally for seventeen years, and Ryan Meis for twelve years. We founded Stout in 2013.
Location: San Francisco, CA.
Education: Brian has a BFA in graphic design from Minnesota State University Moorhead in Moorhead, Minnesota. Ryan has a BFA in graphic and interactive communication from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.
Career path: Brian had an interest in graphic design as early as high school, and, luckily fell into a great design program at Moorhead. There, he found inspiration in the rich design culture of Minneapolis. Upon graduation, he took his first job at Templin Brink Design in San Francisco, where he stayed for many years. He then went to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, where he worked as a creative director on a variety of accounts.
Ryan’s interests tend to be more skewed towards illustration; even in art school, he couldn’t decide between design and illustration. Ultimately, he received a degree in design. Like Brian, he was drawn to the Minneapolis “style,” and upon graduating, got a job at an interactive studio. After enjoying a few Minnesota winters, he then took a job at Hatch in San Francisco, where his interest in midcentury design and illustration expanded. Ryan also started creating more illustrative work with his spouse, Sarah Labieniec, and they soon created Lab Partners. Ryan later joined Brian at Goodby, working with him for two years before quitting to focus on Lab Partners and freelance work. Stout came about as a fusion of our own paths and experiences—creating this brewing cauldron of design, advertising and illustration.
Artistic influences: Even though Brian spent his design career solely in San Francisco, his roots are anchored in the Midwest. He is continually in awe of the work that rolls out of Minneapolis. He loves all the charles s. anderson design co. (CSA) and Duffy studios from expats studios of the design firms that have sprung up throughout the country, including San Francisco!
As for Ryan, he is super influenced by vintage design from the 1920s to the 1970s; the sweet spot for him is the object poster style of European advertising from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. He loves the versatility of that period’s designers. They could draw with the eye and ability of an illustrator, but then move between styles and techniques like a designer. In the contemporary design world, his favorite designer and studio is Sharon Werner and her team at Werner Design Werks. He doesn’t remember the first work of hers that he came across, but everything he has seen since then looks like the perfect example of beautiful design made with equal parts wit and art. He strives to achieve that same balance and ease of moving between things like illustration and design, vintage and contemporary and serious and lightheartedness in his own work.
Favorite projects: Brian is proud of the Kiva Confections cannabidiol (CBD) brochure and the studio’s work on the American Express campaign. He enjoyed getting out of the office to shoot on beautiful locations with extremely talented crews and photographers. Ryan is most proud of how well the screen-printed gradients turned out in the data center posters Stout created for Confidential. The process wasn’t the best, but in the end, he was pretty happy with the posters and looks forward to trying out the style some more. He is also super proud of the One Medical project; Stout’s team of designers did an amazing job of creating a large amount of high-quality illustrations at an incredibly fast pace.
Work environment: Our studio is located near Union Square in downtown San Francisco—in a cozy historic building complete with a sometimes-working elevator. The space is light and bright, with nice, large windows spanning the length of the office. We try to keep the vibe in the office both casual and easygoing. Including ourselves, we have a team of seven, and our designers are some of the nicest people around. Our goal is to keep spillover into late nights and weekends at a bare minimum.
Approach: We have a very slight edge in that we have both spent an extensive amount of time outside of the traditional model of the design firm. Spending several years in the advertising industry has helped Brian broaden his ability to concept and create in a variety of mediums, and Ryan has spent the last seven years honing his illustration chops with Lab Partners.
Aspirations: We are both very active in creating the work that Stout outputs; hopefully we’ll be able to continue to do so. Ryan wants to brand a commercial spacecraft, and Brian wants to work on a branding project for the Olympic Games or the World Cup.
Philosophy: Is there something bold—maybe a color, the type, the message or the material—in the work? And is the work something that we can be proud to tell our moms about? Keep moving, and let your artistic interests take you where they may.