Like many others, I only really knew Stefan Bucher as “the guy behind The Daily Monster” before he came and spoke at an ADCMW event a few months ago. While the monsters are fun and impressive, there is a LOT more to Mr Bucher than that. He is a Designer, relatively young in age considering his reputation, who drew teddy bears to earn the money to make his way from Germany to America. He has worked on some amazing accounts, with big name musicians and with famous photographers, things that when listed on a resume look really impressive. Getting to see his work was exciting but I was the most impressed with Stefan Bucher’s philosophy, his inspirational pep talk, and his all round passion for design. He sees the world in a unique way, is obsessed with the tiniest details, and is refreshingly candid. I left his talk inspired and reinvigorated. Stefan reminded me how utterly awesome it is to be a designer.
Because he is such a cool guy, he took some time out of his busy schedule to give me the answers to 8 Random Questions. Enjoy!
Q: You get the opportunity to work with lots of well-known musicians, what one musician or band would you love to work with but have not had the chance to?
I’d love to work with Randy Newman, Joe Jackson, and Ben Folds. Daft Punk, too, or Underworld, but they don’t need me. And hell… Prince, of course, but his batting average on design is pretty shaky. (With the notable exception of LoveSexy). You know who I bet would be interesting to meet? And I know this is going to mark me as a total nerd. Weird Al is crazy-smart. I’d love to do something for him. Also Pete Townshend. Iggy Pop. And Liz Phair. And… ahem… Hall & Oates. God, I’m so completely uncool. I listen to new music, too, I swear! Company of Thieves, I like. Lilly Allen did an acoustic version of “Womanizer” recently. I’d design that single in a heartbeat. I wish I could’ve done the soundtrack design for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” And for a hundred others. But these are the people I’d start with.
Q: In your ADCMW talk you mentioned that tough economic times like these provide a great opportunity to grow as a designer, can you expand upon the types of things Designers can do to take advantage of the situation?
When things get as lean as they are now it’s a great time for the little guy. If you’re running a small studio or working on your own you can be much more flexible than the big boys. More importantly, heavyweight clients might actually give you a closer look than they would when they can just write a check to one of the bigger firms.
By the same token, your existing clients might be up for some more extravagant ideas if they make a big impression on a budget.
On a personal level, I think that the current economic situation erases any lingering illusion of job security. It used to be irresponsible to do what you want to do if it meant risking your job or a big client. But now… hell, you’re already at risk anyway. Might as well sink or swim with something you’re crazy about.
Q: Many of your monsters wear very stylish shoes, do you have a pair of your own that are your particular favorite?
I do, though at 6’4″ I’m pretty much restricted to flats. I have a great pair of boots from Silverfeet, which is the store brand at Fred Segal. I love these boots. They have buckles on the side that are hidden 99% of the time and just flash occasionally. They’re comfy and stylish, and they make me feel a foot taller. I wear them when I’m on stage. I love my boots. You can see them in Robynne Raye’s new book.
Q: I’m a big fan of your “Greed Control” graph, what steps have you personally taken to decrease greed and increase your quality of work?
It’s simple: I live within my means, and I pay off my credit card every month. Other people take lavish vacations, or buy themselves a fancy car. I drive a small car and travel small. I just don’t spend more than I make. In exchange, I get to say No to work I don’t like, or walk away from clients that don’t treat me right. Being debt free has made me so much calmer and happier, and that shows in all areas of my life. I got some really lucky breaks that made it possible for me to be debt free now, but I also worked towards that goal for the past 12 years. Along with my U.S. citizenship, it’s my proudest achievement.
Q:You recently came out with a series of really cool skateboard decks, do you ride? If not, what gave you the idea?
I don’t ride, sadly. But only because I’m afraid of falling off the board. And onto concrete. But I love the aesthetics of skateboarding — both the boards and the actual activity. I think it’s beautiful and sleek and elegant. If done by people other than me. I’d look like a drunken crane landing on a sea of ball bearings.
Q: Both in your presentation and on your website you are refreshingly candid about being “shockingly” expensive. You charge “per project” rather than an hourly rate (a feat that is admired by many designers) how do you justify this to your clients? How do recommend other designers pull this off?
The only way to pull it off is to do it. And I’m not doing it to prove anything. I ask for the amount of money that will keep my head clear for the time I think the project needs to be great. It’s hard to get into the necessary Zen state when you have to worry about timesheets or hustling for more work. This, again, goes back to Greed Control®. The less money you need each month, the easier you breathe during negotiations. It’s all about freeing up as much bandwidth as possible for the actual work of making art.
Q:You sneak the number 344 ( the name of your design company) into a lot of your work, what is the significance of that number?
Originally, the number came about because my studio is at the intersection of the 134 and 210 freeways. Later I discovered that the 344th day of the year is the day I moved to California from Germany — my U.S. birthday.
Q: In the Q& A portion of your presentation, I asked you about your decision to take your Monsters online, how do you see the web affecting design for all designers in the future?
Oh my! I have absolutely no idea! But I bet it’ll be cool, and I hope I’ll be in on it!