I have been consumed with typography and illustration for pretty much as long as I can remember.
I started painting signs and outdoor murals for beer money when I was 13. I had my own punk rock fanzine at 14, mastering the finer nuances of press-on Letraset type and the baflfling brain-twister that is double-sided xeroxing. Around the same time I started doing flyers and posters for local punk clubs and my own band, Sluggo (we ruled, BTW).
I moved to NYC after high school to attend Pratt Institute and become a hip hop DJ. Punk rock DJs were creepy old guys with tight black jeans and beer guts, and punk as a culture had pretty much jumped the shark in the mid-80s, at least for me. When C-grade actors were slam-dancing on an episode of Quincy, and Clash Tshirts were being sold at the mall right next to Phil Collins Tshirts, the writing was on the wall. I desperately needed new music that could still scare my parents. Thank god for Public Enemy.
But I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah. Art student and Hip Hop DJ. That plan worked out pretty well on both fronts. After college, I was a little burnt out on graphic design, so I took a few years off, DJing in clubs, staying up all night, and drinking a lot of single malt scotch. I also worked in a recording studio and toured with a Haitian band, Vodu 155 (we almost ruled, but alas, no), as their DJ.
By 1996, the graphic design itch was getting really bad, so I joined EyeballNYC as a designer, knowing almost nothing about animation and motion graphics. Limore Shur had started the company 3 years earlier in his apartment in Brooklyn. He brought on fellow Pratt Alumnus Daniel Fries, and together we built EyeballNYC in to one of the nation’s leading motion graphics boutiques. We designated a founding principle that would guide us in to the future: Concept should drive design, not the other way around. A simple mantra, for sure, but an effective one. To this day, I return to it in my design work time and time again.
As luck would have it, this was a crucial moment in time for us to jump in to the motion graphics market. First, the entire industry was still in a relatively fledgling state, with only a handful of vanguard companies setting the standards. Larger design houses such as Pittard Sullivan and Lee Hunt had only recently begun taking television design work out of the networks and post production houses, and bringing it back to where it rightly belonged, with graphic designers. Secondly, desktop computers and animation software had finally reached the point where they were extremely affordable and more than capable of generating broadcast-ready graphics. And thirdly, Cable TV networks were exploding exponentially, creating an ever-growing need for graphics of all sorts.
Within a year or so, our work for cable networks started to get noticed by a few of these bigger shops, who began farming out work to us. This continued for another year, until we started competing against those same shops for jobs, at which point they promptly stopped calling us.
We moved to Lafayette & Broome in Soho in 1997, taking over an old sweatshop, and cramming in as many designers and animators as the work demanded. Things really took off from there, and we found ourselves involved in bigger and broader projects than ever before, with a lot of repeat business from loyal clients with whom we built great working relationships.
I left EyeballNYC in 2000 to work at Shooting Gallery as a creative Director in the new cross-media advertising agency they were developing. I think the big buzz word was “convergence”. When is that arriving again? Don’t want to miss that boat! I was there for a year and a half, working on brand identities, motion graphics, web design, web content, TV commercials, and film trailers. Shooting Gallery was a great learning experience, and a helluva lot of fun. Also a great life lesson in shady corporate practices and extravagant spending via unlimited strip club Buffalo wings (I wish I was kidding). A year and a half later, the internet bubble burst, imploding the company, and setting me free to pursue other interests.
I took some time off, freelanced a bit, and worked on a TV pilot for about a year called Kung Faux. We took terrible Hong Kong Kung Fu movies from the 70s and overdubbed them with NY rappers like Masta Ace, Jeane Grae, Mr Len, Prince Paul, and legendary hype man Lord Sear. I created the pilot episode from scratch: editing the films, directing the talent, doing the sound design, music, and all graphics and post production. The pilot got us a deal with Tommy Boy Films. I completed the entire first season of the show (10 episodes) and then moved on. The show was picked up by the Fuse network and elsewhere overseas. They are currently in negotiations for a movie and graphic novel based on the series.
I began freelancing back at Eyeball in early 2002. Things were going great, and within 6 months I rejoined the full time staff as Associate Creative Director.
I remained at Eyeball up until October 2006, working with Limore, their amazingly talented staff, and a wonderful extended family of freelancers. We grew steadily and managed to consistently produce work that challenged and inspired us. I am immensely proud of the contributions I made there. We fought constantly to avoid being pigeon-holed, and we insisted on never resting on any one particular style. We accomplished this again and again by returning to that founding principle: concept must drive design, not the other way around; words that I continue to apply as a creative thinker in the world at large.
After Eyeball I had a great time freelancing in New York City, primarily at Stardust and Leroy & Clarkson, with a healthy dose of direct to client work with people like VH1. I managed to only work abiout 9 or 10 months out of the year, and did as much traveling and summer Fridays in Fire Island as I could muster.
In November of 2009, after 3 years of freelancing, I took a staff position at Leroy & Clarkson as Creative Director.
In late 2009 I won an Emmy Award with Kyle Baron Cohen for a commercial we created for the Discovery Channel promoting the show "Nostradamus: 2012". Now all I need is a Tony, a Grammy, an Oscar, and an NAACP image award and I'll be ready to retire. Kyle Baron Cohen still owes me $5, BTW.
The last several years at Leroy & Clarkson have been great. The company is growing like gangbusters and we continue to get opportunities to work with great brands of all stripes. Recent clients include FOX, HBO, USA, DIgitas, VH1 (collaborating with graf guru ESPO), The W Hotel, NASCAR, SHOWTIME, The FOOD Network, and ABC.
In the Fall of 2010 I shot a documentary with co-director Ben Cruz about the hardcore punk scene in Cincinnati in the early '80s. This came about as a result of my old punk band, Sluggo, reuniting for a 25th Anniversary show last Novemeber. We are currently in post-production and I look forward to sweeping Cannes next Spring. It's going to be a busy summer...
LEROY & CLARKSON - CREATIVE DIRECTOR - November 2009 to present
Leroy & Clarkson is a great creative agency, design studio, and production company. A small gathering of designers, directors, editors, writers, and producers with the ability to execute anything they can dream up, big or small. What appealed to me most was a chance to do more writing and ground-floor concepting, as many of their clients treat them more like a boutique ad agency than just simply a motion graphics house. It's been going great so far and I am thrilled about what great things may come in 2010.
FREELANCE ART DIRECTOR October 2006 - October 2009
Was freelancing out in the world for the last few years, primarily at Stardust and Leroy & Clarkson. I have no complaints other than the inexplicable lack of Christmas bonus checks I get.
EYEBALLNYC - ASSOCIATE CREATIVE DIRECTOR 1996 - 2000 / 2002 - October 2006
Duties included conceptual development and design of any and all projects including TV commercials, live action shoots, network identities, music videos, industrial videos, logo design, directing commercials, sound design, the occasional print materials, etc. I quite often art directed every single job in production. Duties also included hiring of staff, mentoring of staff, daily administrative duties, maintaining design library, writing press releases, writing and developing original content, and a gang of other stuff.
I first came to Eyeball in 1996. I began as an intern and left as senior designer and part owner in 1999. I sold my shares upon my departure and and split for greener pastures during the infamous dot com boom. And we all know how well that went, don't we?
EXPANSION TEAM - MUSIC PRODUCER 2004 - 2007
I was the less-musically talented half of a music production team. Alex Moulton and Icreated original music and remixes for both Clairol and Covergirl. This work has been airing in multiple spots since 2004.
BAD ASS MOTHER FUCKING DJ - 1988 - present
Been DJing for over 18 years. Played in just about every club in New York City, past and present. Had a very long running Hip Hop/Reggae party at Don Hills from 1995-2000. Held down residencies at Limelight, Life, Studio 54, Cheetah, Speeed, Bang The Party, and all manner of places from superclubs to dive bar. I am Proficient (i.e. ready to battle chumps) in any of the following musical genres: hip hop, dancehall reggae, funk, soul, deep house, disco classics, classic rock, and afrobeat. I own about 15,000 records (not fun when you have to move. Trust me) and I am addicted to making mix CDs for my ungrateful friends. These days I try to DJ as little as possible, but I am still constantly making mixes - all of which can be found by clicking the SKILLS button at the top of this page.
LEROY AND CLARKSON - FREELANCE DESIGNER / ART DIRECTOR 2001
Produced trailer for the Rocafella/Miramax film "Paid In Full". This included editing, script writing, music and sound design, etc.
TOMMY BOY FILMS - ART DIRECTOR 2001 - 2002
Produced pilot episode of KUNG FAUX, a half hour TV show in which we re-dubbed old Kung Fu movies with rappers (Mr. Len, Jean Grae, Prince Paul, Guru, etc). Once they sold the pilot, I art directed the production of the entire first season. I designed the look for the entire show, edited each 2 hour film down to a 20 minute episode, animated all graphics and special effects for the pilot, completed sound design, and scored all 6 episodes. When they wouldn't break me off some points on the TV deal, I promptly broke out. The show is currently airing worldwide and available on DVD.
SHOOTING GALLERY - CREATIVE DIRECTOR 1999 - 2001
I was a Creative Director in their newly formed ad agency. Duties included branding, concept, design and animation of TV commercials, promotional materials (both internal and for corporate clients). Cutting film trailers. Writing copy for film trailers. Sound design. Logo design. Movie poster design. Writing taglines for films. Oversaw implementation of creative concepts across all media (TV, web, film). Rode the dot com wave until it crashed, big-time.
NEW MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART - EXHIBIT DESIGNER 1997
Worked with a diverse group of graphic designers and architects to design the installation of an exhibit called "Alt.Youth.Culture" that showcased a wide variety of media made by and for young people around the country. This included fanzines, graffiti artists, skateboarders, video artists, multimedia artists, etc.
ON THE GO MAGAZINE - CARTOONIST 1996 - 1997
Wrote and illustrated quarterly comic strip about being a Hip Hop DJ in New York City. Got a lot of death threats and battle challenges as a result. On The Go was a NYC-based graffiti magazine founded by local graf writer ESPO. The comics can be found in the "flat" section on this site.
CHUNG KING STUDIOS - ASSISTANT ENGINEER / FACILITIES MANAGER / CEO's RIGHT HAND MAN 1993 - 1996
Duties included: Assisting with recording sessions, maintaining equipment, maintaining inventory, hiring and mentoring of interns, doing owner's dirty work, carrying large sums of cash, you name it. Chung King is considered "the Abbey Road of Hip Hop", being the studio where every Def Jam record was made back in the day, as well as countless other Hip Hop classics. I can tell you Old Dirty Bastard stories for days...
- 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ME
1. PEOPLE PERSON
People find me quiet & intimidating until they get to know me, then they wonder why they ever thought that, because I’m actually quite pleasant and a real smart-ass (seriously).
2. TROUBLE MAKER
At age 13 I joined the Communist party. I won a school-wide debate, the subject of which was Capitalism VS Communism. The debate culminated in the entire 8th grade voting for Communism as their preferred socio-economic system. Shortly after that I was politely expelled (“asked to leave”). By age fourteen and a half I had forsaken the idealistic ways of my wayward youth and thoroughly sold out to the proverbial man.
3. PUBLISHING TYCOON
I started my own punk fanzine at age 14, in which I reviewed punk rock shows and breakfast cereals. Had a worldwide circulation of about 300. It was titled “Payson Briggs”, after a particularly odd kid in my middle school who was a friend of mine. He happened to also be the Head Master’s only son. His father threatened to sue me if I didn’t change the name. This is a Xerox fanzine published by a 14 year old we’re talking about here. Lacking very large coffers for my legal defense, I promptly changed the name to Poison Briggs, which the father interpreted as a death threat towards his son. Not making this up.
4. HAND SKILLZ
I funded my teenage drinking years by doing hand-lettering, signage, and painting murals for local businesses.
5. ROCK STAR
I have been in no less than three bands, both as a singer and as a DJ. This included a punk rock band (Sluggo), a gangsta rap group (Trigga Happy), and a Haitian Voodoo drum-circle (Vodu 155). I have performed in front of thousands of people and opened up for such music icons as the Dead Kennedys & Biggie Smalls.
6. EMMY WINNER
I won an Emmy in 2009 for the "Nostradamus:2012" promo I did for The History Channel. We beat out CNN, CBS, NBC, CNBC, & PBS. In your face, Frontline!
7. MENCKEN TORCH BEARER
I once convinced a stripper at NY's infamous "Billy's Topless" to do an interpretive striptease in honor of H.L. Mencken whilst holding a vinyl recording of one of his lectures that I had procured from a homeless man on 6th Avenue for $3 just moments before walking in to the bar. I paid her $30, and it was a stirring tribute befitting the Sage of Baltimore.
8. ACCOMPLISHED LIAR
I once convinced a girl at a party that, as a young man, I had personally authored the story of "The Gingerbread Man", and that my Mom had gotten it published, making a small fortune for my family
9. SHOT CALLER
Donald Trump opened up for me at the Promax/BDA awards in 2004. His seminar preceded one that I participated in. I spoke on a panel of six artists, designers, and musicians about the influence of hip hop, punk rock and street culture in modern advertising. My area of expertise was Punk Rock and Hip Hop.
10. MIKE TYSON IS MY HOMEBOY
Years ago, I used to DJ a party on Sunday nights that Mike Tyson would regularly attend. That same year, I was DJing a party in South Beach for Stussy. The day of the gig, I ran in to Mike Tyson on the street. I cautiously appraoched him. He looked very weirded out, like he might hit me. I assured him I was not a stalker and that I was, in fact, just the DJ at the club he goes to all the time. He was like "oh, alright, cool man". I told him I was DJing that night in South Beach and that he should come. When I got to the club, they asked me for my guest list. I took a blank sheet of paper and wrote "DJ Julian", and below that I wrote "guest: MIKE TYSON". The doorman looked at me like I was an asshole. Later that evening, Mike showed up, and I got a years worth of props.