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  • apollowati 2:29 pm on November 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Interview   

    : INTERVIEW > @TruTV Design Star, @BryanSThompson Gets Real 

    Bryan Thompson: More Than A Motor City Master



    Bryan got his start in the industry by taking the bold step of dropping out of college at Arizona State University when a guidance counselor told him Car Design was a “pipe dream.” Without knowing French, he moved to France, found a camping trailer to live in outside a mechanic’s garage, and proceeded to sneak onto trains, travel Europe and visit every car design studio he could get into. After refusing to leave the lobby at the Fiat Studios in Turin, Italy, until he would be seen, the then Design Director, Peter Davis spent an afternoon with him and gave him the crucial advice he was looking for.

    After graduating from College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, and almost a decade designing at Nissan Design in Southern California, Bryan went freelance. He now designs for multiple industries, from Executive Jet interiors for Embraer, to Airstream Camping trailers, to Entertainment Production Design. He can credit the throne from which Katy Perry’ “Roars” in the music video for the song as one of his favorite projects he’s worked on.

    I interviewed Bryan Thompson as he settled down back in California. We talked about his beginnings, design and the transition of his career after his solid 15 minutes on TruTV’s Motor City Masters Realty TV Design Series premiere.








    Some samples and scenes of Bryan Thompson’s design and artistic prowess exhibited on the first Reality TV series ever, focused on Industrial design: Motor City Master on TrueTV 

    BK: What’s the best time of day for Bryan Thompson to be creative?

    The best time of day for me is two or three in the morning. Peak hours? – from midnight to the morning. This comes from my grandma; she’d stay up all night with me reading tea leaves.  I don’t think I ever had the usual bedtime of the average child! We’d call it the ‘witching hour’- and we’d get a lot work done. My grandma was very clever.  I learned a lot of management techniques from my her, and how to make work and the creative process fun like a game, instead of feeling like actual work. She used to invite all the kids from the neighbourhood to play a game sliding around her painted concrete patio on burlap sacks.  It was super fun, and just so happened to polish and clean her patio at the same time.


    A snapshot from over a decade of award winning experiences at NISSAN Motors.  Want to buy Bryan’s Sketches? Check his website here > (Buy The Art) http://www.bryanthompsondesign.com/own-my-art

    BK: What type of books are at your bedside?

    I’m obsessed with Mary Tyler Moore; loved Rhoda, SueAnn Nivens, and all those guys. I love their independence, and style.  I like biographies about people who came from modest means and made great things happen; Mary Wells Lawrence, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Elon Musk, etc.  

    Currently I’m reading this book called Botany of Desire, a novel by Michael Pollan. In it, he sees the world form a “plant’s point of view” (!) Incredibly well written, it takes you through history and shows you how cultures develop and how people behave in certain ways, all through the eyes of plants.  I know, weird, but I love that kind of unexpected insight.

    BK: What’s on the radio?

    Eclectic things, always very eclectic … My niece Bailey sends me music, actually, shes my link to modern pop culture. She gets me into some funky stuff, like Die Antwoord.  As far as music is concerned, I like Imogen Heap, Betty Who, and have a strange, little girl-like obsession with Carly Rae Jepsen… And I always go back to my roots which is sort of ‘redneck’!  I’m into Dolly Parton, Crystal Gayle, Reba McEntire, etc.  I’ll get into news or talk channels if it’s far out or conceptual, but I mostly listen to music or the audio of movies, while I’m sketching.  I was watching this movie with Margot Kidder running around chasing planes (Great Waldo Pepper) and just the presence of it (in the background) inspired me.


    Bed Drawer Detail


    Camping trailers are kind of my thing. I dream about them, and have lived in them multiple times. For me they represent a promise of freedom, adventure and fantasy ~ Bryan S Thompson

    BK: Do you read architecture, design and science magazines?

    I love I-D, I love Arbitare, Arch Digest, I spend a lot of time online. I like to go to This is Colossal, and NotCot.org …Designboom comes to mind. I think its fantastic. My coffee table is peppered periodicals and books on the glamour age of commercial flight, mostly. Pan Am, Braniff, TWA, they all had such happy, carefree and optimistic styles that are inspirational still.

    BK: Do you have any pets?

    I have a little Shih Tzu Terrier mutt. He’s my ADD aupair – keeps me focused! When he was a puppy – he was raised at the Nissan Design Studio in Southern California – he would spend his entire day sitting on designers’ laps, one by one.  He actually increased productivity because when he’s on your lap, you stay put and sketch longer – sort of a Shih Tzu muse!

    He knows we’re talking about him! He’s literally a camera hound.  I have a little camera-ready studio that I work from at home, and when I’m on air, he ALWAYS saunters in and tries to make an appearance.

    BK: What is the connection between fashion and Industrial Design?

    Great question! Its all about SEX. Sensual shapes. A sinewy form, or a well developed chest, or thigh, or hips become parts of the car… If you can capture that in a car form, you can tap into human emotion on a visceral level. Fabrics are very sensual and clay models can mimic those forms in the same way.  Clay is anything you want it to be, and it’s a very sensual, beautiful material to use to make beautiful shapes that elicit desire.  

    interior_fashion_BT throne_design_katy


    Bryan’s extensive, diverse work extends into the world of entertainment and beyond

    BK: What kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?

    Anything without a shirt! Not really, but I prefer tank tops and shorts. I like to wear as little as possible. Whenever I’m on TV, stylist always try to style me – I go with it, but I prefer a ‘Less is More’ philosophy… Growing up in Arizona, the temperature frequently soars way above 90º – you just don’t need or think about clothes!

    You learn a lot about yourself and your style, appearing on reality TV: For example there’s a stylist who rummages through your wardrobe and decides which clothes are TV friendly.  Well,  I learned that apparently everything I own, is plaid.  And plaid is not TV friendly as it creates a moire pattern on camera. So they chucked out all my clothes and bought me new ones.  I guess the moral of that story is that, if you ever go on a reality tv show, only bring plaid threads, and, voila, you’ll get a whole new wardrobe.  It pays to be plaid, I guess.

    BK: When you were a child, did you want to become an Designer?

    I think you’re born gay or straight, and you’re born a designer.  You either are, or you’re not. As a kid I was into exploring that aspect of my creativity.  As a child, my mother was a recent divorcee and we moved into a very humble, micro apartment. We were dirt poor, but we had a blast there.  At  5 yo my mom allowed me to decorate our new home with the help of my very artistic aunt Jerelynn. But it was carte blanche, as long as it was thrifty.  Of course it meant that we ended up with clouds on the bedroom ceiling, trees on the bathroom walls and flowers in the kitchen.  I picked out a baby blue phone and we had that blue phone for 15 years!  It was in my DNA, a sensibility, fostered, by mom and my 3 amazing aunts. They were three flight attendants in the “coffee, tea or me” era! If you asked my aunts – nothing was impossible. They were all very beautiful women, with style and elegance, and I think it rubbed off on me because I wanted to be just like them.

    BK: Where do you work on your projects?

    My little studio. I try to create a simple mood or space. For example in my San Diego studio, I created an indoor campground: My bedroom was a real camping trailer, and there was an indoor lawn with patio furniture and a tree to work under. The branches and leaves diffused the light from the huge glass windows, and I loved that. My current space is a very “Airline Inspired” esthetic. I’ve decked it out with airport lounge chairs and interior design cues.  I do a lot with creative interior spaces, Actually, I even used to host a live tv show in San Diego on how to make over a space for $100. I did that for several years! It was a lot of fun.


    getaway_b Internships-15 Internships-16 Internships-17

    Ideation sketches for Citroën C1 & Various Concepts  Want to buy Bryan’s Sketches? Check his website here >  (Buy The Art) http://www.bryanthompsondesign.com/own-my-art

    BK: Is there any designer and/or architect from the past, you appreciate a lot?

    There are so many but the one that probably inspired me to be a professional designer was Bill Krisel, an architect  of popular tract homes Palm Springs.  He pioneered the butterfly roof, low-cost ranch home.  I was always drawn to his work. His work was always whimsical and happy, and somehow humble yet dreamy. His designs were always very airy, and uplifting. I have one of his signed drawings, and you’d think it was a Davinci the way I’ve cherish it.

    BK: Are there any contemporary Industrial Designers you appreciate the work of?

    I’m always inspired by ones who created iconic brands like Karim Rashid, Mark Newson, Michael Graves (whom I’ve actually been in bed with, but that’s a whole different story, and not, perhaps, what you might think from that statement..),and the Bouroullec brothers, out of France. Their work is phenomenal, so modern and new – not cold or sombre like contemporary design can be sometimes. In the automotive world, it would be Tom Matano, (creator of the Mazda Miata) Alfonso Albaisa (head of Infiniti design now), Nissan’s Diane Allen (I always have a thing for a super-talented power woman) and of course, Camilo Pardo . Getting to work with him on Motor City Masters, was like getting to work with another mentor.

    BK: Describe your style, like a good friend of yours would describe it.

    Well, I think its whimsical, modern, bold. When you look at my work, I want you to think:  I’ve never seen (this) before, and I’m suddenly happier.


    For Bryan Thompson, no challenge is too large … or too small

    BK: Which project has given you the most satisfaction?

    Haha, well, its sort of like Sophie’s Choice – they’re all my favorite babies. I worked at

    Nissan for just about a decade, of course, and designed Executive Jet Interiors in Brazil, and on set design for Katy Perry.  So I guess it’s somewhere between trucks and vans, jets, and banana-leaf thrones. I like the idea that plumbers, pop-stars and billionaires have somehow been affected by my work, and me by them.  Good design is fun and inspiring to create for anyone, no matter what they do.

    I’ve been especially interested in helping kids reach their dreams in design for a while! While at Nissan, I had the pleasure of teaming with fashion designer, Marc Ecko on a Nissan Car Design Project for Inner City Kids.

    The Bryan Thompson Scholarship is personal to me. I am humbled and proud by the response and interest and support. Always wanted to create scholarship for LGBT students. As a gay man and designer myself, I know the challenges first hand and hopefully, I can inspire others to follow my path.  I’m very grateful to Camilo Pardo for contributing the expensive, new Camaro Z28 prize, and helping make it happen.  

    I’m overwhelmed by the support – both colleges, Art Center and CCS agreed to support and manage the fund – this is cool.

    We’re shooting a 2015 calendar now with proceeds going to the fund.  It features twelve talented designers and support professionals in the car industry, showing that you can make it in this field, and that its OK to be proud of who you are.  The photographs are gorgeous, shot by celebrity photographer (and super handsome life partner) Gabriel Goldberg. All the participants are part of the car industry, and agreed to tell their stories — incredible inspiring tales of triumph over adversity.  When I sort of timidly proposed the idea, I didn’t expect everyone I asked to say yes with such enthusiasm – thrilled with the support we’re getting.  I want it to inspire that talented kid out there who’s just realizing he or she is gay, and is being told that something is wrong with them.  I hope they will see this calendar, and know that anyone who’s discouraging them is wrong, and they are right.


    Bryan’s big move to give back: The Bryan Thompson Scholarship was announced just after his top finish on the Motor City Masters TV series

     BK: What advice would you give to the young Designers in this age?

    First piece of advice is don’t think about the cost of school. Go into it knowing that you will find your way. If you can get accepted to Art Center or CCS, the opportunities will come.  I couldn’t afford it, I was by no means well off.  And there were many chances to give up. But I’m so glad I never stopped.  If you’re a designer in your heart, pursue any kind of design that you love, and only listen to the people who encourage you.


    I’m very grateful to Camilo Pardo for contributing the expensive, new Camaro Z28 prize, and helping make it happen.

     BK: What’s next for Bryan Thompson? Can we expect to see some Bryan Thompson apparel? Or, perhaps some other design products from Bryan Thompson Design in the near future?

    Absolutely.  I want to design everything!  It’s true.  But I’d love to do more things to affect peoples lives. More TV and inspirational TV.  Design, showcase and tell stories.

    The only thing I’m afraid of in the future? Not being in position to create or be creative.  I want to keep going for the good stuff.


    Promotional video from the debut season of Motor City Masters


    Bryan Thompson is an industrial designer and television host. With 15 years in the automotive industry designing for major car companies including Nissan, Peugeot and Volvo/Mack Trucks, he has had multiple designs manufactured by Nissan, has designed in studios around the world. He was most recently the runner-up on the premiere season of Internationally broadcasted Reality TV series, Motor City Masters from TruTV in the United States.


    interview by madison avenue veteran.creative director benir koranache owner of celebrity brand focused consultancy bkltd.co based in london, england and new york city


  • apollowati 12:55 pm on January 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Interview   

    #INTERVIEW: Grammy Winner #FritzKlaetke of @VDialogue Talks #music and #design 

    Fritz Klaetke of Visual Dialogue

    2013 was a terrific year for the Grammy Awards. Especially if you were Fritz Klaetke; who became a distinguished new member of an exclusive club of non-musicians to win a Grammy Award. He even edged out his fellow, high school alumni, Jack White (!) on the honour. I’m not just tooting his horn, he’s really that good!

    • what is the best moment of the day for Fritz Klaetke to create?

    i try to be open to the moment when the idea hits so it could be any time, but most frequently when i’m not at my desk, or sitting at the computer, or thinking about the million things that need to get done that day. like a lot of creatives, the magic happens when i’m out for a walk, falling asleep, just waking up—anything but “at work.” (even though i’m always really “at work” coming up with ideas—i can’t turn it off…)

    • what type of books are on your bedside table?

    i usually have a range of books piled by my bedside—design, business, and yes, the occasional novel.

    • do you listen to the radio?

    my first choice is usually npr, but if my 11 year old daughter is with me of course she’s in control. (in which case we might be listening to “call me maybe” over and over and over…)

    • where do you get your news from?

    mostly the boston globe and npr, with other stories from links on facebook or twitter to nytimes, huffington post, fast company, etc.


    Visual Dialogue created this trophy for the NCAA. The 18” tall trophy features polished upper surfaces and sandblasted lower surfaces bursting forth from a black granite base. The faceted figure we designed and sculpted created an iconic image of a football hero without portraying one specific position or race.

    • do you read design / architecture / science magazines?

    well i subscribe to communication arts (my studio, visual dialogue, is featured in the march issue) and the new yorker, but i also tend to pick up dwell, interior design, wallpaper, print, wired, and whatever is lying around at the gym.

    • do you have any pets?

    no but my daughter would love one (she had a fish for a while).

    • how does your design influence how you dress?

    uh, i think you’re making a connection between graphic design and fashion… i do think there are a lots of similarities in the design process and the balance between classic standards and the latest trends.

    • what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?

    i tend to avoid anything with obvious logos—ironic since i’m a designer who creates brands and makes logos for a living.

    • when you were a child, did you want to become an Designer?

    well, after the usual boyhood dream career phase—like wanting to be a nfl quarterback—i settled on design in high school (a prototype magnet school called cass tech, in detroit). my first “commercial art” project in high school was a redesign on the tylenol packaging, right after the cyanide poisoning incident which was all over the news. the notion of combining my interest in art with real world problems to solve hooked me right away. i also think being a designer was in my dna—my dad was an architect and my mom is a painter, so if you combine the two you get a graphic designer.


    Fritz Klaetke and Visual Dialogue worked closely with Moshe on every aspect of the 288-page book design. The entire layout of the book is based on the Fibonacci grid (“the golden section”), referencing Moshe’s use of geometry in his designs. The introductory essays are presented as books within the book while the project sections function as virtual “walk-throughs” of his designs.

    • where do you work on your projects?

    my company, visual dialogue, is headquartered in a rowhouse built in 1850 in boston’s south end neighborhood. the first 2 floors are work space and the 3 floors above are living space for my partner susan, daughter ava, and myself.

    • do you discuss your work with other Designers?

    not formally, but i like to meet up with other designers for lunch, etc. to catch up. generally we just go over projects here with the head of strategy susan battista, copy director joe fox, senior developer jesse hart, designer/developer kimber lynch, and a student intern.


    Visual Dialogue referenced the type and colors of the original Folkways JAZZ LPs in creating an entirely new design for Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology. The package combines a 200-page book with 6 CDs in a translucent slipcase, befitting what Time magazine called “the single best introduction to America’s first great musical form.” And in the words of producer Richard Burgess, “reaction to the Jazz set has been phenomenal—the look and feel has been a big part of the instant impact. I really think you nailed it.”

    • having a father as an architect, its safe to say you appreciate architecture as a major influence to your aesthetic?

    well, ii grew up in lafayette park, a development in detroit designed by ludwig mies van der rohe, so that utopian modernism was something i’ve always appreciated. i also have respect the multi-disciplinary quality of charles and ray eames’ work.

    • are there any contemporary designers you fancy in particular?

    a couple of my favorites are scott stowell of open in nyc (smart work across many industries), yves behar (work which crosses disciplines), but the list is long…

    Fritz accepts grammy

    2013. Mr. Fritz Klaetke’s acceptance speech at the Grammys for music packaging design

    • describe your style, like a good friend of yours would describe it.

    hopefully a friend would describe it as “smart.” .. i think it’s been remarkably consistent. for example i did my first music packaging for a friend’s band over 20 years ago and have done over a 100 cd packages over the years and just won a grammy for woody at 100. but i’ve always tried to stay up with the latest things—we did our first website in 1994 and continue to evolve into new areas—video, advertising, interiors, public art, etc.

    • tell us about your team, is it a mix of different backgrounds?

    the core team here is very small—and that’s how we like it. our strategy director susan battista previously ran the market research firm topic 101 (http://www.topic101.com) and before that worked as a research strategist on both agency and client sides. our copy director joe fox has worked for a variety of boston area ad agencies. and, well, i’ve never worked anywhere other than visual dialogue which i founded while i was still in school at the university of michigan.


    Susan Battista, principal/strategy director; Fritz Klaetke, principal/design director; Joe Fox

    • which project has given you the most satisfaction?

    it’s hard to say which one has given the most satisfaction, but the grammy for woody at 100 packaging certainly has received the most attention.

    • is there some Product you would like to Design?

    it’s not exactly a product, but i’d like to get more into how political candidates and issues are framed within the context of design and marketing.

    • what advice would you give to the young Designers in this age?

    be open—open to ideas, media, input, experiences, and learning.

    vd_commarts_article_marchapril2013 copy

    A mere sample of Fritz Klaetke’s long intern as design director for Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, client.

    • is there anything you are afraid of regarding the future?

    like global warming? actually, yes, i’m very afraid of cities like boston and new york becoming venice by the time my daughter grows up.

    • What’s next for Fritz Klaetke? Other designers I know, cross into other disciplines, like Karim Rashid, who has experimented well beyond his roots as an Industrial Designer. And fashion designer, Maurice Malone, who tackles packaging and advertising … can we expect to see some Fritz Klaetke apparel? Or perhaps some Industrial design products from Visual Dialogue in the near future?

    we’re interested in getting more into holistic branding for organizations—moving beyond the logo, signage, website, advertising, and print materials into the overall user experience including architecture, interiors, and overall consultant. i guess Creative Director with a capital CD — directing the creative aspect of an organization.

    A promotional video depicting Visual Dialogue’s position as a leading design firm and advertising agency

    fritz klaetke is a german-american raised in detroit, mi and currently lives and works in boston, ma. he studied graphic design at the university of michigan graduating with distinction in 1988 and moved to boston where he began his successful career as a leading graphic designer.

    an artist, designer, sculptor, painter and illustrator, klaetke’s skills are multi-disciplinary. his design works have exhibited at institutions such as the cooper hewitt museum, new york and the smithsonian institute in washington, dc.


    interview by madison avenue veteran.creative director benir koranache owner of celebrity brand focused consultancy bkltd.co based in london, england and new york city


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