Surf Shacks 087

Geoff McFetridge
Los Angeles, CA

Matt Titone

Unlike other creative professions, graphic designers rarely rise to a level of fame or public notoriety. Geoff McFetridge is one of the rare exceptions; he is arguably one of the most iconic and widely known designers of the modern age. While he has mostly transitioned into fine art these days, he still maintains a balance of client-based design and branding projects. Through his incredible body of work, he has somehow managed to blur the line between art and design. Like most renowned artists, Geoff’s work is immediately recognizable and relatable. His simple, clean, and playful graphic style has inspired an entire generation of designers and illustrators around the world—myself included. Geoff lives in a 1950s ranch-style home in Los Feliz that he shares with his wife and two daughters. It has been designed with the help of renowned architect Barbara Bestor and is filled with art by all family members. His studio in Atwater Village right down the road is also brimming with creative fodder and inspiration.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

When and how did you get into graphic design?

In high school, I made zines with friends. The minute something was not drawing, I needed to know what that was, I later found out it was called graphic design. I went to a local college [the Alberta College of Art and Design] and the program was called Visual Communications. I wonder if that program actually defined who I was and what I would do: communicate visually. Regardless of that, I like that “VC” was unpretentious and at the time probably an elevated way to say “commercial art,” which is what I was trained to do in the program. Since then, they now call it “design.” I went on to get a masters degree from Cal Arts [the California Institute of the Arts] in design. At that point, I decided to stop drawing, as a way to focus more on the thinking behind what I was doing. That process I developed at Cal Arts has stuck with me, but I do it with drawing.

When and how did your career as a designer transition over more to fine art?

Is my design studio an art practice or do I have an art practice that is a design studio? I think if we are defining design as things that look graphic, or that use graphic techniques to express concepts, then I really never transitioned. I do projects for clients where I develop concepts and execute them very much the way I do paintings. I guess what I am saying is that I created a way of working where there is a consistency between different ways of working. The difference between art-making or projects is very porous. There is a division in what I do, but it is foggy. Each month, each year, each day can have a different balance.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

Describe your creative process.

Projects always start with drawing. Writing and drawing. It is like research but looking inward rather than out. From there, form or the physical making of things can begin. Then making things becomes mechanical. Painting, printing, or using the computer. Then the world comes into play. Things have a right or wrong. I have to mix colors. I have to be decisive.

What have been some of your favorite projects over the years?

I have done work for The New Yorker, which I admire, and is a magazine my parents always read. I made the flying fish logo for Patagonia, which is a brand I’ve always admired. I made a fountain for the Department of Public Works in Alhambra, which is sort of the Chinatown of Los Angeles. My grandparents lived behind a store they ran in Chinatown in Calgary. I have worked with Spike Jonze on many of his films; those are real collaborations, and I feel lucky to have been a part of them. There are so many projects that I feel close to, but truly it is hard to remember anything I do.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

Where are you from? How long have you lived here?

I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but moved to California in 1993 to go to Cal Arts. I moved to Los Angeles in 1995. We have been in this house since 2000.

Coming from Canada, how did you first get into surfing?

I have always been into skateboarding. I did not under- stand surfing for the longest time. But Takuji Masuda was part of our friend group and he had a place on the beach in Malibu. He is an incredibly accomplished longboarder, and a bit of an ambassador for surfing. This was around 1998 or 1999. We would all skate the ramp we built in Topanga and Tak started taking us longboarding in Malibu. My first board was a Takayama Double Ender. We would drink green tea and watch Morning of the Earth. I came to surfing through that type of perspective. It would have been nice to grow up surfing, but it is also special to come to something as an adult. To learn about the ocean, to look at surf history and surf culture, and really be able to appreciate it at a time in my life that was full of so much change. Our whole group of friends really sort of became surfers. For better or for worse.

What are your favorite parts about LA and the area in which you live?

I grew up in a very bland suburb. My studio and home are in tree-lined neighborhoods, but really they are right in the city. Being in the city has drawbacks. Hollywood, the Eastside, can be ugly and worse, but that is city life; you get a balance. The recent protests for Black Lives Matter are at the bottom of our street, which I’ve proudly participated in. Los Angeles is a place you love because it is complex. The more you simplify it, the less interesting it is. It might smell like flowers, but the smog is still there. That has come to be important to me, and I like that for my daughters.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, or sage advice?

It is better to make something for the person right next to you—to have a friend connect with something you made—than to have 100 strangers call you a genius. One radiates outward and the other is just radiation coming at you. Also, play the long game.

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Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director. In 2006 he moved west to Venice, CA where he co-founded ITAL/C Studio and now resides a bit further north in Oxnard.

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