Brand Interview – Peter O. Zierlein, Illustrator
How long has your company been in business? Please tell us a bit about your company, its mission, goals…
I had my first assignments as an illustrator as a teenager while still living in Germany (posters for the local swim-club and painting carnival floats) and I started freelancing right out of art school (Pratt Institute) in 1991. I made a living largely on selling t-shirts which I stenciled with spray-paint and sold as “airbrushed” T-s’ at open air concerts. I also worked part time as an air brush and silk screen artist in the then renowned “T-Shirt Gallery” on 63rd and Lexington Ave. in Manhattan. My first illustration assignments were for the Village Voice, New York Magazine and I did monthly covers for The Big Apple Parents Paper. I moved back to Germany in 1992 and picked up illustration assignments for national and international magazines and newspapers, including “Stern”, “Spiegel“, “Le Monde Diplomatique” and Berliner Zeitung. I also illustrated some book and CD covers, and I drew characters and backgrounds for electronic game companies. At this point my work started to have a distinct style and conceptual viewpoint. In 1998 I returned to New York and started illustrating for art director Steve Heller at the New York Times Book Review, which gave me a lot of exposure and I got illustration assignments from most major newspapers in the U.S. I also got involved doing posters, illustrations and public art happenings with a european school network, called “School Without Racism, School With Courage.” Lately I’ve been doing series of symmetrical paper cuts which I’ve been selling through galleries. This work is rather decorative and I want to find clients in surface design and the hospitality art market.
My mission and goal is to create graphic art that is intelligent, compassionate, legible and comprehensible. I try to achieve this by simplifying line and form in favor of content.
Do you donate to charities? Tell us about that also and why.
I have donated art for various silent auctions, such as food banks and to raise money for other social causes, because I believe in supporting those institutions. I am also into social activism through art. For some years now I have been affiliated with the organization “Schule Ohne Rassismus/Schule mit Courage,” a european student network that promotes a culture of non-violence and anti-racism through programs in High Schools. I provide posters, magazine covers and illustrations to their publications. I’m also trying to push the principles of the european organization through an independent study, called “Project Courage,” which I offer at the Art Institute of Boston. Project Courage is about creating ad-campaigns for High Schools, promoting better civic behavior and tolerance through education, discussions and group activities to undermine bullying and racism.
How did you know what typeface (font) would be right for your company wordmark or logo? If your logo has an illustration, describe why that art was the right thing, animal, place, object, etc…
I don’t really have a logo, more of a tag. I sign my work “poz*“,which stands for my initials, with an asterisk. In print I set it in Helvetica Neue, because it is easy to read.
How did you decide on the right color palette to fit your company look and feel?
My color palette depends largely on the job at hand, but I try to restrict my palette to few colors.
How did you decide which type of designer to work with, or did you design your own identity and web presence?
I have worked with a number of client’s designers around typesetting and to create web pages. For my own website I prefer a simple design and function, which I created myself.
In what order did you present your company to the world? Did you start with marketing and products, or website, blog and social media?
I first started cold-calling and sending postcards of my work to clients and bought pages in a couple of illustration sourcebooks. As I mentioned above, my illustrations were seen in print a lot, which became my best marketing tool. I also pounded the streets with my portfolio and tried to drop off and show to as many publishers, graphic designers and art directors as I could in NY and other cities that I visited. I had my first personal website in 1998.
How long after the launch of your company did you start pitching in social media?
I’ll sporadically post new work on FB or announce new uploads to my blog or website. I started that may be 2 years ago.
Did you do research or study any software, take webinars, teleclasses, before approaching any area of your marketing or web presence?
I socialize with other artists, illustrators and graphic designers and have taken some pointers about marketing and web presence in that context.
Do you advertise locally in newspapers and/or nationally in magazines? Are they effective?
Having my illustrations in print is highly effective advertisement. I have been approached for work and get comments by many people that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have reached. I have also had advertisements in Print Magazine (a trade publication where I illustrated the Rick Poynor column ‘Optic Nerve’ for a few years) and have gotten some work from that.
Do you advertise online using Google, Facebook or on other company sites? Are they effective?
I have a website and a blog that I pluck and post on various artist and illustrator sites and networks. I’ve had an online portfolio on i-spot.com, but didn’t think I needed it anymore. Web-presence is both very important and effective, especially for promoting un-commissioned or personal work. The draw-back of online promotion is that there are so many artists using the same places to post and advertise themselves, and so many more illustrators and illustrations out there, so that all artists have to work more and faster to keep up with globalized competition and speed.
When you printed your products, packaging, business cards and other print marketing did you choose an online printer or visit a local vendor?
I use local vendors.
Did you know anything about different types of papers, when you wanted to print your marketing materials?
Yes, I think it really makes a difference what papers you are printing on. For my paper cuts, the materiality of the paper is most important, as the paper itself becomes the artwork.
Have you ever used “green” technology in printing, using FSC certified papers or recycled paper and if not, how likely are you at trying this on a next project?
I’m open to the subject, but honestly – I haven’t paid much attention to the environmental aspect of printing. As an artist I’ve used oil paints, spray-paints, laquer, acids, paint-thinners, cobalt-dryers and diverse other chemicals that are probably not very environment friendly…
If you sell products, are they produced in the USA or abroad?
Proudly made in the U.S. of A. – unless I’m abroad.
Is there anything you haven’t yet tackled, but will want to do soon?
I’ d like to get into surface design and hospitality art, still looking for takers…
To learn more about Peter Zierlein, visit the links below:
- Brand Advocates in Your Corner Make Social Media Work
- Why Isn’t Branding & Design Part of Your Teleseries on Building a Business?