• UO Journal: No Man's Land

    Urban Outfitters is proud to present Urban Outfitters Journal, a new print publication that represents the culture and stories behind the UO Men’s brand, available now at select Urban Outfitters locations. 

    LAND, a two-man design studio based in Austin, hinges on a unique form of interdisciplinary collaboration. Founders Ryan Rhodes and Caleb Everitt first met while working in the worlds of commercial advertising and graphic design before joining forces to open their own studio. LAND is known for taking esoteric iconography, and reinterpreting it through the lens of contemporary design. We visited the duo at their East Austin studio and asked them about their growing international audience, where you can find them on their day off—probably riding motorcycles through the Texas Hill Country—and their mantra “with, not for.”
    Words by Ramona Flume
    Photos by Alexandra Valenti 

    LAND creates original artwork and collaborates on commercial graphic design projects. How are you currently balancing that dual workload? 
    Ryan: In the past couple of years, we’ve wanted to do more art projects and whittle down our commercial work –or at least curate it to a select group of clients so we have more time for our own art. We’ve been working towards that for a while now and it’s actually starting to happen, which is really exciting. We’ve started a web store and now that it’s up, we’re coming up with tons of ideas and new products. 

    How does your creative partnership influence LAND’s aesthetic? 
    Caleb: It yields the weirdest, coolest results that we wouldn’t come up with otherwise. After mixing and reworking each other’s ideas, it just turns into something bigger than both of us individually. 

    Besides the mix of commercial and independent designs, you strike another balance — between heady, intellectual inspirations and an earthy, all-natural aesthetic. 
    Ryan: We’re always trying to balance that refinement versus natural or organic feeling in our work. With type, we learn all these rules of typography and at some point say, “What if we forget about all that and re-approach it in a different way?” It’s fun to try and think like a caveman. 
    Caleb: We put everything through a sort of intellectual or mathematical process to make sure that the composition is weighted and that everything makes sense and then kind of degrade it by putting it through a caveman filter. 

    Caleb shows LANDS work at their East Austin studio. 

    How do initial inspirations move forward through the various stages and “caveman” filters of your creative process? 
    Ryan: We always find more inspiration in things that don’t bring up a familiar feeling. You might look at it and feel like it’s new or different but it actually came from 100 or 200 years ago. We take objects that we found or resurrected, and place them one at a time into a design. 
    Caleb: Designers are always mining the past. But I think we’ve pushed that a bit further by looking deeper in unexpected places… Stuff that’s weird and human or just different – whether it’s typography or religious iconography or cave drawings that are thousands of years old—and then gravitating towards the humanness of those things to resurrect them in our own way. 

    Where are some places that you mine for inspiration? 
    Ryan: We’ve both collected books for years, which are constant inspirations, and we’re always going to thrift stores and citywide garage sales. 
    Caleb: We could open up any page in any old magazine and find some kind of inspiration. It could be just a few letters that evolve into a weird alphabet we use. It’s all about stumbling across things and getting inspiration from weird, overlooked pieces of the past.  

    Is your hands-on approach a reaction against the digital design age of Tumblr and Instagram? 
    Ryan: When sites like Found and other image blogs and Tumblrs came along, that really took over, but it started to feel like we were staring at a computer all the time to try and find inspiration. Then we’d wake up one day and think, ‘What am I doing? This is all just put in front of me. I used to go to all these real places and dig in dusty boxes and moldy basements.’ We’re trying to get back to that by digging through and resurrecting these objects. That really gets us off, honestly. 

    Ryan at LAND's studio space. 

    The phrase “High Lonesome” comes up in your previous work. Where do you get the inspirations for phrases like that one and “Modern as Tomorrow” and “Dog Speed” that you use in your work?
    Ryan: High Lonesome is something that’s floated around in our vocabulary for a while, we’ve been painting it on things, and it always seems to come back. It just won’t leave our lives. With other phrases, it’s mainly about changing things that already exist – or taking it out of the context that you’d normally see it in. I think it becomes something totally different and spiritual that way. It’s the same thing if we’re combing through old books and, in that moment, we find inspiration by stumbling upon two words that we think were meant to be seen as a giant picture. There’s something really beautiful about that… It’s about where you are in life and what you find at that moment. 

    You have strong ties with other artists, studios and brands around the world. How does cross-collaboration inform your process? 
    Ryan: If there’s someone out there in the world that does something really well that we want to do, it makes sense for us to try and work with them. We want to try and match up together and make something beautiful. 
    Caleb: We went through this great transition period [after doing strictly client work] and developed this mantra of “with, not for.” We had been doing things for people all the time and wanted to start doing things with them. 

    You traveled to Bali for a five-week Deus Ex Machina artist residency a few years ago and, in 2014, went to Japan for another Deus gallery show. How do those travel experiences affect your creative pace and process? 
    Ryan: We find inspiration everywhere we go, so we’re really antsy to come back [to Austin] and create. We slow down when we get to these places, just walking and talking instead of always running around and working within our same routine. I think we try to put that slowness into the work. A lot of the times we just have to get back and jam because we’re so busy, but those experiences stay with us and inform our work from that point on. Especially Japan – we went to so many vintage shops and found such beautiful pieces of history, like old painters’ drop cloths and French jackets that were probably pulled from America decades ago and reintroduced to us. We can’t help but be affected by that – be it colors or typography or even the way that Japanese is translated into English. 

    You also customize motorcycles in your studio. What kind of bikes are you attracted to? 
    Ryan: Like most everything else, we like old and vintage bikes. We like solid engines and bikes that are meant to go wherever you can take them. The stock might be kind of ugly but the guts are really good and the skeleton is there. Then we aesthetically change it from there, turning it into something that feels like it doesn’t belong anywhere. 

    What do you like about off-roading? 
    Ryan: Riding motorcycles and dirt bikes makes you look at landscape, even urban landscape, in a totally different way. Just like skateboarding or BMX, your eye is drawn towards something and you have to go see what it’s like to ride it. 

    When you’re not riding, where do you hang out around town? 
    Caleb: We go down the street to Tamale House almost every day for lunch. We love East Side King, Yellow Jacket Social Club – lots of divier bars. Even the bar next door, St. Roch’s, is growing all of a sudden. The crappier the bar, the happier I am. 
    Ryan: We tend to stay around the East Side. Honestly, we drink beer and whiskey here at the studio a lot. It’s almost like a bar. We have lots of friends that enjoy hanging out here so we spend a lot of our social time here. 

    You both grew up in small towns in Texas. Were you always drawn to Austin?
    Ryan: We’ve always been super attracted to the whole vibe and history of Austin. 
    Growing up in a small fishbowl type of town, you see Austin as the one oasis of creative, likeminded people and we’ve always loved the history of hippies and cowboys that mixed together in the ‘70s and Armadillo World Headquarters… But we’ve met so many people that have come from different places and ended up here that are now doing their own thing and creating entire lives around their creative businesses, which is amazing. It’s just a very positive place to be for us. 

    What’s next for LAND?
    Caleb: We’re working toward making more of our own products for our webstore. We’re casting jewelry, which is something that’s new for us. Then we have more pipe dreams about richer materials like stained glass and mosaics. Things we’ve been wanting to do for a while that we’ll be able to start doing in the next few months.  

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