Name + Company:
Ben Barry / Facebook

Education Background (school / self taught, etc):
University of North Texas (BFA in Communication Design). Internships with Voelter Architecture, The Decoder Ring, & Newhouse Design. I also participated in Project M 2007.

Where you first worked (visual/commdes job, etc):
My first graphic design job was a part time student job at the University of North Texas Center for Distributed Learning. My first graphic design job after graduating was at The Decoder Ring.

Favorite book ever (design or non-design related):
This is an impossibly hard question to answer. I think it’s probably one I haven’t read yet.

Recommended design / thinking / creativity / illustration book(s):
Mainly I prefer monographs. I find it more interesting to read stories about individual designers or companies because it gives me an insight into how people whom I admire have achieved the level of success that they have.

I have an enormous library, it’s really quite a hassle to move. I do read a lot, but most of the books I have are things that I consider resources. Non design books that interest me for one reason or another.

I also have lots of other books of rules or ways to approach design, I think they’re boring, and I rarely look at them.

    Tortoise, 2008 via Ben Barry's portfolio. Decoder Ring project.

Tortoise, 2008 via Ben Barry’s portfolio. Decoder Ring project.

1. What got you into what you do?
I got into graphic design in general by a bit of luck. I’d always enjoyed drawing as a kid, and I can look back now and see other signs of a young designer at work. In Jr. High School I became interested in wanting to become an architect, and in High School I took CAD classes and ended up doing an internship as a draftsman my senior year. At the same time I was starting to goof around with Photoshop and building my first websites. I ultimately decided I wanted to be a web designer when I went to college. The closest thing they had was called “Communication Design”. I was hooked from day one. I still sometimes design for the web, but have found a true passion for designing identity systems, posters, icons, and illustrations.

2. What’s your process for coming up with new designs/illustrations?
It varies a lot from project to project. I start with researching the project and defining the problem. I draw anything that comes to mind, make lots of word lists, and look for interesting connections. Once I have an idea or direction I just make it. Sometimes I do lots of explorations, sometimes I just do one.

3. What do you regret not learning while you were in school?
How to draw. It is something that at the time I did not value or focus my energies on. Now as I increasingly get into doing more and more illustration work I feel I’m racing to catch up with some of my peers.

4. What’s your most valuable ability? i.e. conceptualization, hand/computer skills, etc.
Communicating complex ideas. Simply.

5. What do you think is the most exciting aspect of the art/design world right now?
Building systems to better organize the worlds information and the way we communicate as a civilization. It’s not what I do personally, because it’s not the type of design work that interests me or that I feel good at. However, I use my skills to help promote and communicate the ideas and messages of those doing this kind of work.

6. If you could move anywhere right now/stay anywhere, in consideration of the art/design scene, where would you go & why?
Right now I’m pretty happy right where I am. I feel like I’m at one of the most exciting companies of this decade in a position to help shape the future of their design and communications. It is a huge challenge, and I’m not going to pretend there aren’t days that I’m not frustrated, but at the end of the day I can’t imagine a place for greater potential impact.

7. What’s your daily routine?
It depends a lot on the day. Usually though I wake up, get dressed, hop on my bicycle, ride to the train station, get on the train, check and respond to email, organize my daily tasks, get off the train, ride to the office, eat breakfast, do shit, listen to this american life, eat lunch, do more shit, eat dinner, ride to the train, work on personal projects on the train ride home, ride home, sleep, repeat.

8. What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you, regarding design or otherwise?
The foolish wait.

9. In illustration/design, do you think is it more important to have a very distinct and solid style or have more of a range of styles?
That depends a lot on your own personal aspirations. I used to be very much against having a distinctive style. Even so my work has developed a certain continuity that I think is beneficial.

10. Who would you call a mentor / attribute as the inspiration in how you work / do things?
Christian Helms, Michael Newhouse, & John Bielenberg.