Oct 11, 2016
30 Under 30: Leta Sobierajski and Wade Jeffree, Performance Artists and Designers
Sobierajski and Jeffree are a pair of married artists and designers whose 2015 project Complements—a series of lovingly wacky and occasionally alarming selfies—was featured in places like T Magazine and PAPER, before eventually being turned into a book. Sobierajski is also a designer and art director who has worked with clients like Bloomberg Businessweek, Google, Target, Tate Modern, and UNIQLO among many others. Jeffree is a designer who has worked with the New York/London firm, Mother (they produce extremely cool graphics) for organizations like Collective Design, the Sundance Film Festival, and New York Fashion Week. Sobierajski and Jeffree’s work is Memphis-inspired simple, colorful, and fun. Or, you could just call it, “super cool.”
Where do you live and how old are you?
L: We live in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, off the Grand stop on the L train (somewhere between the “way too cool” Bushwick area and the “way too lame” Bedford Avenue area). I am 27, and Wade is 29.
What made you first interested in your profession, and how old were you when that happened?
W: I was around 18 at the time and had no idea how to use any of the Adobe suite—I was making everything by hand! In school, I focused on painting and sculpture, but decided to take the Graphic Design elective. Once I realized that I could create and also communicate a message I was hooked.
L: I started drawing anime when I was young, and asked my parents for Photoshop for my 12th birthday so I could color my drawings. That program became my introduction to typography, color, and shape. I began sharing them on the internet—one thing led to another, and I began designing posters, logos, and eventually books. I went to Purchase College in New York State to major in Graphic Design. My first year was strictly foundation courses, encompassing sculpture, drawing, printmaking, and design. Each of these courses was incredibly hands-on, without any computer application. My first year design course was strictly painting color swatches with gauche—like Matisse did—and training our eye to distinguish hue, saturation, lightness and darkness with intuition. We used paper cutouts to create abstract compositions to emulate nouns and adjectives. Having a focus on working with my hands instead of a machine was a compelling feeling, especially when in a classroom full of people who were from all sorts of creative backgrounds. I loved the encouragement to take courses outside of my focus and continued to do so throughout my studies, spanning painting, bookmaking, and a color class based on the studies of Josef Albers. As I advanced in my studies, I continued to explore new mediums—I exercised the woodshop, the printshop, and the plaster studio, and took any opportunity to stay physical with my projects. Design became a way for me to combine all of those things.
Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
L: Thankfully, one can do anything in Brooklyn now.
W: Yes—especially as we just started our studio together. If the Pencil Factory (where our studio is located) is anything you go by, it’s never been better. It’s inspiring to see so many people running independent businesses and do their thing and be exceptionally successful at it. I love it. Ultimately, you don’t have to be in Brooklyn to create, but there is such a high density of talent here and it is humbling to be in a building with so much of it.
People and the world outside the studio are motivators and inspirations. The Internet may show work that is great, powerful, inspiring and thought-provoking. But if you are not influenced from the ground level where you stand, then it is time to change something. We are instigators of creating how culture can work, so why not be aware of what is around you and be inspired by it?
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
L: Each year brings a bounty of surprises. This past year, we got married, got a studio space, and started a business. None of it was very planned. In ten years, maybe we’ll be living in Tokyo! I have trouble seeing so far off into the future, but I guarantee that we will not be deterred from design.
W: Ideally, we’ll be living a nomadic lifestyle and running the studio from all over the world.
Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
W: Never in the slightest. I love it. Once I had made the move from painting to Graphic Design I never looked back. It’s really a profession that has taught me that I don’t have to be on a strict linear path with the blinkers on and that I can deviate into other disciplines to create, collaborate and learn. The opportunity for growth and experience is never ending as you can always be honing your craft and investing in knowledge from other disciplines to help you grow. Ideas are the key and truly are the link to great work, no matter the field.
L: The only thing that I ever think about is how to improve upon it and expand it into something new. The more I work in design, the more I learn that it is such an all encompassing subject and that one can truly do anything with it. We aim to solve problems with our work but we also aim to trigger emotional reactions and personalized experiences.
What’s felt like you’re biggest professional accomplishment?
W: Moving to New York and successfully working and starting Ikko Ikko with Leta.
L: Abandoning the comforts of a full-time job to dive headfirst into an independent career. My life has changed drastically in the past few years, but this is the most fun I have ever had, especially when I can’t see the definitive line between my work and my life.
What’s some advice you’d give to people trying to get a foothold in your industry?W: Create, create, create, ask a shit ton of questions and listen, honesty, kindness and work work your ass off. Assholes will be assholes and it’s too easy being a c*nt.
Who are your role models in your industry?
I am not sure there are captains of industry is the right way to speak about it now. there are just so many people you can respect and admire!
Our biggest inspiration comes from friends and family. We find such joy in seeing friends really come into their own and start kicking goals with work. To have them on our walls is a constant reminder of our community and what it means to truly be inspired, as it’s all about relationships.
Who would be your pick for a 30 Under 30?
Braulio Armado. Adam JK.
Should we all move to LA?
Where is that?
To read about more sub-thirty standouts, visit this year’s list of 30 Under 30.
Image by Jane Bruce
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