Sasha Prood

Tell us about yourself.
I grew up just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA and trained at Carnegie Mellon‘s School of Design, St. Gallen, Switzerland’s Schule fur Gestaltung and Cooper Union’s typeface design program Type@Cooper. I currently reside in Brooklyn, New York and am a full-time freelance designer, illustrator and artist. Additionally, I’m studying at the School of Visual Arts in their Designer as Author & Entrepreneur Master’s program as a member of the class of 2015. The themes of my work vary, but stay within the parameters of the organic, the natural and the scientific. Each of my pieces is a carefully considered composition of hand lettering, illustration or pattern design built with graphite, ink and/or watercolor paint. I use the computer as a (mostly invisible) tool to help execute my vision. With each new project, I push the boundaries of both the mediums I work in and the themes I work with to create unique final pieces. This work has been published through collaboration with a variety of clients including HarperCollins Publishers, Bon Appétit Magazine, J.Crew, Target and DraftFCB. My work has been featured in many books, magazines and blogs. These include Chronicle Book’s ‘The Little Book of Lettering’, Gestalten’s ‘Los Logos 6′, Computer Arts Magazine, ELLE Interiör Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings’ blog and Daily Candy. I have also exhibited my work internationally, including ’75 Peters’ in Brisbane and London, ‘Expletive: Ugly Words to Admire’ in Minneapolis, ‘Types We Can Make’ in New York City and ‘Early Bloom’ in Brooklyn.

What is beauty to you and how do you define beauty?
To me, beauty is whatever catches my eye, from an interesting leaf to an oddly shaped stain to an exceptional piece of contemporary art.

At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to pursue art occupationally?
I always knew that I would be a part of the art world in some way—However, as a child I thought that my choices were fine art or bust. In high school while contemplating colleges, I started to learn more about the different careers that were open to artists. With my mother’s concerned guidance, I started to learn about graphic design, illustration, etc.

Were you always creative as a child?
Yes, I was always making things as far back as I can remember.

You trained at various universities and colleges to study design, beginning with Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design.  What were some of the greatest skills or lessons you took away from your time at Carnegie?
Carnegie Mellon’s communication design program taught me the fundamentals of being a good designer. I learned everything from how to use Adobe design programs, to the rules of layout and typesetting, to how designers conceptualize projects. Before Carnegie Mellon I had no real understanding of graphic design—they basically taught me everything from scratch.

You also trained in Switzerland at Schule fur Gestaltung. How did you come to study abroad in Europe? Did you find that the form of education and techniques were different from the teachings in America?
Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design has an official exchange program with the Schule fur Gestaltung in St. Gallen, Switzerland. I had to apply to the program and be selected by faculty to participate. I was fortunate to be one of the two American students selected to exchange with two Swiss students. The program was absolutely amazing—it was one of the best experiences of my life. Swiss design is something very special—learning their formal design style/skills/techniques is an intense, yet awesome process. You learn to appreciate typography, the grid, the smart conceptualization of ideas, etc. in a new way. Learning design at Carnegie Mellon was amazing too, but not quite as intense and structured. In the Swiss program, no matter what, you were going to learn something everyday, while in the American program, what you put into it was what you got out of it.

Even now, as a freelance designer and illustrator, you are studying at the School of Visual Arts. Clearly, education is very important to you. What are you currently studying as a student of the Author and Entrepreneur Master’s program?
SVA’s MFA Design program starts in the fall—I have not actually had the chance to studying there yet. I am extremely excited to learn all about being a creative business owner and author. My dream is to have a successful small business and to publish playful and unexpected art books. I chose to apply to and was accepted into their unique program because I’m interested in becoming more educated on how to best execute these career goals.

How did you come to work with paper as your primary medium? What is so special about paper?
My initial introduction to art was extremely broad—I worked with every medium available from clay to oil paint to charcoal to block printing to digital and on and on. After experimenting with all of these mediums for over 10 years, I was able to narrow down my interest to a select few that really moved me to create. Interestingly enough, all of these mediums are meant for application on paper—graphite, ink and watercolor. Additionally, my passion for design is print-centric—I love creating design work that is then turned into a book or poster or something else tactile. It is an inexplicably good feeling to see my initial vision in final form on paper.

How did you get introduced to typography?
I was initially introduced to typography in college as a component of learning the fundamental skills of graphic design—This first introduction was with a more classical sensibility. When I started working in-house at J.Crew I was introduced to how one might brake those formal design rules in exciting ways. From there, I started to look at typography through the eyes of a hand letterer and began to develop my own more expressive and playful typographic point-of-view.

A major highlight in your career was your work with J. Crew and Madewell. Can you tell us about your work for aforementioned companies? How was the experience?
Working with J.Crew Group on their brands J.Crew, Madewell and Crewcuts was an amazing learning experience. This was my first ‘real job’ out of school and I discovered that no matter how creative you are, there is so much more to learn. I was introduced to everything from how big businesses run, to the correct way to take art from the computer to a final printed piece, to integrating design and illustration together (which helped me develop my personal point-of-view as an artist).

As an illustrator who works primarily with pens, are you partial or loyal to a certain brand? How many pens do you go through for a single illustration, averagely-speaking?
My favorite pen brands are Micron size ‘005’ for black ink and Stabilo size ‘point 88’ for colored ink. And I actually don’t often ‘kill’ pens on a single project. I switch between several in one illustration, so as to give each one a bit of a ‘break’—it seems to help them last longer.

Tell us about your typography work, particularly your Botanica Caps poster. How did you research the different plants featured in each letter?
I did a lot of initial planning when creating my Botanica Caps poster; this has become my standard approach for all projects. I’m an advocate of doing a lot of research and sketching before starting any final art. In this case, I went online and looked at tons of images of plants. From there I created a photo archive that I could pull from while drawing each letter. When selecting a plant for each character I looked for flora that could naturally form the shapes without any need for ‘molding’.

What role does color play in your work?
Color is an important aspect of any project—it can make or break the final result. In the past I have tended toward a fairly neutral pallet, but over the years I have continued to push my use of color to bigger and bolder combinations.

Though each of your works are individual, which hold a particularly special place in your heart?
Currently I’m interested in the concepts of crystal/crystallization and liquid/gel. These areas of focus have resulted in the creation of my Geometric Crystal illustration and Simple Things hand lettering. I’m particularly excited about the direction these two projects have taken.

What’s a day in the life of Sasha Prood?
A day for me currently is pretty straight forward. I get up early, walk my dog and do emails. I will continue to work, run errands, etc. for the rest of the day with breaks for lunch and dinner. I normally work late into the night. Once graduate school starts, I expect that this schedule will become a lot more varied and intense.

Who and what inspires you?
It might sound a little cheesy, but I find inspiration everywhere. I love the organization and sense of simplicity found in geometry. I find science to be inspirational, particularly biology—cells, molecules, etc. I have included animals, vegetables and minerals—anything natural and organic – into much of my work. Things from childhood are also inspirational to me, particularly items with a sense of play and humor.  I’m attracted to vintage items, especially ones that are typographic in nature. Everyday ‘mundane’ things that are basic and utilitarian as well as anything handmade—particularly cultural items such as textiles, ceramics, basket weaving, etc. are inspirational to me. I’m also interested in aspects of black magic and ritual. And on and on!

As a New Yorker, what are your favorite locations?
Favorite Museums: The Whitney, The Guggenheim and MoMA PS1. Fun Shops: The Brooklyn Flea, Kiosk, and Buffalo Exchange. Tasty Food Locations: Doughnut Planet, City Bakery (really good lunch buffett!) and Peels (awesome desert!).

What songs are on your personal playlist?
I currently don’t have a playlist per say—I grew up in Philly and my mother works at the University of Pennsylvania as a professor and cancer researcher, so I was raised on the radio station WXPN. I have live streamed this station for years as my main source of music. I’m a big fan of indie singer/songwriter type music. Some of my favorites are Spoon, Wilco, Elliott Smith, Erin McKeown, The Civil Wars, etc.

What are three things most people don’t know about you?
1. I have an unhealthy obsession with donuts.
2. I’m extremely allergic to almost all of nature (which some may find odd because it is the primary source of my artistic inspiration).
3. I come from a family of cancer and environmental scientists (whom I find to be truly inspirational both educationally and artistically).

For more of Sasha’s work, check out her website.