Von Glitschka's former boss deserves a round of applause.
Is it because of the valuable insights he passed on? Or,
for taking a young artist under his wing and nurturing his
talent? Nope, not this time. This ovation goes out for giving
Vonster the boot. This abrupt invitation to the unemployment
line was the catalyst that launched the award-winning Glitschka
Studio. He never made it to the line, though. Von embraced
his fear and dove in.
From his digs in the rain forest of the Pacific Northwest,
Von churns out boat loads of unique logos and complete brands;
GUI designs & icons; print collateral; advertising; product
graphics; flash animations; character design and, of course,
illustration. Poised for versatility, his clients are typically
larger ad agencies and design firms, along with in-house
art departments. As Von puts it, "I've established many professional
relationships with local and out-of-state agencies. They
they can throw me pretty much anything and I'll take it and
run. This is a big benefit for a large agency. Art directors
love being able to just dump work on me, knowing they don't
have to hold my hand and while they move on to other pressing
projects. They have confidence in knowing I'll execute the
one they gave me with precision."
While we're handing out kudos to Glitschka's former boss,
I suppose Pythagoras, and his numerical cronies, deserve
round of applause, too. It was a case of math anxiety that
ultimately would lead Von into a design career. Von said,
"I looked into film school, since some friends and I had
made our own movies and stop-frame animations. But, this
before the dawn of the Internet and we couldn't find any
in Washington State. Then, one day, a representative of
Art Institute came into our class and showed us a book of
student work. At that moment I knew I wanted to go to art
Glitschka graduated at the top of his class. But, since it
was during an economic slump, it took him eight months to
find a paycheck. An ark full of interviews resulted in comments
like, "Great work, but you don't have any experience," and
"I don't hire anyone whose work intimidates me." One ad agency
loved his work and asked him to help them work up some concepts
for a project. He did and never heard another peep from them.
As Von says, "I was young and ignorant and several people
took advantage of that."
Over the next 18 years, he worked at small and large design
firms, ad agencies and corporate art departments while honing
his craft and vision. Each step brought new growth and the
opportunities to expand his creative abilities.
We all have those whose work we admire and help shape our
own creative slant. The 1950's LP art director, Jim Flora,
was a huge influence on Von. "Flora did a lot of LP covers
for RCA during the latter end of the big band and swing
My parents owned a lot of these LPs and I was fascinated
by the artwork and design. It wasn't until 1999 that I realized
who the talent was behind the art. I was too late to tell
him how much I admired his work. He passed away in 1998.
did get the opportunity to talk with his son and told him
how much I admired his dad's work. He emailed me some later
work his dad had done that I'd never seen, and it too was
Early in my design career, (right when computers came onto
the scene professionally) I noticed the amazing work of
Brody. Simple, bold, powerful graphics distinctly labeled
his work as his own. That caused me to look at myself and
how I worked. I realized I wasn't investing enough of a voice
into my work, and from that moment, I changed the entire
I approached a job. That fundamentally changed my work and
my attitude towards what I do.
Other influences were MAD magazine, of which my mom didn't
approve, so I would smuggle it into my room in my pants and
hide it under my bed. Another biggie was the work of Norman
Rockwell. My parents had a book of his art on our coffee table
and I would always just sit and look at it. What struck me
was the settings were not too terribly interesting but the
amount of visual voice he could give his characters absolutely
captivated me," said Von.
When asked about his business style, he noted, "My style,
specifically the briefs I use, have been compiled from what
I thought was the best of other firms I've either worked for
or with. I admired the way they handled certain aspects of
business and, since I learn by example more then reading,
I just picked up on it."
None the less, Glitschka is an avid reader. You can often
find him perusing the pages of 'Creativity,' 'INC,' 'Wired'
and 'Fast Company,' among others. He usually finds many good
suggestions for running and operating his business. Von
"I am also fortunate to have a friend who used to be one
of the head corporate suits for Gallo Wines and Coca Cola.
As my business mentor, we meet once a month and he holds
accountable to goals I have and gives me good feedback on
It's all about the process
One of Glitschka Studio's main strengths lies in its process.
It's what allows the firm to create a solution that's appropriate
to the project's scope and goal. Von commented, "The methodology
for our creative process has a lot of up-front left brain
thinking for the sole purpose of freeing the right brain
to execute the work and keep it on track with the target
and project specs. We do this with our creative briefs whether
it's for a logo development, web site, printed piece or
This only applies to our own managed clients, however, and
not the larger agencies we work for who have their own established
He continued, "One approach that makes us a bit unique in
terms of how we work is that we value input from the client.
But, that said, we never allow that input to limit our approach.
It's pretty easy to determine up-front a client's expectations
and, as much as it is possible, we try to create work that
goes beyond our clients perspective and look at it in a
way. Our batting average has been good and this approach
has won over many clients who, now when they approach us,
say, 'Here. You know what you're doing.' That is a very
rewarding relationship to have with your clients. Your best
in good design serves their best interest as well."
The art of the doodle
Doodling has always been second nature to Glitschka. He's
been actively and artfully doing it since he was around two
years old. Although it tickled him pink, his teachers weren't
always impressed with his schoolwork being decorated down
the margins. Perhaps it's a genetic thing. Now he gets a good
laugh when his daughters' teachers complain about the same
Von said, "I always doodle. Literally, doesn't matter where
I am at or what I am doing; if it comes to mind, then I'll
a way to get it on paper. Some of my best doodling and ideas
come while sitting in church during a sermon, much to my
chagrin. Or, I might do it while talking on the phone with
a client. It's not that I don't pay attention, but I actually
pay better attention, and I am not really thinking about
what I am drawing; it just kind of flows out of my brain
This pastime has lead him to create his doodle folder and
binder. He keeps all his doodles, sorts them, cuts up this
and that and stores them in a folder. After a few months,
when the folder is full, he sorts and edits, putting the
in a binder. Sometimes he'll even embellish a few with stories.
It's one of Von's most prized art-related possessions. So
much so, that he keeps it in a fireproof vault. You can take
a gander at some at http://www.glitschka.com/archives.html.
Joys and challenges
Von considers himself a dreamer. Being able to take some
of those dreams and make them a reality through his work
been a source of enjoyment for him. Glitschka added, "Being
my own boss has freed my creative process so much, I no
merely execute another person or agency's creative vision.
I have the luxury of picking who I work for now, and that
me the choice of what I want to do. It enables me to have
the type of control I desire with my projects. The fact
agencies approach me solely on the basis of having me work
the way I like is just simply a great thing. And having
client get as excited about a design or illustrative solution
as I do is icing on the cake."
On the flip side of that are those days when the creative
well dries up. For Von, the way around that is to take a break
and recharge. As he says, "Some days I just simply lack the
ability to draw and I have to take a break and re-charge.
Doesn't happen a lot but usually when it does it's at a critical
deadline, so it drives me nuts.
I also have a hard time keeping my mind on track. If I don't
really focus, my mind easily strays onto rabbit trails of
and a few hours will go by and I'll think, 'Oh yeah I was
suppose to be doing that.' Then I'll change gears and start
where I left off 2 hours prior. What helps me is to plug
into my iPod and listen to old time radio dramas and just
cranking on my project."
When asked how he sees professional design affecting the
business community, he replied, "A good design solution
can benefit a company in powerful ways. Both equity-wise
in the public
at large in terms of an identity and bottom line in terms
of profits directly related to their marketing efforts.
of money is wasted on poor design that will return nothing.
It's impossible for me to look at design without critiquing
it. My wife probably gets more tired of this than anyone
because she tends to be the audience that gets to hear it.
Sometimes she doesn't agree with me and then I have to analyze
my own take on it and see if I am just too close to the industry
and just don't get it. When that happens, my wife is usually
right. I see so much work being done for large companies
that could be done so much more creatively and thus be more
I've always liked the name Don Wellers used for his design
firm: 'Weller Institute for the Cure of Design'. This name
embodies the attitude I take on design. I look at companies
and what they are doing and I want to remedy their design
sickness. Then, when the design is cured, enjoy watching the
company become healthier."
Major challenges facing designers today
Gone are the days of t-squares, triangles and border tape.
stat cameras, 360 pads, and hot press board have been replaced
with scanners, software and computers. Although many don't
miss type galleys, rubber cement all over the place and that
missing sub-head that managed to get stuck to your elbow,
digital workflow has created its own set of problems for designers.
As Von said, "Computers have added so much ease to what we
do now. But this ease has also lowered the level of ability
once needed to enter this profession. The lack of craftsmanship
and talent that once prevented the marginal wannabe from entering
this industry is no longer there. This has created a common
mentality in the public-at-large towards our industry. Many
now do not see the intrinsic value of good design. They hold
to the belief that if you own a PC, software program, some
clip-art and fonts, then you too can be a designer."
On bargain basement identities, he added, "One of the most
important things a new company can invest in is a solid identity.
A well-crafted logo can go a long way in helping a company
position itself in the marketplace, gain needed exposure,
build brand equity and become one of their most important
If you do a Google search for 'Logo Design' you'll pull up
a plethora of "do-it-yourself" logo sites. Template logos,
where you just drop in your name and, for a mere $29.95,
done. These sites and tactics aren't being done by professionals
who know the importance of a well-conceived identity based
on solid marketing principles and well-conceived design solutions.
It's being propagated by those who know how to use the
(software) and want to make a quick, albeit cheap, buck.
Lets face it, the public-at-large is ignorant about design
in general, not to mention an identity. Good designers educate
their clients and, when it is done properly, the clients know
the value of their services. They see the practical benefits.
You get none of that with these fast and dirty logo whores.
All they do is feed the ignorance toward our industry and
lower the perceived value the public-at-large has for what
we do. $29.95 doesn't even cover any self-respecting designers
fee for one hour's worth of work, yet these hacks are willing
to crank out your company's image in a matter of minutes and
move on to the next victim."
Challenges facing the client companies
As for the client companies, Von, sadly, sees a trend toward
mediocrity. "The compromise of creative ideas and concepts
for the sake of 'safe' marketing is something I just see
happen way too much," he said.
Another problem are marketing folks with a yearning to play
art director. He believes too many companies view their
department as mere extensions of Marketing's arm. When a
project or new product fails to achieve Marketing's goals,
to never take the blame and then, pointing at the creative
department, say, "The design wasn't right."
Advice from the Vonster
Glitschka suggests that up-and-coming designers take time
to refine their process. He feels it's critical to work through
your concepts, refine, work through them again until you have
solid, concept-based, design directions developed. Then, and
only then, touch the computer and begin executing them. He
summed up, "Perfect your creative process, don't settle for
mediocre. View every project as a potential portfolio piece.
If you don't like what you're doing, odds are the client
won't either. The design and illustration have to speak to
your voice needs to come through. You have to invest something
of yourself into the project and then, once you do, the
process will flow easier, you're solutions will be stronger
and your batting average with clients approvals will go
If you don't doodle, start. And don't tell me "I can't draw
a stick figure." because that's a doodle. Anything goes. Here's
a creative exercise I do with my two girls. I draw a random
squiggly line on a sheet of paper and then they have to use
that line and make something. I got this idea from a friend
in Electronics class in high school. He was too lazy to go
find a pencil sharpener and rolled his pencil on a sheet of
paper to sharpen the point. I saw these squiggly lines and
drew something out of each one. My friend saw that and it
started a weekly ritual to pass the time during class. So
grab a pencil, draw a squiggle and doodle something today!"
As for clients, Glitschka suggests finding a good designer
who not only has good design sense, but a solid understanding
of marketing. Then, trust him or her with your company's image
Beyond this, he suggests checking www.aiga.com and find a
local chapter near you to get a referral. You'll be directed
towards a professional, not a hack who knows the right pull-down
menus and has some clip-art and a PC.
Down the road
The Vonster has a vision. Down the road he'd like to see his
practice grow to 3-7 creatives working in a loft studio cranking
out killer design and illustration. He anticipates producing
more of their own product lines and, as he puts it, "generally
having a swell time hanging out together doing what we love
to do. I think it's a very real possibility."
Farther down the glitzy road, the Glitschka looks forward
to the day he hires his oldest daughter as a designer/illustrator
and watches as she flourishes in her creative career.