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Big Ideas

Ryan Waller: Thingmaking

Ryan Waller, named a "Young Gun" by the Art Director’s Club, talks Kirsten Dunst, distractions, and the importance of trusting one's intuition.


Ryan Waller was named a “Young Gun” by the Art Director’s Club, a biennial award for innovative talent in visual communications. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Ryan has made a great impact in the fields of art direction and design. Ryan’s work has appeared in magazines including Nylon, Arkitip, and Grafic. He has also exhibited in galleries around the world. Behance caught up with Ryan to discuss his latest project “The New College Beat” and his tips for staying productive amidst everyday creative chaos.After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design in 2003, Ryan was the first creative hire at Mother, the sister agency of Mother London, where he worked for three years. His most recent project, “The New College Beat,” is a booklet that explores celebrities ranging from Robert Indiana to Kirsten Dunst.As Ryan explains, “I had always been into making zines, and a few years ago I started making The New College Beat Supplements, which were these unscripted things that allowed me to polish sketchy ideas and make them into a somewhat final pieces. One was a fanzine for Kirsten Dunst. I think my intern hit it on the head when she asked, ‘I don’t get it, you just made a bunch of puns about her?’ That’s a pretty expected reaction. With the newest Beat, I tried to take it further. I invited some of my friends to help me out and got it nicely printed and packaged…It was great that these friends all took what I was doing seriously, and they all made great work that focuses on what I was trying to explore.”

Get your ideas out there, nothing is precious.

Ryan tries to utilize ideas from the past when attacking new projects. He explains, “Along the process, I would share small snippets of ideas, things that I had tacked to my bulletin board as pieces of inspiration. Maybe half ended up getting into the final version, but just having it near me and showing others what was going through my mind and creating that larger mood definitely worked in my favor when I was making.”

For everyday productivity, Ryan imposes some barriers between his work and stimulus from the outside world. As he explains, “I try to stay off of iChat and use the internet only first thing in the morning or at night. Those are the big distractions. Staying organized is really important for streamlining just a general working process. I have somewhat of a messy way of keeping things ordered. There are lots of piles of papers and books and drawers full of things. It’s mostly my mind that is the handiest when trying to keep all these pieces making sense, although I make plenty of one word reminders on scrap paper every day.”

As for Ryan’s greatest frustration and challenge: “Having trust in yourself is the hardest and greatest. I have zero advice on how to get it.”

I’m inspired by this Chuck Close quote: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

Ryan is an advocate for sharing ideas liberally and patience. He proclaims, “Get your ideas out there, nothing is precious, and time will fix the mistakes you made earlier.”

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