the art of frank ford / sold here exclusively: artist of worldclass pedigree earned by working with the modern masters.
—> featured in the new issue of epic eye magazine, nyc / in-depth interview with images below.
phyllis hofberg, agent / los angeles (213) 925-8383
site features to edit:
450 works of 2016/17 on instagram
bio / resume / awards / clients / exhibits
art sales proposal
authenticity certificate + care instructions
about paintings, exclusive or custom editions
about phyllis hofberg
interview with epic magazine / unedited
Let's start with your bio—what’s your work philosophy?
I am fortunate to have a rockstar pedigree that I earned from working with some of the true maestros of the design and art worlds. They started off as bosses, but soon became personal heroes. Sculptors who molded me into a functioning artist and designer from the lump of ambition I was when I first got out of school. They chiseled away a lot of the frustration and doubt you have when you’re first starting out and refined my critical eye, helping me to see the world differently. As artists and communicators, isn’t that what we all ultimately want-- a unique perspective? These men gave that to me through experience. In the world of communication arts, Rick Valicenti (Thirst, AIGA Gold Medalist), Michael Jaeger (JDK, Solidarity of Unbridled Labour, Iskra), Dann DeWitt (titanium: Dann is a savant of esoteric advertising and oblique strategies). All of these guys fostered the right side of my brain. But to get anywhere in design these days, you have to understand technology and its ever changing boundaries. Clement Mok at Sapient helped me understand the rules of the web and ultimately, which rules I can break.
But when it comes to breaking rules, no one was more inspiring than Robert Rauschenberg. I wanted to be him when I was just starting out and he’s at the back of my mind whenever I’m juxtaposing an image with text. He speaks to me through his past work, but I like to think I’m talking back to him through my work now. I had four or five meetings with him in Captiva that proved to be priceless. Bob loved students and filled me full of hope from the early 90’s until his passing in 2008. I still visit Captiva. It’s my refuge when the world starts hassling me or I need to recharge or be reborn. I have a special little sanctuary there. I can feel his presence and reinvigorate my purpose. On each visit it becomes more clear why Bob chose to live and work there.
cont...what’s your work philosophy?
As far as work philosophy, I keep it simple: treat every client like they’re a patron saint. Their brand, their product is sacrosanct. I treat all of their projects like they are fine art. They want the Sistine Chapel and I will break my back to make sure they get it. When you get the opportunity to develop the campaigns of such creative heavyweights as Avid and Softimage, VH1, Truth, design a Mick Jagger record cover etc., you want to make sure their brand is elevated without losing their organic promise. Upon completion of each project I’ve got to know that I gave it my all, I leave nothing on the field and do my best work with the parameters given. Out of the literally thousands of projects I worked on in advertising, branding, design and web and the over two hundred and fifty awards that I’ve won, it’s the admiration that has real meaning for me. A trophy is nothing more than a doorstop, but the fact that my contemporaries thought I was good enough to be nominated and to win—that means something. But if there was one award that I had to say really means anything to me…. Well, my ultimate award can be seen at the bottom of my website, FrankFord.com. It’s damn near sacred, an honor bestowed by a wonderful friend of Bob’s-- Pam at The Raushchenberg Foundation.
In the world of design you could say that the ultimate accolade is duplication. On more than one occasion, someone has noted that my personal logo looks a lot like the logo for Fontshop. It’s ancient type-designer history, but their logo actually looks a lot like mine. I love the company. In fact, I was one of their first customers and I’m flattered that they were inspired by a prehistoric logo I designed way back in 1984 with ink and a ruler. But if it had been any other company that had been so inspired, I’d have been ticked. My name is not on everyone’s lips because I refuse to self-promote. Once you stop paying entry fees and agent fees, the promoting tends to stop. I feel like the William Holden character in Network, when he speaks of the childish competition we creatives sometimes engage in: “I stopped comparing genitals in the school yard.” I want projects and people in my life who have vision to see far past superficiality. The fact is I’m blessed to have worked with the best, the top one percent of the drool-worthy ad agencies and the coolest leading design studios. My clients and bosses were committed to executing on true innovation, not just regurgitating buzzwords. All in all? not a bad life for a Creole kid with a BFA from LSU. So, as for self-promotion? I did it the old fashioned way—I worked my ass off to make the best work I could. My wonderful colleagues, they found me. And I love them profoundly.
Coming close to death as a child in Casablanca, I learned real quick to appreciate every sandwich, every bottle of water. I carry that appreciation now. I am a grateful sum of everyone I have ever worked with. Everyone. From the janitors to the Goldbergs. Even those who didn’t like me. They helped me be something I couldn’t see on my own. I’ve had my fifteen minutes. And all that glam-glam stuff that came with it? Just glam. As I look back now, I am eternally grateful to all my coworkers who helped me reject the mundane. It took me years to learn where to invest. I invest in people. Not start-ups. Not Dow Jones.
What is your most difficult challenge that you’ve had to overcome?
Battling an affliction since forever. Overcoming it again and again and again. While physically draining, it has led to a spiritual and artistic rebirth. After moving back down South, I had an experience that allowed me to see things clearly, in focus for the first time. My artistic vision went from three strip Technicolor to a Fuji 70 mm print.
If you were to give yourself a headline, what would it be?
Well I’d have to consider using 3 or 4 because I’m not just one thing, but I’d pick from these stakes that I’ve put in the ground:1) form follows emotion: if you don’t feel it, if you can’t give it your passion, the end product will most likely suck. or 2) verve and swerve: if i can’t do the project with passion and originality; if it doesn’t have a beat i can dance to, or the audience can click with-- screw it. the end product is likely to be white noise. it’s the enzo philosophy; it’s the bmw philosophy—i’m not putting my name on the mediocre. life’s too short. ordinary is about the worst thing you could ever do in this business. i’ve never understood how so many creatives can accept the ordinary. this is particularly true of office environments—no one wants to take a stand, and fight for the extraordinary. or 3) i think i’m turning japanese: staff and colleagues always refer to me as “zen” or “coach” or “professor” as my approach is sort of yin-yang. through the juxtaposition of contrary forces, i can focus on quality, purity, and honesty, producing a reductivist-minimalism whenever possible. within the context of painting, that gets stretched a million ways but i’m guessing you’ve noticed how a lot of my paintings have an underlying design structure.
What inspired or motivated you into your career?
The love of food. I was hungry. Literally. I could not pay the bills and eat. Iwas going nowhere slow in the fine art world. While working at NOMA and Arthur Roger Gallery as a recent BFA graduate, it became painfully obvious I needed more marketable skills. Technology was quickly coming around the bend. I took some computer classes and happened to hit it off with an Apple Representative who hired me soon thereafter. All of a sudden I was immersed into this very new, very strange world of computer graphics and I loved it. I attended all the training and workshops and certification sessions I could, hanging out with these brilliant people, realizing the future was here for any artist who would dare abandon turpentine for Digital Darkroom 1.0. During this time I also lost my father. It was time to reevaluate my entire existence. I was lost without a compass in a huge dark forest. I remember the exact day, where I was and what I was doing when it really clicked in my head, when it felt like a calling—I was killing time in the library, grabbed several big books on modern art, sat down on the floor right there in the aisle for hours consuming every color plate as though I was seeing television for the first time. I was blown away. My mind and my heart finally felt something. And it hit me like a ton of bricks…I fell in love with all things art, visual design and architecture. On the way home I stopped at the record store for something new and a similar thing happened. I discovered The Talking Heads…“take me to the river, wash me in the water” within the course of a single day I’d been baptized into a revolution. And it was: punk rock, art rock, Schnabel, Basquiat and Warhol. That blip, it had a positive energy to it—and I’m a sucker for positive energy in art and in people.
What is your work philosophy?
I have a phrase I use with my interns and workshops: “Be a sponge. Not a rock”
How do you try to get the most production and imaginative work from your studio team?
It took me a lifetime to learn how to be a decent Creative Director. It happened for me when I realized I have only one task—my job is to inspire. And I’ll go to any extreme to do it. Collectively what does my group love? What generates positive energy? If it’s the beach? Pack it up folks-- daytrip! We’re going diving for pearls today, but what it’s really about is cutting up during the drive, plain silliness sometimes to get out of our own heads, rediscover one another and dream about what the project could be if we were being paid a million bucks, then we’ll speculate on what we’d do if the job was pro bono. I have another weird thing I do to get them to FEEL: Become the target. Assimilate the target audience in every way you know how according to demographic data. Pretend you are them. What makes them tick? Create that dialogue in your head—you’ll know the second it gets interesting. That’s the sweet spot…deliver on that. Nine times out of ten they will.
The minute you begin to micro-manage a designer you’ve begun to kill his/her spirit. Do it too much and they’ll check out. Maybe not physically, but they will leave you and your direction in spirit so to speak. Hire wisely, (personally I love hiring teams of two. Pair a designer with a writer) do your spiel, and get the hell out of their way. Give ‘em enough rope—Very rarely will they hang themselves with it.
Who is or was your greatest mentor?
Valicenti, Jaeger, DeWitt and Raushchenberg
Who were some of your greatest past influences?
Past, Present or Future there will never be another Bob Raushchenberg. I learned more from him than anyone, or any school. He took a sincere interest in me the way most wouldn't.
Who among your contemporaries today do you most admire?
Can I pick someone in music? Because I love music so much I’d say it’d have to be a relatively new newcomer Lou Doillon. There is an edge to this woman that just makes my motor run (and I mean that in a NC-17 sorta way) from the way she dresses, her low key approach, the edge she’s put on her voice, the raw emotion of her poetry, her imperfect perfectness and her strength. My God, former supermodel of France shucks it all, bound and determined to make a name in rock and roll and is well on her way. I love Keith Richards in a similar way. He’s what–seventy-something, yet bangs those 5 strings with a twang that most people with 6 strings can’t. I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog and for the rebel. The fighters. I asked my film maker/writer friend Cary Di Cristina once: what is my brand? I can brand everyone else but never gave it much thought. He said immediately—dude. you're a fighter. Everyday people like Cary. Thinkers. Doers. Those not satisfied with the ordinary? I admire them the most.
What would be your dream assignment?
One million dollars to make the opening credits for a movie. If that movie involved DeNiro, Scorcese, or Francis Ford Coppolla I’d do it for free. So much love for Coppolla—he battled an affliction, prevailed, followed his dream and never quit.
Who have been some of your favorite people or clients you have worked with?
Mick Jagger, These Peaches singer–songwriter Rich Klevgard, Writer and Film Maker Cary Di Cristina. Lastly but certainly first Toshiaki Ide.
What are the most important ingredients you require from a client to do successful work?
Trust me to be relevant to your business. Invite me to all the meetings big or small. The more I learn about you, the better the delivery. Let’s do a field trip if possible—I’m not sure I’ve ever had an idea worth a shit inside 4 walls.
What is your greatest professional achievement?
An honor from The Robert Raushchenberg Foundation—access to my mentor's private memorial: it means everything to me. in the works: a book with boxset of beautiful photographs i was honored by the robert rauschenberg foundation / the ultimate career high. beyond words.the ultimate modern artist. a mentor to me and many others. a man who defined paying it forward. even after his death in 08. everyone brags on their latest this or upcoming that: thats not my idea of success. real success? is when THE RIGHT PEOPLE FIND YOU: it's called being discovered on merit.the happiest days of my life are when i sit in bob's chair–it's a reject from one his final works of art. all because of one teeny-tiny flaw in the patina. he made me feel at ease about being such a perfectionist. believe it or not folks? raushchenberg was an extreme perfectionist, putting me to shame, and that's saying something.seems i can only think clearly near large bodies of water these days. i think of him often. i feel his ghost when i come here seeking inspiration, or to regroup from a crappy life experience, or just to chill. i feel the dude's soul, it's weird our connection, i won't go into it. the definition of innovator, the king of paying it forward: a TRUE louisiana boy. he loved helping students. many of us wouldn't have the courage to even applyfor a bfa were it not for this awesome human being. so blessed by the robert rauschenberg foundation. robert raushchenberg was a mentor and is the reason i became an artist.it makes my other awards seem trivial. it makes thirty years of commercial art ugh nevamind. i am eternally grateful to pam at the foundation. the greatest gift i have ever recieved. if you ever read this? i'm working on a gift for you but it's taking for ever. rarely will you see me boast about accomplishments it creeps me out. and i'll never reveal the wonderful set of photographs. the feeling is undescribeable. the rareity of it. having something only available to a dozen people on planet earth. i'm such a proud–poppa on this one. it makes my other awards feel insignificant. they just can't touch this. the pride of such rareity—it keeps me going. it gives me reason to believe the next thirty years will be even better
What is the greatest satisfaction you get from your work?
Making something out of nothing.
What part of your work do you find most demanding?
What professional goals do you still have for yourself?
I’m ready to show the world that the same success I’ve had in design I will achieve in the fine arts. The days of “emerging artist” are past—I’ve just now hit my stride. I’m rockin now like never before, cranking paintings almost everyday. I’m driven for my work to be in the right collections, galleries and museums.
What advice would you have for students starting out today?
Do it now. Whatever it is. Repeat. NOW. Do it RIGHT FUCKING NOW. You only have so much time before your shelf life expires. We are expecting greatness from you. Act and perform like a professional if you want to be one.
What interests do you have outside of your work?
Painting (my work and play). Finding Love. God. Great food. Beauty. Tomorrow.
Where do you seek inspiration?
I’m letting it find me. To not be influenced by books, magazines, movies or popular culture. To just be. And when inspiration strikes, it feels natural.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I’m laser focused in getting my work placed in significant collections. I strive to improve with each work and feel like I’m ready to bust out. I think my work is perfect for Gagosian or Lehmann Maupin galleries. I won’t ever stop until I’m in MoMA
work locations: casablanca / nyc / chi / boston / dc / atl / dallas / burlington / tampa / new orleans
? a rockstar pedigree *earned* by working for the masters of design. more than bosses / damn near heroic in my development, these (3) master "sculptors" formed my success in the communication arts. 1 legendary man did so in the fine arts:
1) rick valicenti: thirst, aiga gold medalist / www.3st.com
2) michael jaeger: solidarityofunbridledlabour.com / moondust medalist
3) dann de witt / titanium savant of esoteric advertising +oblique strategies
4* clement mok: sapient, helped develop the left side of my brain for web work.
5* robert raushchenberg, no words could suffice my gratitude for the time we had nor the honor i recieved.
? i treat every client like a patron saint / +their projects like fine art.
? clients like avid and softimage have trusted me with their brand, design and advertising.
? literally thousands of advertising, branding, design and web projects / 250+ awards but it's the re*wards that possess real meaning for me.
? ffootnote: yes, i'm aware of ffontshop, i was one of their first usa customers. i'm flattered. they rotated my pre-historic logo. it's cool +it's ancient type-designer history. funny, how a logo i made in 1984 with ink+ruler still defies trend as it remains in use +abuse to this day. i'm proud when my work influences anyone. but it were anyone other than a font shop – i'd have been ticked.
? if you're not familar with me or my work? it's because i've never done self-promotions, i stopped entry fees, and agent fees long ago.
creative director / traditional +digital: advertising, design, branding +typography. aka: communication arts
sapient / apple / ixl / titanium / noma / dougét adv / jdk / solidarity of unbridl / thirstype +more
? no resume hype or self-promo / my truths:
? blessed to have worked with the best. the droolworthy ad agencies + coolest of the cool leading design studios with clients + bosses committed to executing innovation, not just saying it in buzzwords.
? not bad for a creole kid with a bfa from lsu. a dramatic transformation from near death in morocco as a kid, again in manhattan as an adult, to dotcom winner usa.
? i lived in casablanca long enough to appreciate every sandwhich, bottle of water, and to know i am a grateful sum total of *everyone* i have ever worked with. everyone. even the coworkers who didnt like me. from the janitors to the jerry greenbergs. my attic full of awards, my 15 minutes, all that glam stuff-stuff? i am eternally grateful to all my coworkers who enabled me to reject the mundane.my partners in crime helped me win those awards. it took me years and years to learn how and where to invest. i invest in people / not startups / not dow jones.
? listing my hundreds of awards? seems so hungry, or showy, i cannot self promote. i will talk about the ultimate award: it's near the bottom of frankford.com + facebook
© all copyrights frank ford / permission required.