richie stewart is a colectivo futurist

This month’s Colectivo Futurist feature highlights the outstanding graphic design works of Boston resident, Richie Stewart aka Commoner Inc. Richie is a master when it comes to creating simple, straightforward, yet compelling designs that perfectly transmit his client’s ideals. A lover of skateboarding and punk rock in equal measures, Richie is currently busy working on a pair of freelance projects, but hopes to become part of a graphic design agency in the future (he has since launched Commoner Inc. as his full time design studio). If it were up to us, we would hire him on the spot!


CF: tell us a bit about yourself. how did you get involved with graphic design?

First off, my parents are so rad…they just 100% encouraged everything that I wanted to be a part of when I was growing up. Skateboarding instead of little league, art classes instead of Sunday school and so on. I came home with knuckle tattoos when I was 18 and they were stoked on it. I mean, come on!…what parents would be okay with that? They are the absolute best people I know.

I grew up with my mom being an artist and calligrapher, so creative activities were always encouraged in my house. I was just copying drawings and letters from her sketchbooks all the time, never being able to do them justice in any way whatsoever.

Getting involved in skateboarding and punk rock at an early age was a gateway into art and design. Everything about it resonated with me on such a deep level. Being in those communities was a massive eye opener for a kid growing up in suburbia… like discovering this whole other world existed around me. All the board graphics, album art, stickers, posters, t-shirts, etc… I didn’t know what to call it at the time, but I knew I wanted to make things like that.


CF: your work has a very characteristic, early 20th century look & feel. how does your background and inspiration sources play into this?

It seems like lately a lot of conversations I have end up with me saying “Well, I was just born too late”. I really couldn’t tell you why that certain aesthetic sits so well with me and my comfort with it. Something about the fact that things were designed with such limited resources and everything being done by hand is very inspiring to me. The craft and talent you had to possess to be a designer back then was extraordinary.

There are so many amazing pioneers that paved the way for designers and illustrators today, and most of us would be absolutely nowhere without them. So I suppose it’s kind of hard not to have that influence your work in some way.

“Getting involved in skateboarding and punk rock at an early age was a gateway into art and design”

CF: from your standpoint, what would be the ideal relationship between client and designer?

The “only child” part of me wants to say when the client gives me complete creative control and let’s me do what I want. But in reality if there is an honest, open, organic form of communication that can occur between the designer and the client…that is the ideal situation.

When lengthy write-ups about direction and design decisions aren’t necessary. When the work can stand on it’s own and be able to speak for itself. At the risk of sounding slightly romantic / cliche, I feel that good design doesn’t need an absurd amount of explanation to resonate in a positive way with someone.

CF: if you could soundtrack your work, what would you choose?

I think if Minor Threat & Johnny Cash got together for some beers that would be a pretty accurate soundtrack…minus the fact that Minor Threat is a straight edge band…but this is a hypothetical situation, right?

I feel that both of these artists have a way of making music in a very simple, “straight to the point” manner, but it also becomes more detailed the more times you listen and pick apart the layers. I am nowhere near the kind of aesthetic that they possess, but certainly aspire to be.

“the fact that things were designed with such limited resources and everything being done by hand is very inspiring to me”

CF: what is your favorite thing about living in Boston?

If you can get past the “college town” aspect of it, there is absolutely a melting pot of culture and diversity. As cliche as it sounds, it really is a city of neighborhoods that all have their own charms. Boston is steeped in tradition and has a pretty fantastic history to it, which has a big influence on my work.

I definitely live in a very “blue collar” neighborhood, which is very comfortable to me since I was raised in a similar environment. Most of the shops and businesses on my block are primarily family / independently owned, which I really respect and appreciate. It feels good to support honest, hardworking people.

CF: what can you tell us about your future projects? which sort of clients would you like to see yourself working with?

I hope to be working in a proper design shop in the next few months…freelancing is great and all, but handling all the “business” aspects of it is a full time job in it’s own way. But in the mean time I’ve got a couple projects coming up that I’m pretty excited about…a start-up microbrewery in Norway and a new retail coffee shop in Boston, which are both pretty much ideal clients for me due to large enjoyment of both of the aforementioned beverages.