Written by Morgan Braaten
Designer and illustrator Eric Nyffeler joined WeMake for our first sketchXchange of 2018. The walls were covered in a cascade of his colorfully textured music posters and illustrations, covering nearly every inch of white space there was to offer. The moderator for the evening was Eric’s long-time friend and fellow Midwesterner, Brett Stenson.
Eric has built up an incredibly impressive and diverse portfolio of work for some of the world’s most exciting bands, brands and publications. While he had always had an interest in art, it was not something he ever planned on pursuing; originally, Eric was working towards a degree in music. By chance he ended up in a couple of entry level art and design courses. Something clicked, and soon-after he changed his majors to visual communication, design and print-making. However, still set on being a rock star, Eric viewed these courses as practical skills he could apply to his band as opposed to something he wanted to pursue as a career.
Eric took everything he learned in his design classes and tried to figure out how he could use them to take his band to the next level. He recalls approaching a senior in his design program and asking if he would teach him how to screen print so he could make flyers for an upcoming show. “And for some reason, he said yes,” Eric said.
Unfortunately, not everyone was so helpful. Eric recalls a professor telling him that the work he was enjoying the most wasn’t realistic for a career in design. “I had a professor tell me, ‘Graphic design isn’t about making posters for bands – it’s business cards and cereal boxes.’ But to be fair, I would design the s*#% out of a cereal box,” Eric said.
Despite the naysayers, Eric continued to pursue the kind of work he enjoyed most. He started off creating posters for his own band, until eventually a venue he was performing at began asking him to make posters for other performers as well. This led to him being asked directly by bands to work on tour posters and official merchandise. His client base expanded from there to include bands like Mogwai, The Black Keys, Gotye, Phish and many, many more.
Eventually, Eric expanded his work to include editorial illustrations. Usually, this transition would be a hard one; art directors are looking for illustrators who have already done editorial work, so getting a break at the beginning can be difficult. However, one of the posters Eric did for Andrew Bird caught the eye of an art director, who believed that his colorful, clever illustration style would translate well into the editorial world. This led to Eric’s first of many opportunities in the industry. “I guess I had accidently become an illustrator,” Nyffeler said.
Since then, Eric has expanded his creative focus to include typography, icons and more. He recently started working with a guitar pedal company on pedal graphics, tradeshow booths and animations. “In a lot of way it makes sense that I’m working on little colorful boxes that people want to spend money on, because what are these but colorful boxes people want to spend money on?” He said, pointing to the wall of posters behind him.
The talk ended with an incredibly tough question – The Smiths or Nick Cave? The look on Eric’s face made it obvious that that was a painful decision to have to make, but Nick Cave came away with the victory. Morrissey is likely to write a very sad song about the loss.
Everyone who attended the talk walked away with an original 9x9”, 3 color screen print that was created specifically for WeMake. For 2018, each speaker will be coming up with a custom design that is only available at their respective sketchXchange.
WeMake couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off the New Year. Eric is not only an incredibly inspiring creative, but also an interesting, humble and genuine guy. We can’t wait to see what he does next.
Photos by Rowan Bradley, See more here