A Studio Visit with Brand Consultant William van Roden
From his studio in Kingston, New York’s historic Fuller Building – which has become a kind of an epicenter for Kingston-area creatives – Will works amidst his extensive vinyl record collection and impressive assortment of art, travel, and music books (more than a few of them personally designed). A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), one of the country’s foremost art and design schools; he’s worked with large international clients (including the New York Times, Martha Stewart Living Omni Media, Random House) and smaller clients like yours truly, Inside+Out Upstate NY. With Will, every client gets the same respect, the same creative process and the same outstanding results.
On a recent visit to his studio, Inside+Out chatted with William van Roden about his career, what it’s like to work in Kingston, and his advice to up-and-coming designers. So, without further ado
Inside+Out Upstate NY: Where were you born and how did you wind up in Kingston NY?
William van Roden: Born in Pennsylvania. College was in Providence (RISD), then New York City for two decades. I rented in Accord with friends about 15 years ago and fell in love with the area. So I bought a house. And here I am.
When did you realize that graphic design was your calling?
As a child, I designed my own covers for school books, birthday cards, and even a book about vegetables in second grade. I guess I never stopped.
You have a broad client base and have worked with some of the best brands including the New York Times. What is your creative process and is it all digital?
I work with large international and small local clients doing branding or printed matter. Each client gets the same respect with a thorough and thoughtful process and a unique outcome. My process: First: Research. Second: Concepts, Sketching, Discussion. Third: Design, production, and delivery. Though some of the research and ideas may come from the physical world (books, posters, records), all get processed through the computer before going out into the world as a digital or printed asset.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Creating new solutions based on research, collaboration and creativity. This may seem a bit uninteresting, yet the process and outcome are always about making, connecting, seeing.
We couldn’t be happier with the brand work you’ve done for Inside+Out Upstate NY and the experience of working together. Not to mention, we were blown away to learn Inside+Out’s website won three silver awards in our first year–thanks in large part to your efforts. What was it like to help shape and work on such a local brand?
I’ve always been connected to the creative and social communities in the area—knowing and interacting with great resources. So when I was approached to create an identity, the project was an easy fit. The process worked well since it allowed everyone involved to weigh in and find the best solutions based on the parameters. The fact that it won awards is always a bonus.
How has the design world changed and how are you adapting?
So much social media! I tend to keep away with healthy boundaries since so much of it is surprisingly useless.
Being a huge fan of your branding work, it was such a treat to visit your studio and get an inside peek at your personal creative endeavors. Naturally, creativity crosses media, and that is evident in your work whether it’s a client project, your illustrative prints (LOVE the Ashokan map), your mushroom photographs, and your personal book projects.
Tell us about your favorite project to date?
Along with my ‘day job’ I create my own printed books and prints that work on the premise of redistributing existing inventory into new designs. So, one project I completed was a 256-page book and a 24×36 inch poster where I alphabetized all the lyrics of the Smiths and color-coded the words by album release. Part book design, part fan-dom, part typography, part data analysis. Other people like the series of books of real estate agent portraits based on specific names.
Does living in the Hudson Valley affect how you work and your actual work?
I have a studio with nice big windows, a good sound system, creative friends in the building, and great coffee around the corner. That is important.
Speaking of great studio space–how long have you had your office in the Fuller Building and what’s it like to work there?
Three years. I approached the architect before renovations asking to be in the building. I have my own space, and I tend to be diligent with my focus on work. Having other mates in the building enables nice walks to coffee, or meeting afterward for drinks, tennis, or events.
What impact does your business have on your community?
I don’t see it from a business perspective. I view it more as connecting with the community.
How do you market your business and how do your clients find you?
Thankfully, all word of mouth.
You are an adjunct professor at NYU. Tell us about that: what you like best, how students inspire you, and the top 5 tips you would share with students that want a career in design.
I love seeing what they wear and learning what they listen to! As a foundation, I always tell them:
- Find inspiration;
- You always have options;
- Turn it upside down.
Visiting your office, and beautifully displayed as a backdrop on our many zoom calls, one can’t help but notice your expansive record collection. You’ve also mentioned that you occasionally guest-DJ in the area. Tell us about your love of music and this coveted record collection.
Since a little kid, music has always been important to me. I bought my first album with money I earned from mowing the lawn. I never stopped. The collection spans all kinds of genres and timelines, with a healthy dose of art-y, independent, electronic, pop-ish.
Does music inspire your work? When you need to get your creative juices flowing, which albums do you reach for and do you have playlists you’d like to share?
Yes, it’s the music, but also the cover designs, the sleeves, the printing quality and the details—my own personal museum. Music is always playing while I work—never too noisy to help me focus. For the most part, work music will be modern, electronic, art, indie and some classics. Of course, there will be those moments of loud, quirky, dance, punk, and play. Let it all out.
Workday 1 | Get your week started calmly | Listen on Spotify
Workday 2 | Only ladies |Listen on Spotify
Workday 3 | Middle Eastern music |Listen on Spotify
Workday 4 | Only trans artists | Listen on Spotify
Workday 5 | Low stress |Listen on Spotify
Who or what inspires you personally?
Tell us something about yourself people might be surprised to hear about you.
Each day, I take six different mushroom extracts.
Thank you for sharing that! And, speaking of art and mushrooms, we love how you combine two of your favorite things in life in these prints – available for all the mushroom lovers out there.
Thank you for this wonderful studio visit, spinning some vinyl for us, and for the Inside+Out Upstate NY Brand!!!
Photos: Harrison Lubin for Inside+Out Upstate NY
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William van Roden