“I love handcrafted work… There are certain things that you can adjust with the human touch that you can’t do otherwise.”
The first installment of the 20 Something Endeavors Series is with our friend, Corey Robbins. Corey is the kid that was known, respectfully, as bug boy in elementary school. He loved to inspect and draw bugs, as well as anything he found in nature. His interest in drawing stuck with him, even as he grew out of the bug phase. In high school, he became interested in car design, a new hobby kicking in. Once in college at Virginia Tech he decided to pursue a degree in Industrial Design.
However, soon his childhood interest in nature and drawing came back again. Since graduating, Corey has started a “creative onslaught” of a project, as he describes it: Xylozoa, “design and photography inspired by the world’s natural phenomena.” Corey has created a style that uses intricately illustrated, off-beat animal designs that are both smart and eye catching. As the first installment of the 20 Something Endeavors series, we chose to talk with Corey because his passion for design is rooted in a desire to create that he just can’t kick, and he’s carving his own path to chase his dreams.
TO THE CHATS
C&C: Why graphic design?
In high school-ish I got tired of buying shirts with just company logos. In college, I took a screen-printing class, and it started there. When I started Xylozoa I made it a point to make the logo little. The shirts don’t scream the brand, so you focus on the quality of design.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
Nature has been a root. I like the rebirth of animal and vintage style prints, textures, and patterns found in nature. I’d like to play with that more.
I love handcrafted work, so I’m inspired by screen-printing, graffiti, and manual printing that keep that kind of art alive. I do a lot of handcrafted screen-printing – I find that I like that style the best. There are certain things that you can adjust with the human touch that you can’t do otherwise.
Also, music really gets me motivated for new ideas and projects. My newest design, the sloth tee, shows this in a literal sense. The designs verge on the psychedelic side of things in both form and color palettes.
Nature with a slight psychedelic twist.
How did you come up with your logo?
The logo design idea stems from the core idea of the brand being inspired by nature. The logo on the website is a chromosome character and can be seen in other “reincarnations” as of recently such as the lion with the tentacle mane seen on the xylozoa Facebook page.
How would you describe your style?
Nature with a slight psychedelic twist. I don’t want to tend only to ravers or nature people – I want to mix it up so it’s wearable. Xylozoa is definitely a little funkier.
It’s important to look at what’s popular and maybe promote your own version of that, but don’t be too literal. Referencing that is fine, but always do your own thing.
Are there any artists whose style you look up to?
Shepard Ferry comes to mind immediately. The OBEY brand has a really unique style. He does his own thing. ROA has a morbid animal style I am into and on the other end we have Mars-1 with a geometric and other wordly appeal, Japanese vinyl figures and those of KAWS, Keith Haring’s simplistic but playful style. I also just discovered a fellow Instagram user The Ayecon who puts his own twist on existing characters.
Just do your own thing. Make your own style. Don’t try to fit a trend.
What is your process for creating t-shirts?
Ideas come sporadically. They usually come when I’m not really thinking. For example, when I made the Twisted Deer design, I was just having fun drawing tentacles and nautical creatures, and the idea just popped into my head. That’s when I started to go with the flow. Let’s keep things funky.
I always start with a hand drawing. I sketch the ideas, ink them, and decide color along the way prior to scanning them in. I then choose whether I want a hand-drawn look where it stays choppy, or if I want to go over the drawing with the illustrator tools and add more of the cartoon line sharpness. The shirt colors come to mind once I decide the graphic colors, something that isn’t typical and maybe has a nice contrast to the graphic color palette. Printing designs in mass quantity for intricate as they are become difficult by hand and with plastisol inks, so I have a professional printer make them for consistencies sake and have them done with soft-to-the-touch water base or discharge inks.
Have you taken any art classes?
Yes if you count the standard elementary school classes or in high school Art 1-2. Very limited training in college, as well. I basically taught myself. With Illustrator, I just got the program and started messing around. I learned how to use it throughout four years in school.
If you want to make designs, if you’re a creative person – then it’s all about practice more than anything else. For digital stuff, it’s all about looking up tutorials to help you learn.
Did you always know you wanted to do design?
When I first went to school I did business and engineering – but design always came back out. I think one thing they should do in school is align design and liberal arts with marketing and business classes. We have these creative design skills, but right now my biggest thing is marketing.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to transition into creative work?
You can’t hide from it. Don’t try to. If you’re interested, try it out.
Why do you love art?
The creative mind and art are innate and it’s fun to explore that. I wish I went somewhere that wouldn’t stop creativity from flowing.
The testing regime is unnatural. The testing regime that occurs in majors other than the creative/liberal arts, at least for me, felt unnatural and seems to try to untrain the brain out of its natural state of curiosity, playfulness, and physical realm of exploration. It hampers this child in us and corrals the thoughts that could lead to more entrepreneurial thinking or inventive thought processes.
So, following a regime was more stressful than the idea that a struggling artist could be and would be in the plans for the short term. If you are someone who lives a structured lifestyle and needs to schedule everything from how long to study, to what job you’ll have in a few years post-grad than design’s free-flow of progress might not be for you!
Following a regime was more stressful than the idea that a struggling artist could be.
Are kids born creative?
Kids are always creative at first. [After some thought]: Maybe we’re less mature than everyone else.
What do you think about art being in schools? Is it exposed enough?
Art seems like an easy class. It doesn’t seem like a career option. I had art in school, but it didn’t seem serious. I think schools should offer more design classes and expose kids to it.
If you didn’t do art, would you explode?
Yes, I was about to. It’s beyond frustrating trying to do something else. It’s like trying to rewire your brain. Why would you want to do that – why would you want to rewire?
Why would you want to rewire your brain?
What motivates you?
Sustaining my own life and creating a unique style with Xylozoa. Like I said, I can’t leave design behind. The graphic tee is pretty big out there, so it’s a good time for this work.
Explore all of his hand crafted, funky designs here: Xylozoa Online.
We asked Corey to share some personal recommendations on music, food, and videos he’s been perusing lately.
Food: “Cheeseburger–summertime meals. Let’s go to Elevation Burger.” (Excellent idea/this interview took place in July).
Music: “Need it to open up my mind. Right now, I’m into electronic, but not club style. I like the kind that you’re able to break down to their root, or play acoustic. I like Ellie Goulding—she throws in those melodies.”
Interwebs: “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
A FAVORITE QUOTE
“You’ll never discover anything by matching what’s going on. The key is to find that which does not exist and try to make it undeniable.”
A FAVORITE RECIPE
Here’s a Classic Corey Green Smoothie Recipe – in order of what he puts into the blender. Stay healthy & get those creative juices flowing!
– 1C coconut milk
– 1C kale
– 1 banana
-1/2 red or orange beet
– mango or other fruits to taste/sweetness
– 1/2 thumb of ginger
– 1T coconut oil OR 1/2 avocado OR an entire avocado for a super creamy shake
– 1/2 cup of ice