3 Questions for Zach Hobbs

3 Questions for Zach Hobbs

A short Q&A with Zach Hobbs, communication designer from IDEO Chicago
Zach Hobbs
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If you're not following designer Zach Hobbs on Instagram, you're not truly living. The sheer volume of artwork he posts there and on his website makes us wonder how he manages to stay awake in the office. We asked him about a pleasingly tart series titled #clientwork (which is occasionally #NSFW).

1. What inspired #clientwork?

I had been drawing for about six months, specifically for an art show, and I was sorta cashed and looking for the next rabbit hole. We hosted another Fortnight (our artist-in-residency program) in the Chicago studio, and I was really lucky to act as a mentor to C.M. Ruiz, from Seattle.

He is a Xerox machine master; he just makes incredible art with the most humble tools. We spent a lot of time just hanging out in the studio talking about art and making shit. It was a three-week jam session and I got super inspired and just started making the ugliest designs possible using only the Xerox and markers, paints, etc. FUN.

The Clientwork hashtag is just something that has bounced around in my brain for the past few years. We as makers, designers, artists, etc., often try to separate our lives into two buckets: the work we get paid to do (Clientwork) and the other, fun stuff. I really dislike that idea! I feel like the entire body of making should just be THE WORK, dig? My IDEO jams for Allstate or Chicago Fire or ConAgra should feed my weirdo artlife and my weirdo artlife should come with me inside project spaces.

Freelancer and IDEO contractor Kyle Fletcher has been influential in helping me learn this lesson, as he is constantly bouncing back and forth between design and art, yet it all feels very KYLE FLETCHER.

I tag things with #clientwork that obviously are not client work to (hopefully) push this idea. The idea of doing really dumb, silly, sometimes provocative ads for companies that aren’t paying me is scary. I’m making something and I think it looks AWESOME and I write NIKE or VANS on there because, to me, IT SHOULD BE A VANS AD. I suppose that part is my own little secret joke. No one knows if I actually like Nike or not, or if I eat Hormel Chili (I do, duh). It’s not like I’m tagging them super hard or trying hard to be seen by the brand puppet masters… but there’s something really frightening about half-assedly drawing a corporate logo on a terrible collage or drawing and sending it into cyberspace. I’ve told myself that I’ll either do this as long as it’s fun or until I receive a cease-and-desist. I actually sorta worried if anyone from IDEO was going to come down hard on me, but so far only a minor slap on the wrist that I deserved.

2. Does this work make doing your day job easier?

Easier is a strong word. DESIGN IS HARD, and I’m not taking the piss. Doing the daily art jams does help keep my brain active. I’m trying so hard to get in the zone and stay there. IDEO can be so stimulating sometimes that I find it hard to focus. Everyone knows what it’s like to get that precious two hours of heads-down time when you have to work FAST to get something on paper. Trying to think like a designer/artist 24/7 takes practice. It’s hard to be in the zone all day!

"What I'm working on right now is very analog, just a Xerox machine and Sharpies. Same basic idea as the #clientwork series." —Zach Hobbs

3. Name one artist or designer you consider unassailable and tell us why.

Ian MacKaye will never re-form Fugazi to play Coachella for millions of dollars. And for that I am very grateful.

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Zach Hobbs
Design Lead
Zachary Hobbs is one of the tallest designers at IDEO. While listening to a steady mix of prank calls, esoteric podcasts and punk rock, he creates unpretentious, grotesque, and haunting works that critically and humorously examine daily existence.
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