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Daily Inspiration: Meet Char Gladden

Today we’d like to introduce you to Char Gladden.

Hi Char, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Thanks for having me! I’m Char, the founder of a Graphic Design studio in Echo Park. We’re a thoughtful practice specializing in custom lettering, branding and web design. When I was little, I’d get up every day before my younger brother and sister and draw at a little table in the laundry room. Having that impulse to make things and fine art – this has always been a throughline. My parents owned a video store growing up, so black and white movies and tap dance routines were the backdrop to my childhood – I worked the counter, kept track of my favorite box art, (and wore oversized free movie swag that said stuff like “Look Who’s Talking, Too”). I’d neglect customers in the back room, collaging movie promos into bookmarks on the lamination machine. Graphic design wasn’t on my radar until college when I discovered that I could weave art and type digitally – in this way, my studio practice informed my design practice and opened up a world beyond paint and charcoal. My dad used to take me to flea markets looking for car parts, which fueled my now deep love for old junk and printed ephemera. The beauty of an old handwritten note to a lover, old jeans, the smell of vintage books. I love the well-worn history of things – the library is and was my most inspirational spot. I love to pore over typography publications and fine art; it’s what fuels my love of custom typography, honoring the artisans who came before me and reinventing forms in a fresh way. The orchestral nature of this practice fuels my love for it – mixing art, and type, and color. I will always be grateful for having accidentally fallen into graphic design.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Not always, no. I have always had to be pretty scrappy to stay afloat financially. I have worked more jobs than I can count – bottling line extra, audio-typist, computer monitor, janitor in the art department through college, office assistant, etc. I was on scholarship and had to maintain a certain GPA in college to stay in school; I’d see kids partying hard around me, and at times felt a lack of freedom, but I was determined to stay. I did have a lot of help from really wonderful and generous family. I lived in 13 different cities interning and pursuing design through the downturn, when “internet cafe’s” were the only way to get online. I remember I applied for an internship at a design firm called Landor in SF on Friday, the last day to apply – I drove there at 4am to make the interview, got the job, and moved there on Sunday. I lived in London for a time and survived on a can of beans on toast for dinner every night because it’s what was within my means. You do what you have to do!

I’ve also recently had my world open up pretty dramatically, having come to the end of a 15-year period of chronic migraine (via new magic meds). I’m only beginning to process the effects of this experience – the continual postponement of life, indescribable pain, raising young kids at home – all the while with an undercurrent of yearning to design and create the thing that would inevitably get pushed to the wayside for survival. The spaces that have emerged by not functioning at .04% battery life have been profound, and I’m still knocking on wood…

What’s been the biggest breakthrough for me personally through it all is to fold in the joy and the sorrow, all at once. That being present through pain is possible and precious.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I was Creative Director at SpinMedia (formerly Spin Magazine) for five years and managed the creative teams in LA and NYC. I designed the platforms of 50+ music, celebrity and news websites for digital, print and multi-media experiences that reached 40M+ monthly users worldwide. I designed Kim Kardashian’s first logo and really grew brands from the ground up. Being an executive was fulfilling in a different way, but what I missed was the hands-on nature of design. Starting my own studio has been so rewarding, breathing life into brands who have such passion and drive.

We specialize in hand-lettering and custom typography, creating one-of-a-kind logos with an elevated, off-beat sensibility. This combined with our storytelling approach – this is why a lot of brands come to us looking for something different. We’re differentiated by formal Art & Design degrees, color theory, art history and composition acumen. The nature of design infused by your story; this is what brings forth the distinctive character of your brand, one that fosters genuine connection.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Remy & Rose chair photography: Bruce Weber Highlow photography: Sonya Gallardo Rest: Char Gladden

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