George Wylesol’s Calculated Colours

All works by George Wylesol

Philly-born, Baltimore-based designer George Wylesol makes incredibly cool, subtly clever art.

From comics, to posters, to album art, his design aesthetic is clean, colourful, and calculated. He’s “really drawn to items that are shown in the most diagrammatic, un-stylised language,” and it shows in his own work. Honestly, designers this consistent are few and far between. It took a good four hours to choose which of his works to showcase, and I still feel like I’ve left so many good ones out. A real optical bounty.

You’ve said that sometimes you set out to create work that looks like an instruction manual for an appliance or some such. Do you wish more manuals came with more descriptive images?

I think most of the time manuals are fine, but sometimes an image or diagram can be more confusing than helpful. I usually don’t even read the manual, I just throw it out then Google how to use that item. But I’m really drawn to items that are shown in the most diagrammatic, un-stylised language possible.

How do you rate IKEA’s manuals?

I think IKEA’s manuals are actually a bit too “cool”. They’re visually appealing and easy to read, but I’m interested in stuff that’s less “designed”, if that makes sense. I can’t really comment on their usefulness, as I don’t think I’ve ever used one to put together any IKEA furniture.

What’s the design scene like in Baltimore?

It’s great! I think it’s really a hidden gem that gets overshadowed by its proximity to NYC, DC, and Philadelphia. There are a lot of excellent firms and studios here that do very cool work.

What about the scene in general in Baltimore? Did you grow up there or have you relocated there?

The art scene in general here in Baltimore is really great. It’s very grassroots, community-based, and accepting. That said, the city government and some major institutions also seem to really value the arts. I’m not from Baltimore, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover this when I moved here. I grew up in Philly where the scene feels a bit harder to break into, more exclusive.

Your work is descriptive but at the same time very clean and simple, for want of a better word. Are you very clear and direct in your intentions in everyday life, too?

I’d like to think I am. I think I’m a pretty laid-back person; not really one to play games or attract drama or anything like that.

Are you a really organised person, too? Is your bedroom always clean?

No, I’m super unorganised and messy. I absolutely hate clutter but at the same time, I can never seem to get really organised. It drives me crazy. My car is pretty clean though!

Let’s talk about colours. You love them. But if there was one colour you could never see again, which could you do without and why?

Colours are awesome. Every colour is weighted with meaning and emotion, and each colour is crucial to my work. That said, I’m not a fan of cool hues in general. Probably my least favourite colour would be blue, but of course blue is an important colour as well.

How do the colour palettes come about—do you envision them before you create the illustration or do you play around with different combinations once the drawing is already on the paper?

Usually I have a tone or emotion in mind first, so I pick colours to help convey that. But when I tweak my final drawing in Photoshop, I can get a lot of unexpected colour that I try to embrace. I kind of balance between planning my palette and rolling with happy accidents.

Finally—what kind of work is the most fun for you? Comics, posters, editorial, album art?

They’re all great for different reasons, but I think I like working on posters the best. It’s the most fun when the band or event gives me free rein to do whatever I want. I like working with type and image, so posters are a good outlet for that. I also like to work quickly, so short poster deadlines lead to some of my favourite work.

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