Minimal Lines, Maximum Impact

By Terri Stone

The TRÜF studio in Santa Monica, California, has crafted brands for clients ranging from Adidas to a film director. However, the TRÜF work that first grabbed Create's attention was a series of minimal line drawings of animals the studio posted on Behance.

We admired the series (and its tongue-in-cheek name, "FAÜNA") but were surprised to see that the studio's website doesn't list illustration as one of its services. If not to promote a money-making offering, why post FAÜNA on Behance? We had to know, and happily Adam Goldberg, TRÜF's creative director, satisfied our curiosity.

From left, an ant, bird, and snakes.

Create: Who draws the FAÜNA illustrations?
Adam Goldberg:
I do. Monika Kehrer, our design director and a brilliant illustrator herself, is the force that holds everything together in the studio while I go off and design animals, plants, and weird shit. (Just kidding...kind of.)

Create: Why does a branding studio spend time on things like the FAÜNA illustrations?
Goldberg: We debated putting this stuff out there because of the possible confusion it might cause for potential clients and the creative community. Does it take away from our branding focus? We don’t think so. At the end of the day, creativity and art are part of our branding DNA, so we decided to not to shy away from it.

Although the illustration rarely shows up in our branding work so far, look closely and you can see the geometric, minimalist, mid-century, pattern work and constructivist threads that run through most everything we design. We like to call it “Messy Modernism.”

From left, a reindeer, spider, and flamingo.

The illustrations also open us up to other creative communities and clients who might not know who we are or what we're capable of. You never know who you're going to meet along the way. Just because you’re a branding studio doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in a box doing only one thing. We’ll probably offer illustration as a service but are testing the waters on Behance and Instagram to see if there’s interest.

I also do it to design things for the sake of design. It helps me flex my creative muscles and get weird without accountability to anyone but myself. But stepping away from client work actually makes that work stronger at the end of the day. It shakes things loose and gives me different design approaches that I might not normally think about.

And believe it or not, it's a de-stresser. Without deadlines and client or communication objectives, it's just you and your own head. It helps relax the mind.

Those all might be good reasons, but honestly, I just love doing it for no good reason at all!

From left, a transparent rabbit, an emu (or ostrich), and a...goat that's pooping? Admittedly, there are some weird ones here. 

Create: What has influenced your illustration style?
My many years in branding has influenced the style and execution of illustrations and not necessarily the other way around —although it is a merger of both aesthetics. The simplicity, geometry, and composure that we try to achieve with our branding work rubs off on the artwork. I think more in terms of composition and balance more now than I ever have — and that’s because of the branding work.

Also, it would be a crime if I didn’t mention the obvious: Miro, Calder, and Kandinsky are a large part of my influence. The Joan Miro museum in Barcelona changed me. Go there!

Create: What application do you use to draw FAÜNA?

Goldberg: I use Adobe Illustrator CC exclusively for this stuff. It typically starts out as a messy thumbnail sketch on paper, but then I hop on Illustrator and work it out and it usually ends up nothing like I envisioned in the first place — which is a good thing. Some creatives feel that apps can stifle creativity, but it actually opens up new avenues for me. I can ideate, explore, change direction, and delete it all and start over multiple times without destroying real canvases or sketchbooks. This may sound "new-agey," but I've found that journey can be a lot more informative and interesting than the destination.

A fish, a turkey, and a jellyfish.

Shape Builder and Live Corners are my favorite jams in Illustrator. They're not the most complex or technique-driven tools you can use, but our designs don't require much beyond that. No bells and whistles. Give me some basic shapes and beautiful curves and I really have all I need. That, and some Smart Guides to help keep my geometry in line (I was never great at math). We feel that good design shouldn't rely on techniques. It's about how you can get from idea to execution in the simplest way possible. And yes, sometimes we don't heed our own advice! 

Create: If you had to compare the overall TRÜF aesthetic to a song, what would that song be? 
Goldberg: That’s tough. If I have to choose just one, it’d be 15 Step by Radiohead from their In Rainbows album. The explanation is going to get complex and nerdy so stay with me: that song is composed in a rarely used 5/4 time signature and is incredibly difficult to pull off. Most songs on the planet are done in a 4/4 or 3/4. 15 Step is a crazy rhythm experiment that presents itself so simply and cohesively that you’d never really know what really went into it — and that’s how it should be. Simple on the outside, complex on the inside. It’s full of juxtapositions. Not that we’d ever compare ourselves to Radiohead, but we’d like to think our aesthetic in some way parallels that.

December 18, 2018