A good relationship between an illustrator and their agent is like a marriage. “If it’s going to work, it’s all about the long-term,” says Jon Cockley, co-founder of Handsome Frank, an agency based in London that represents over 30 illustrators internationally. “You’ve got to be sure that your agent’s long-term relationship is with the artist, as that’s the one that really needs to be maintained and nurtured.”

Like marriage, an agent isn’t necessarily for everyone, and career longevity and success don’t depend on finding your way onto a big agency’s books. “It depends on the artist’s desire to be involved in both aspects of business and creative,” says Jennifer Gonzalez, co-founder and business director of New York’s Hugo & Marie. “If you like numbers, negotiating, and navigating difficult conversations with people, and you have a tolerance for the administrative aspects in addition to doing the work, then hire an in-house producer and work as a team. If you hate everything I just described and want the support of an established team, get an agent!”

Illustration by Hisham Akira Bharoocha represented by Hugo&Marie for Adidas.

Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple; securing representation vs. going solo are both full of pros and...

The NBA redesign business is booming. In January 2013, the New Orleans Pelicans unveiled a new logo to go with their new name, and in November of the same year, the Charlotte Bobcats followed suit with a new emblem that has served the franchise well on its journey to take back the Hornets nam (which had traveled to New Orleans a decade earlier). In 2015, the looks of the Hawks, Bucks, Wizards, Raptors, 76ers, and Clippers underwent major overhauls during the off-season. And not to be outdone, the Nets, Magic, Thunder, and Golden State Warriors have also tweaked, polished, and embraced their branding redos. Of the NBA’s 30 teams, nearly every one has unveiled a new uniform, logo, or court design over the past few years. And in the digital world, the NBA is launching the NBA 2K e-sport League in May with 17 franchises. 

So how did a single designer, Rodney Richardson, founder of the Hattiesburg, Mississippi-based RARE Design, play such an outsized role in the NBA rebranding frenzy? With a small team of seven, he’s responsible for the brand identities of the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and Minnesota Timberwolves, as well as all 17 teams, and the league itself, in the NBA 2K League.

We spoke with Richardson, whose company’s office is located in a restored bakery building from the 1920s, about what goes into redesigning an NBA team identity, how his small team takes on such big...

Stock photographers are the unknown artists behind some of the most replicated images in the world: the winter wonderland from your first desktop background, a woman laughing over a smoothie, a colorful umbrella in a sea of shiny black ones. Whatever their subjects, stock photographers share a replication-based business model a world apart from gallery shows or editorial spreads. But with the rise of crowdsourcing and unlimited replication, the business is quickly shifting, which begs the question: what’s the value on an image in an age when everyone carries a camera in their pocket?

Stock photography has come a long way since the 1930s, when Otto Bettmann fled Nazi Germany for New York, hauling two trunks of prints, photos, and negatives with him. His timing was good; photo-heavy magazines like LIFE and Look were on the hunt for pictures worth a thousand words. Editors hammered on the door of Bettmann’s New York office for access to filing cabinets with images of monks, mothers, and Marilyn Monroe. Bettmann rented the photos out for single use to monetize the collection. In 1995, Bill Gates bought the archive to bulk up his collection at Corbis, the photo library company he owned.

Around that same time, Mark Maziarz, a Utah-based photographer with a love of the outdoors, began to corner the stock photo market in Park City, where he built his portfolio by capturing his extreme sports pals cliff jumping. By now, he...

The glass building, shielded from the street by a sheath of perforated aluminum, is the creation of Raveevarn Choksombatchai, founder of the architectural firm Veev Design and a professor at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. The Thai-born architect, who is inspired by everything from the films of Tarkovsky and Ozu to her hometown of Bangkok, bought the building with the intention of tearing it down before deciding to transform it into the light-box-like residence and creative lair it is today. “I was looking at the old footprint and I tried to see what was good about it because I had lived in it for five years. I knew it would be great if we dug out a little bit of a courtyard like a piece of cake, taking out the middle part. That courtyard made every single square foot in the house and also in the office downstairs very airy,” Raveevarn says of the structure’s most significant addition, which floods the space with light while maximizing natural ventilation.

The dark wood of the staircase leading up to the spacious second floor continues as the main flooring, a somehow grounding element when contrasted with the mostly white walls. A bright magenta pony wall at the end of the kitchen...

It’s peaceful to sit in the second floor waiting area of Pentagram’s New York City headquarters. Perhaps it’s due to the full-floor view of leafy Madison Square Park across Fifth Avenue. Or maybe it’s the nostalgic touches throughout the office*—an unplugged black rotary phone, for example, sits on a side table next to the comfy red couches. The most civilized touch could definitely be the The New York Times hanging from a metal rack on the wall. Sitting there in Pentagram’s elevated lobby, eyeing the Times, one feels a certain desire to chuck their always-on cellphone into the Fifth Avenue traffic, curl up with the inky newsprint, and spend the afternoon leisurely reading. But then the whole reason for this stop is to interview Natasha Jen. Her reputation precedes her. She was named one of Pentagram’s youngest partners ever, in 2012 at age 35.

Her far-reaching resume shows she can do just about anything: brand identities, multi-scale exhibitions, signage systems, print, motion, and interactive graphics, collaborations with universities, museums, fashion brands, and restaurants. There is even a rumor that she can fly.

Still, it leaves one question unanswered: Who is Natasha Jen? The impetus for having lunch was to hear about the life experiences that have shaped her perspective and contributed to her success.

Justin Fuller has spent plenty of mornings fly fishing for trout on Boulder Creek before heading into the offices of his Colorado design firm, Good Apples. In 2013, he gave his co-founder Dan Storch a minimalist tenkara rod for Christmas, and pretty soon, the two had hatched an idea for their second venture.  

“With fly fishing, you’ve got all this equipment you’ve gotta lug around with you—it’s almost like golf, but without a caddy,” says Fuller. “So much depends on the species of fish, the time of year, and how long you’ll be out there—you don’t want to end up without the equipment that you need.” To hold all that gear, anglers generally choose between a cheap plastic storage bin and a $400 bag with dozens of straps, pockets, and zippers.

Fuller and Storch decided to fill the gap with an $89 bag made from remnant wader material they’d discovered in Japan, forming Yakoda Supply in the process. The company’s first product offers storage and durability at a reasonable price, but it also solves one more problem: the pricy Neoprene waders required for fly fishing are so delicate that anglers can’t set foot on a gravel trail or asphalt parking lot; most jump out of their trucks and change on a garbage bag, floormat, or an old piece of carpet. Each Yakoda bag includes a removable foam pad to class things up a little. The two are now designing their second product—a...

Redesigning your company’s website should be the ideal design experience—an opportunity to highlight your proudest achievements without a pesky client looking over your shoulder—but it’s often the one task every agency employee dreads. There’s no shortage of excuses. An agency’s site is a vital tool for generating new business, but it’s the only project that doesn’t end with an invoice, so it’s constantly competing with paid work. And when 30 or 40 cooks are messing around in the kitchen, a few food fights are inevitable. If there’s any truth in the old trope about the cobbler’s children having no shoes, then the design industry has barefoot kids running rampant.

We spoke with several agencies that emerged from the experience with plenty to say.

In the fall of 2016, Threespot’s chief creative officer William Colgrove noticed their website had gotten a little stale, so he created a simple one-page “front door” with a graffiti aesthetic that announces: “We help progressive causes make the world a better place.” The approach is consistent with the founders’ history of performing together in Washington D.C.’s punk scene in their younger years; and when Donald Trump was elected weeks later, it seemed even more appropriate.

“One of our clients recently told me, ‘I hire you so I can put you in front of people and you can say unpopular things that they need to hear,’ so that ‘rebel’ aesthetic makes sense,” says Colgrove, who believes too many agencies construct bland, soul-less portfolios for fear...

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly
211 Rue Bernard O, Montréal, QC H2T 2K5, Canada

For the comic and graphic novel enthusiast, Montreal’s Drawn & Quarterly is a revered pilgrimage site. The thriving store is the physical location of world famous graphic novel publisher Drawn & Quarterly, stocking its own titles as well as books produced by other international alt-presses, like McSweeneys, Fantagraphics, Koyama, New Directions, Breakdown Press, and more. There’s no other place in the world so comprehensive. Whether you’re a comic regular or new to the scene, you’ll be drawn in and swept away by the varied illustration styles and innovative visual storytelling on draft.

Art Metropole, Toronto
88 King St. West, 2nd floor, Toronto, ON, M5V1N6, Canada

This legendary, artist-run non-profit publishes, distributes, and exhibits artists’ publications and other materials. Founded in 1974 by Canadian artist collective General Idea, Art Metropole has always been on the cutting edge of Toronto’s artistic community. Here, you’ll find video, audio, and electronic media carefully set beside bespoke books and thoughtful printed matter on conceptual art, which you can read in between viewings of Art Metropole’s must-see exhibitions and installations.

Penguin Shop
320 Front Street West, Toronto, Canada, M5V 3B6 

Here’s one for the committed collector of Penguin Classics, that famous sixpenny, orange-spined series that has become a 20th-century design icon. Penguin Random House’s first permanent shop is here in the lobby of its Canadian headquarters. It’s packed with 300 titles, branded mugs, notebooks, and...

It’s the end of 2017. That means, like many people, we’re taking a moment to look at the year in review.


It was a whiplash-inducing kind of year. Before we burn some sage to cleanse the air for 2018, we’re rounding up what we’ve learned to help us better focus and answer the question: Where does the best work that we can make start? With ourselves? With our collaborators? With a martini or two? 

We broke our learnings down into five parts: self-improvement, honing your craft, client relations, collaboration, and ‘big picture,’ which is a fancy way of saying everything we couldn’t fit neatly into another category. Onward!


Self-comparisons and one-sided competitions are toxic. Ignore ‘em.
“I have learned that comparison and competition are enemies of the artist,” says writer Mike Sager. “How did he get that assignment? How could she win that award? How many books did she sell? What’s his hourly rate? All that should matter is the piece of work that sits before you. There is you. There is your art. At the elemental level, nothing else matters.”

Safeguard your freedom to pursue happiness.  
Amos Kennedy Jr. quit his job as a systems analyst to become an letterpress printer, taking a major pay cut and sacrificing security to pursue his craft. “We have this model of working forever for somebody and then retiring and going off to play golf. And that’s the good life,” he says. “We aren’t taught to be independent and...

Hector Ouilhet, Google’s head of design for Search and Assistant, is part of a rare breed in the tech sector. He appreciates the sartorial grandeur of a fine necktie and regularly wears one to the office. Today, he’s chosen a tangerine-colored Hermès cravat crawling with blue alligators and parrots that perfectly matches the pantone of the flower pinned to his left lapel. “Hermès ties are so intricate and interesting, and they usually help me strike up a conversation,” says Ouihlet. “And accents in somebody’s outfit say a lot of things about who they are.”

Ouihlet has routine and experiment days, where he’ll either play it safe or start with the accessory, like the tie, belt, or pocket square, and build the ensemble from there. With age, he’s gotten more adventurous. “Years ago, there were certain colors I’d never wear together,” he says. “Now I wear things that don’t feel fantastic yet, but I can see will eventually come.”

An eye looking toward the future is also central to Ouhlet’s work at Google, where he leads the design team making the products and interfaces that a good chunk of the population will be using in the next few years. His career trajectory was anything but a straight line. He was born and raised in Mexico City, then moved to South Korea in his teenage years to live with a relative (it was a youth rebellion phase).

Later, he studied fine arts, sculpture, and computer engineering in...

As Airbnb’s user experience design manager, Jenny Arden is tasked with the job of helping create a seamless experience for all Airbnb hosts, and that includes her mom, a self-employed writer living in Ashland, Oregon, an artsy hamlet at the southern end of the Rogue Valley, just north of the California border. “She adores meeting people and providing pastries and great coffee for them,” says Arden, adding, “Baby boomers renting out a small room are actually a key demographic for us.”

And Jenny’s mother has actually offered her daughter some advice on how to improve the host experience. “My mom has a warm personality, and she gives me feedback on how the platform can help match her with people who want that graciousness,” says Arden. “To get the value of her particular style of hosting is to be into coffee, pastries, and exchanging travel stories.”

Further personalizing the stay experience is central to Airbnb’s ongoing mission to connect people to places. It’s also tricky: How do you best match 160 million visitors to four million homes hosted by 2.5 million people in 191 cities? It’s a Rubik’s Cube puzzle, and Arden leads a team that aims to better support the growing number of hosts in a way that allows them to run their homestays as small business owners.

“Our guests, on average, use our platform maybe a couple times a year when they’re planning a trip and...

Welcome to Instagram! Step right up and take a selfie! Tucked right inside the front door of Instagram’s new office building on Facebook’s Menlo Park campus is an on-brand, magenta-shaded installation where visitors can snap a photo of their beautiful mugs – make sure to get the Instagram logo in the background! – and post them on Instagram, naturally, for a meta social media moment.

The entire three-story building is a real life interpretation of the app. It has everything from wall-sized picture frames displaying Instagram images from around the world to its own Blue Bottle Coffee outpost to an offering of free candy-colored toothbrushes in the bathroom. (Hey, it’s nice to have options.) If Instagram is a platform for sharing fairy tales, then this physical manifestation of that digital world seems to check many of the boxes for a nice, happy existence.

Over the last two years, Instagram has grown from 400 million users to some 700 million today. It might be the hottest brand on the planet (even if your mom is now on it or your feed is filled with baby pics), a platform that is becoming the world’s greatest collection of images, available to view for free at the tap of a button.

As Instagram has grown its user base, the company has also increased its number of staff designers tenfold, jumping from seven to 70 since Ian Spalter, the new head of design, took over the job in 2015. Spalter...

I think we can all agree that you are uniquely talented. And yet, how often does anyone acknowledge it? Let’s face it—since you took home that blue ribbon for a pencil sketch of Black Beauty in 4th grade, you’ve been on the other end of a lot more no’s than yes’s. But hey, rejection is a painful yet necessary part of the creative process, isn’t it?

Not anymore.

For a nominal fee of $250 per entry (or $1,000 for five) you’ll have the rare opportunity to be considered for a gleaming trophy indicating that you possess talent. We’ve assembled a fine panel of judges from among the select few who have already won these very same trophies, not to mention our framed certificates, crystal flames, and various other objects, all engraved at enormous cost. (Winners will be eligible to purchase additional copies of said awards for their regional offices, their mothers, and their kindergarten art instructors.)  

Sure, we all know that clients are more focused on “results” and “sales” and other things that could be measured by any number cruncher in accounting. But they’re just clients—they have no idea of the blood, sweat, and tears that you put into every word of copy, every perfectly aligned pixel, every vector illustration. They don’t even know what a vector is, so how can they be trusted to assess your work? The truth is, they can’t. But they’re sure to be impressed with the phrase “award-winning designer” on your...

I don’t keep track of how much time I spend on social media, but I know it adds up.

Before the internet, my creative progress was easily measured. I spent most of my day alone in my office, bringing ideas to life, or doing something ancillary that enabled my work—interviewing, filling out expense accounts, prospecting new jobs. In any case, something would be started or finished or added to. Something on my to-do list would be checked. Honest effort would be expended and I’d see the result.

Now, at the end of a work day—which never really ends until I scroll one last time thru the platforms, send an appropriately ironic goodnight Bitmoji to my son, and turn my cellphone face down on the night table—I sometimes strain to remember what I’ve accomplished during the previous hours.

With a lifetime of accomplishments as fuel, my star may be as bright as ever, but my universe has expanded to such an extent that keeping my head down and doing killer work is no longer an option—not if I want my stuff to be seen, not if I want further employment. And definitely not if I want to maintain my own self esteem.

We are all of us judged by the clicks we receive. By our Google rankings, our numbers of friends and followers; our hearts, wows and thumbs up—and our shares, most especially our shares: the hardest to come by and the most telling. To like is no investment. Even to...

The E.U.’s architecture of international relations may be taking a beating, but one international organization at least is still building cultural ties in Europe. The Artist’s Studio Museum Network links the cottages, castles, and farmhouses that artists once used as homes and studios. The buildings now serve as museums of the artists’ domestic lives and work routines; where Monet tended his waterlilies, where Rosa Bonheur could wear work pants without a government permit, and where Beatrix Potter fed lettuce to the furry inspirations for Peter Rabbit. From Croatia to the Canary Islands, the goal of artist house museums isn’t just a history lesson—it’s a 360-degree understanding of the lifestyle and context of an artist’s work.

While some studio museums are front and center in bustling metropolises like Paris, many are tucked in far corners of the globe. When the founding Network museum, the Watts Gallery Artists’ Village, put out a call for the Network, they weren’t surprised when house museums came out of the woodwork. “Many artists seek seclusion in which to work,” says Kirsten Tambling who administers the Network. “Many of the studio museums we found are set in picturesque and inspiring, though remote, locations.”

The curators share a passion for keeping alive the soul of the artist whose home they steward, from preserving tubs of oil paints, to polishing the silverware, to asking visitors to be respectful in the crypt. “There’s a strong tradition in many studio museums of artists both building...

Tel Aviv is known by jet-setters the world over as the raity that really never sleeps (sorry, New York), by culture aficionados as a hotbed of avant-garde art shows and concerts, theater and dance, and by architecture fans as home to the astonishing White City, a diverse collection of Bauhaus-inspired architecture from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s in the city center. In short, Tel Aviv bustles with a street life that rivals cities 10 times its size, crackling with the sounds of different languages – Hebrew and Arabic, English and Russian – and the buzz of cross-cultural creativity. “I don’t think Tel Aviv is beautiful in the way Paris is beautiful. But I think it is beautiful, although it’s also a bit ugly,” says architect Dana Oberson. Here are some of the spots Oberson, and Ninety Nine U, consider Tel Aviv must-sees.

Israeli architect Dana Oberson, a Tel Aviv native, wasn’t supposed to be an architect. Her father became one of Israel’s first haute couture designers, and her sister followed in his footsteps. Dana sidestepped fashion by studying graphic design, but in her first year, she says, “I figured out graphic design is too flat for me.” That realization has led Oberson to become a tour de force talent, in her own country and beyond, whose projects are as diverse as the cultures and countries from which she draws inspiration. “With some kinds of architects,” she says, “everything they do looks like they’ve done it. But I like moving from one space to another, creating a different dialogue with every client.” Besides her hometown’s vibrant mix of cultures, Oberson has been inspired lately by the architecture of Greece...

Roz Chast is one of the lions of old school New York. She grew up in Brooklyn and began publishing cartoons for The New Yorker in the late ‘70s. Years and thousands of cartoons later, her loose line work, handwritten quips, and the frenetic, sometimes anxious, energy of her drawn world have become emblematic of the magazine’s cartoons, and the entire experience of New York.

Lately, she’s joined the legions of creatives who work remotely. She sends her The New Yorker pitches in as PDFs from her home in Connecticut. In the initial transition of moving out of the city, Chast worried that her family would become mall, lawn, and Republican politics obsessed. Instead, she happily reports that she still hates driving and that one of her children is a Socialist.

Days in Connecticut involve errands, drawing cartoons, and playing with her two parrots—who serenade her from the kitchen countertop with demands for waffles, toast, and apples. With her latest book, Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York, Chast has joined a fellowship of writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, E.B. White and Walt Whitman who capture the experience of arriving in New York City.

Chast sat down with 99U to talk about navigating a successful career as a working artist, her thoughts on the best ways to experience New York, and how to spot—and write about—the delightful in every hydrant and pigeon.

What’s a ritual you have when you’re in New York?

I love to walk. There’s...

There’s a DNA, an origin story, that bridges the Iwo Jima Monument, the crucifix Pope John Paul II leant on during mass, the coiled muscles of Arturo Di Modica’s Bull of Wall Street, the folds of Lynda Benglis’ sculpture, and the figures who march behind Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s funeral carriage at his Washington monument. These bronze pieces, along with countless other monuments, adornments, and portraits scattered across the globe, were all made with the same tools and cast in the same furnace in Brooklyn. Bedi-Makky Art Foundry has lasted as long as the sculptures, a company passed down from partner to friend, father to son, producing bronze art work for over a hundred years.

The bronze business has changed dramatically since the golden age of foundries in New York City, however, and the demand for public sculpture, the bread and butter of the industry, has shifted. But Bedi-Makky’s current owner, Bill Makky, still carries on the tradition, filling commissions designed to become iconic public symbols. The foundry’s most recent project? A bronze hockey glove as big as a sea turtle, designed for Madison Square Garden as a good luck symbol for Rangers fans.

On a recent autumn evening at Ace Hotel New York, 99U hosted its first salon, an evening designed to elicit candid conversations about a meaty topic in the design world (over cocktails, of course). The question of the night was: How can artists maintain their unique perspective when working for big brands? An audience of creatives including designers, artists, photographers, animators, and entrepreneurs swapped stories about the struggle to balance their style with client projects. “Can you name a time you’ve compromised on a project?” someone in the crowd asked another. “Sure,” confessed a musician, “There is a Christian Rock album that has my work on it, but the name is a pseudonym.”

In a conversation moderated by 99U’s editor in chief Matt McCue, artists Laolu Senbanjo and Jon Burgerman shared their thoughts on the subject. Burgerman has drawn whimsical figures into everyday scenes for an Instagram-sponsored show at the Tate Modern and made elaborate doodle-filled walls for Apple stores around the globe. Meanwhile, Senbanjo’s line work electrifies Bulgari perfume bottles, Nike sneakers, and even Beyoncé and her dancers in the “Sorry” video from Lemonade. Both grapple with preserving their undiluted voice across projects like these.

McCue with Burgerman and Senbanjo


They found the perfect spot in central London’s Shoreditch – “completely a blank canvas,” says Brock of the 10,000-foot interior – and tapped architect Dara Huang’s Design Haus Liberty to turn it into the airy, inviting, industrial-meets-farmhouse workspace that is AF’s headquarters today. “Dara was at the very beginning of her journey” says Brock. “And on top of that, her style is not conventional.” Which is, let’s just say, an understatement.

Design Haus Liberty’s assignment was, in the words of Dyke, “to avoid the cold, stark, futuristic feel of many other technology-based digital agencies and try to do something that was a bit more tangible, human, and soft.” That is just what Huang pulled off with the artful use of reclaimed “found” objects that both harken back to the predigital age and play on AF’s mission to use digital technology to make the analog world a better place.

Design Haus Liberty created a mezzanine, a minimalist black staircase that matched the interior’s existing black columns, and outfitted the facade with glazed glass to let in a flood of light. A strategically placed oriental rug with a giant leather trunk cum coffee table in the middle, flanked by tufted Chesterfield sofas, make for an instant living room on the first floor that signals relaxation. Vintage...