Posted: 07.18.13/11:26

Creative Conversations: Cordon Webb + Keetra Dean Dixon

YG6 Keetra Dean Dixon is an artist and graphic designer who makes playful and interactive installations and sculptures. In today’s Creative Conversation, she talks to book and type designer Cardon Webb​ (YGX) about the creative process. This interview appears in the YGX Annual.

Cardon Webb: For the most part is your career moving more towards art, or do you still feel like you need to be designing or involved in the design world?

Keetra Dean Dixon: It has really naturally progressed into what most people would call ‘art’ where my vision and I make the content. 

Cardon: Like authorship and all that stuff? 

Keetra: Yeah, authorship. I was getting as many commissions from paying clients, like the same type of clients I would work for in a more traditional graphic design role, so I had to rethink my entire approach for dealing with self-motivated content. So it was a really natural transition into the art world, and I discovered that I really miss working with clients in a more typical way. But the authorship is important because I find that I grow more in my independent pursuits of work. 

Cardon: I know that sometimes when someone says “do whatever you want!” I find it actually harder than when I am given parameters. I can actually do better with parameters because then, what I can’t do already becomes a stepping stone towards something better. 

“Even when I am doing what can be categorized as ‘art,’ I am giving myself problems to solve when I produce the work.”

Keetra: When you ask if I am moving more into the art world, I identify as a designer so much because of that process, because of the way I was raised, and the way that I practice, that even when I am doing what can be categorized as ‘art,’ I am giving myself problems to solve when I produce the work. That is what I miss, so I am really trying to move back toward a balance between the client-initiated problem-solving situation, and the art-based stuff, where I have given myself the time out. 

Cardon: Some of your type work is kind of digitized, or based on patterns. Are you doing that based on algorithms or coding, or all just play? 

Keetra: I try to work back and forth. It is really basic stuff and the majority of the time I am not doing the from-scratch-script thing. I’m usually partnering with someone, and I have always felt a little bit guilty about that, that I don’t write the language myself. When I approach the more traditional design work, and when I am doing typography, I find an immense amount of satisfaction — but also frustration, because I am a complete control freak over the details. But when I explore these materials, or this generative form, I get something where I can actually relinquish control and actually have a conversation with the materials, if you will. 

Cardon: I sketch and I do a lot of collage work, or work with paper and cardboard and paints, but a lot of it doesn’t actually transfer into my professional work. It ends up being in flat files in my house. But I would like to somehow figure out how to bring that more into my work. Have you ever thought of working with wood? 

Keetra: Oh yes I have worked with wood. 

Cardon: I have gotten really interested in it recently. 

Keetra: It’s just so nice to be able to work with someone who actually is a master. 

Cardon: I know, I would always prefer like the idea of talking with a master. That is what I like about the old days, because they would have guilds, the artist guilds, where you can get into these places and learn from the masters and be under their wings. 

Keetra: It’s my dream to start a collective studio, where people are doing more research and development in areas where they haven’t adopted the practice so seamlessly— at least not in the client based model— and it would just have everyone exposing one another to their specific areas of expertise. That is obviously not a new model at all, but I would love to do it. 

It sounds like you have a lot of interests that maybe a lot of people would categorize as hobbies. Do you find those learnings and new studies in the hobby category cross over into your professional work? 

Cardon: I feel like all of it is just gaining knowledge, whether it’s about the world or mechanics, or wood, you take something from the forms and the textures, and place them in some filing cabinet in your mind, and then they come out someway. 

Keetra: So what is a typical day for you? You focus on book jacket designs most of the time now, right? 

Cardon: I do that full time, but it is not so much that I’m constantly designing book covers, because I also have to manage freelance covers. I set up for print, too, so I have actually gained a lot of knowledge about production; how to prepare files to print, and color matching and all of that, which has been really great, because you don’t get that in school at all. 

Keetra: Yeah, this is very true. Do you have any indulgent secrets? Like, do you listen to podcasts while you’re designing? 

Cardon: You know I have as of recently. I have never used to, and I don’t walk around with headphones on, and when I am on the subway I am either reading or just sitting quietly. I don’t like to be constantly plugged in. But when I design, often I will catch myself putting on head phones but I don’t play anything, because it is like tuning out and going into my place. 

Keetra: Me too! It is not like it blocks sound but it converts your space. 

Cardon: Are you able to turn off in your head? 

Keetra: No. 

Cardon: So when you are walking on the streets are you constantly looking at things for their potential of becoming something all the time? 

Keetra: Everything. I can’t turn it off. I’m a total insomniac. 

Cardon: Yeah, I’m constantly looking at type or colors. I will pass a girl and think, “Oh man, those colors are great.” And then my head I create colors names and schemes. 

Keetra: I thought you were going to say that you shoot a photo of her, because I have done that one before! 

(Both laugh) 

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