“It’s going to melt faces. We are pretty psyched on how well it’s turned out” Zach Shapiro
What happens when you cross an innate desire for creativity across mediums such as graphic design, finished art and dare I say it, wakeboarding? You get… Humanoid Wakeboards. We sat down with their Art man; ZACH SHAPIRO.
Humanoid have such a distinctive graphic identity. How important do you think it is to a company’s success to have a definitive style?
Very important. Being able to be identified and stand out amongst the rest is what we have strived to do since we printed our first graphic. From the very beginning, we wanted to move away from the moto-esque, techno graphics that have seemed to dominate the sport for some time now, and push our identity towards a more hand crafted, illustrative and soulful feel. Similar to what you would find in the snow, surf and skate arena.
You must walk a fine line though between making sure you have diversity in the line and a brand identity. Is that hard to balance?
It’s been a fun challenge. We feel our brand mark is very versatile and can work with a wide variety of themes and applications. Just as long as our core identity shines through, we are cool with taking risks and producing graphics that stray away from the tired formula of wake graphics.
Who is involved in the overall graphic direction?
Joel Hillard, Wes and myself, mainly. Of course the team, friends and any artists we involve greatly affect the final outcome of what goes to print.
What is it that the Humanoid Art style is trying to portray?
We are always evolving and adding our own touch to the hybridisation of both classic and modern themes. We try and produce art that illustrates how we do things by hand and with intention. Doing things from hand takes more time, adds more personality and ultimately has more of a custom feel. We wanted our style to parallel how our boards are built.
Where do you look for inspiration?
A lot of it comes from the coastal lifestyle. Life, music, art, friends and strange substances always seem to inspire us and keep things fresh.
There are similarities in any art form, from inspiration to accomplishment. Do you see the parallel between art and wakeboarding?
Of course. Art and wakeboarding both involve collaboration, mistakes, often painful mistakes, imagination and the push to master one’s technique. Both require passion and acceptance of risk.
Who have you worked with in the past and into the future for Board artwork?
I produce around 50% of the board art, but get to be involved in every design that hits the water. I’m also very fortunate to get the opportunity to seek out artists who I have design crushes on. When budget allows and we can work with other artists, I always get excited to collaborate. Some names of artists we have used are Nick Slater, Tanya Brown, Brizida Ahrnsbrak, Nick Motte, Oscar Woodruff, Matthew Skiff and Wesley Schauble. They all have sites showcasing their talents which can easily be found doing some ole fashioned Googling.
If you could get any graphic artist involved who would it be?
Matthew Allen, Jon Contino and Timba Smits to name a few. Those guys. Legit.
Pro Model Board artwork has to align with the company direction but also match riders’ personal style. Is it harder to create graphics for team riders?
As of now we only have an O’Shea graphic. We hope very soon we can expand the line and get Mitch Langfield, Trevor Bashir, Bob Sichel and Eddie Valdez some thrashers of their own.
I know Chriso is a passionate man. Do you give him a direction for the graphic or vice versa?
I’d say vice versa. Chris voices what he digs, a theme he’s into and then I work with the artist to bring it to life. For next years graphic, we had an artist already on board. I told him a little about Chris and what he was thinking and the artist, Oscar Woodruff, came up with an idea that Chris and I were both stoked on. It’s going to melt faces. We are pretty psyched on how well it’s turned out.
A wakeboard company is so much more than just boards though. There’s apparel and accessories, not to mention catalogues, point of sale, ads, packaging, websites, photography. Everything has to be on point in order for riders to have faith in the brand, right?
Indeed. One well put together package is a necessity. Took some fine tuning but we feel confident that where we are now is exactly where we need to be. From soft goods, accessories, boards and web, we think things are pretty dialed in. We have our voice and the design reflects that.
What project accomplishment so far are you most proud of? I’m mostly proud of Kyle Schmidt and the good ole boys down in Florida. We are proud to say that almost all of our production will be done in the US and I’m quite joyous of the team’s efforts in making that happen.
Do you remember any board graphics that had a profound or lasting impression on you?
Two in particular. The first one I did, which was horrible and now humbling to look at. Years ago, Joel came to me and asked me if I could draw something for Humanoid’s first ever wakeboard graphic. I hadn’t picked up a pen to illustrate in years but I said “I think so”. I did, we laughed at it and it went to print. It’s really special to see how far things have come since then. Humanoid’s graphics have really reflected our growth and we are just getting started. Every year, things look better and better. The second graphic is for our new 2014 park board. A lovely patternista named Tanya Brown out of NYC whipped up some real rad patterns for us and I am excited just to have one hanging on my wall.