First appointment with Indieground interviews dedicated to the main protagonists of the nowadays Graphic & Illustration world. In this first episode, the word goes to Alessandro Strickner aka The Overglow.
Alessandro Strickner (Rome, 1986) began his career as a graphic designer in Rome in 2011 in the advertising section, after three years of experience in the Leo Burnett seat in Rome he quit and closed his experience in the corporate world to take/undertake on his freelance career. As a freelance he collaborates with many companies, including Nike USA, Sony Records UK, Sony Pictures USA, Field & Stream, Bleacher Report, Entertainment Weekly, Bloomberg, as well as for more independent realities such as New Retro Wave, Laser Unicorns, Heatwave Visuals … Etc. You can see his complete portfolio here, but first keep scrolling and enjoy the interview!
1) The “Overglow” project is clearly a tribute to the 80s, what does that historical period represent for you?
Certainly, a period in which I was much younger and carefree, where everything was still to be discovered and with many goals still to be achieved.
From the point of view of a 30-year-old man knee-deep in responsible adult life, rethinking that period is a breath of fresh air which, if strengthened by musical and/or graphic contributions, becomes even more powerful. I think this applies a bit to all retro / synthwave fans who have passed the 30 for a while …
I also want to say that from an artistic and design point of view that period also reminds me of a great freedom, sometimes veiled with naivety, which lately we could no longer afford.
Today we live in the future, and for this reason, we must describe and tell it with precision. Before however, we imagined it, dreamed it, and this was a free way to unleash and represent a dreamlike and surreal dimension that precisely, after the early 2000s, we probably started to lose. Sci-fi films are now documentaries as far as they are “credible” and scientifically correct.
Rediscovering the 80s is also rediscovering that desire to invent without having to worry about following precise rules.
2) Who were your reference artists in the research and construction of your personal style?
Once I discovered this small revival (we are talking about 2011 and it was all really niche), I felt a dip in the heart, like having found an old photograph that we did not remember existed.
I grew up among the cartridges for Mega Drive and Game Boy, the cabinets in the games room and the rented VHS. All things characterized by graphics that I tried to bring as a source of inspiration but of which the author was often ignored. Nowadays, on the modern front instead, seeing the works of The Zonders (authors of many cover artworks for the Valerie Collective) was what lifted the spark, realizing that someone was reviving a style very familiar to me but, until that day, despised and forgot.
3) Which is the creative process that you apply at the beginning of your work? Do you start by drawing by hand? Which software do you use?
Usually, it all starts with a thought, then I move on to a very rough sketching phase. When I find something that seems to be working, I start with the actual realization. I work mainly with Illustrator, Photoshop or C4D in random order.
4) Could you be considered as one of the pioneers of the retrofuture graphic current?
Hehe, I don’t like to call myself a pioneer because my work with Overglow was subordinated to the discovery of a revival which, although truly niche at the time, was already active.
But it can be said that I was part of the first wave of 80s graphics when we were 10 people and the term “synthwave” still didn’t exist. We certainly existed long before Kung Fury, before Stranger Things …
5) Stranger Things has revived the aesthetics of the 80s, how did you experience this media phenomenon?
On one hand with passion, I liked the first series a lot and seeing on the “big screen” something that could be remotely inspired by something I’m part of is a great satisfaction. On the other hand, however, there is also a hint of that jealousy of the series “ok, now everything will be in the 80s and it was all Stranger Things” ahaha
6) Let’s stay in the cinematographic field… from which films of the 80’s you were most influenced by?
As a child, I loved Back to the Future, Indiana Jones and Stargate. Growing up, I fomented myself with everything that is Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Kurt Russel, Carpenter … one of my favorite films is “They Live” which, although “cheesy”, had a socio-political critique made in a truly intelligent way.
7) Most of your works are connected to musical projects, what’s your relationship with music?
Very strong, I “was born” as a musician, and after high school in the period of cosmic emptiness without knowing what to do with my life, I had only two things that I was passionate about: music, playing from the age of 11, and then continuing a career in sound and graphics/design, which despite not having studied in that sector, I have always carried on as a passion. I chose the second because I wanted to keep the first free from work logics. But somehow the two have always been connected and although often they are not profitable jobs, the idea of working in the music field always fascinates me a lot, especially if there’s a physical production of vinyl records or CDs.
8) What is your relationship with video games instead? Your favorite arcade titles?
Let’s say that until 16 I was a hardcore “gamer” (but at the time they were not called that). Mega Drive, Game Boy and then Nintendo 64 were my favorite consoles. The most active period was from the 8 years therefore in full Game Boy period. I was obsessed with Super Mario Land 2, Probotector 2, Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat 2 (when the sequels were better than the original haha). If we talk about arcade cabinets, instead, there was one in the game room of the bar under the house, “The Punisher”, a sliding fighting game inspired by the character MARVEL on which I will have spent the billions, amazing game and given the possibility of multiplayer also a source of many later friendships. Then how not to mention Puzzle Bubble, Metal Slug and another spectacular basketball game, Street Hoop!
9) Back to design, a passion for fonts and calligraphy clearly emerges from your artworks, can you tell us where this love starts from?
Coming from a path of pure graphic design, let’s say that I have a solid foundation of basic design, branding, lettering and typography. In approaching a strongly illustrated style (which is absolutely not my strong suit) the first elements, which I started to play with, were the logos and lettering compositions, closest to me.
As for calligraphy, however, it’s something that I had to develop thanks to Overglow because it was an aspect where I had no ability but the style required it. I filled sheets and sheets of handwritten, I think at least 10 trees, and still today I have to do many tests to find something that satisfies me.
10) Which of your works is the one that represents you the most?
Very difficult to say. As for Overglow, perhaps I would say the ARC NEON logo that has always been finished in all the moodboards of works from the 80s. On a more overall level I would say perhaps Andus Fox’s Tempus Fugit, a work that has a strong “retro” component but also has a more modern side, in short, it’s a bit of a cross between retro and modern, which is a style I would like to continue. To date I find Apollo Zapp’s Synthetic Flower Fields fairly representative, combining surrealism, bright colors and geometry with that touch of retro but without being 80’s which, in my opinion, is the perfect balance I’m looking for.
11) Which advice do you usually give to a young graphic designer who wants to go your own way?
Difficult to say because although millennia haven’t passed, I come from a generation that was based on following the right steps, making apprenticeship, feet on the ground and seriousness. The whole professional society was then later hit by the liberating phenomenon of people who simply said “FUCK IT” and created a profession, often even more profitable than the “canonical” ones, on passions, even if they spent hours playing computer games. My advice would, therefore, be to follow only what you are really passionate about, without compromise (in the field of graphic design it can be a particular style or a specific sector). But for the new generations, it could be foregone advice, now they see with their own eyes how the world of work works. Maybe I would say to a young man not to think too much about followers and social media because they don’t mean that much. Those with most followers are the ones who usually work the least and have the most amount of time to waste 🙂
12) Which are your plans for the future?
The Overglow project continues although with reduced volume, due to the desire and time available I decided to follow only the most interesting projects.
I’m trying to develop more an independent identity as a graphic designer, a little detached from Overglow, exploring more modern styles even if always veiled by that retro touch. Together with the Roman duo “Robotina” we have developed graphics and animations for “Italians Do It Better” label, the historical home of artists such as Desire and Chromatics, featured in the famous “Drive” soundtrack.
Always with a retro flavor, I started a new project, which unfortunately only Italians will understand, called “Font Populista”. It is the celebration of a particular typography very popular in Italy in the pre-2000 in certain environments. Finally, together with a friend and former colleague, we started “All Fonts Are Bastards”, a project that combines typography and fanbase. I’d also like to have space for music, now a little set-aside, but unfortunately time is running out!