Design duo Dan Ibarra and Michael Byzewski, better known as Aesthetic Apparatus, have made a name for themselves in the niche market of rock posters but make their bucks off of imaginative identity and packaging design. Dan (the Funny One) and Michael (the Sexy One) met working at a design studio in Madison, Wisc., called Planet Propaganda. Those days marked the kickoff of their screen printing career, and they have since opened up studio in Minneapolis. Bona fide music nerds, they design, screen print, and sell limited edition posters for, dare-I-say, "indie" rock bands like Spoon, the Unicorns, and We Are Scientists. They sell these, along with art prints, test prints, some cheeky merch, and a print series called DoomDrips, on their website. Their portfolio of corporate identity branding and packaging design boasts clients like Chronicle Books, Harper Collins, the now-defunct JANE magazine, and ad giant Crispin Porter + Bogusky, for whom they designed (gasp!) a Burger King crown. Michael Byzewski was kind enough to sit down and introduce me to Aesthetic Apparatus in my virtual salon. To read my interview and hear about his plans to design an "expansive line of erotic sleepwear for horses," read more.
How did you two connect? Was it poster love at first sight?
We met each other in a bathroom at the airport . . . errr, wait . . . we met while both working at a design studio in Madison called Planet Propaganda. One of the owners had a band and asked us to screen print some
posters for his band, and we just never stopped after that.
What got you started designing posters for bands? Was there any band that you were dying to make posters for?
We're both big music nerds so it was just a great way to combine our love of design with our love of music. We've been able to work with a lot of musicians that we admire. I think we'd still both love the opportunity to
design something for Tom Waits. Or Stryper.
A band/record label hires you to make them a sweet poster. Where do you start? Do they have an influence on how it turns out, or is it all you?
We start with getting to know as much about the band as possible. Obviously, listening to music is important but we also try to dig up as many interviews and stories about the bands as possible. So, in that way they
have a huge influence. But we also want them to be as involved in the design process as possible, which sometimes they are directly involved and then sometimes they just give a final "A-OK" to the design.
When/why did you decide to start selling art prints in addition to band posters?
We've been doing art prints since we started Aesthetic Apparatus. Recently we've started doing quite a bit more just as another outlet for us outside of rock posters. People can only have so many rock n' roll posters
on their walls.
I love the color mash of your test prints, and I've never seen anything like them. Whose idea was it to make a buck off of them?
Early on we recognized the test prints as something sort of special. We'd throw the ones we thought were "finished" in a pile. Honestly, the test prints are really our favorite prints, and they've actually influenced how we
design. And I guess we figured if we like them so much, others may be interested as well. And they have been!
You have a great portfolio of logos and packaging design. Was that type of design something that just happened and evolved, or were you actively trying to do branding design, DVD packages, etc.?
We've been doing that sort of work since the beginning. The poster work we do is not, for the most part, really how we make money as a studio. The more traditional design jobs like you mentioned are typically how we pay the bills. However, the poster work we do act is a great form of self promotion for us.
So it looks like you've made your way into the "merch" market . . . hoodies, buttons, even a toy. When does your home décor line come out?
We have a line of cat box liners coming out as well as an expansive line of erotic sleepwear for horses. We're gonna take the pet market by storm.