From The Desk Of: Joe Wirtheim

Sep 18, 2015

Graphic designer Joe Wirtheim more than likely answered these questions from a vibrant kitchen filled with organic produce and graphic prints, illuminated by natural sunlight. The multi-passionate nature enthusiast and artist is the founder of The Victory Garden of Tomorrow, a print company focused on homegrown propaganda for a better future. From his Portland, Oregon studio, Joe's attention to the hidden details within the bigger picture practically demanded a closer look.

What are your design inspirations?

Where do I start? Vintage graphic posters for one. Mid-century stuff, especially social or public service announcements for the time. There’s an earnest quality to the writing and the design that you don’t see very much today. I also have great fun visiting vintage shops and finding product labels and packaging illustrations. The older the better—1960’s and older are the most fun. I love the way they expertly found ways around limited colors and low resolutions.

Describe your personal aesthetic in three words:

Attractive, detailed, storied

How do you get your creative juices flowing?

Well some of my most popular work, and what I’m most interested in is food and cooking. So I cook as much as I can, I learn about new recipes and that keeps me healthy, interested and full! But I’m also interested in the policy issues surrounding food, so I enjoy reading Michael Pollan who wrote several books that changed how I think about my consumption. And I enjoy reading Mark Bittman, the food columnist from the New York Times, who also has written a cook book that I’m obsessed with called, “How to Cook Everything Fast” and I feel that I really do—and with excellent results. I hope you realize how this has everything to do with design.

What career moves and/or aspirations brought you to your current role?

A few years ago, after a layoff, I just decided to see what I could do on my own one summer and it resulted in a great little body of work that got me started. From there, I was lucky enough to have a lifestyle that required little money, low-overhead you could say. That worked in my favor as a kind of seed for my business to steadily grow. It wasn’t easy for a couple of years, but now I feel more established, more free and able to stay independent.

What is your favorite part of the job you do?

I love the unique opportunity to offer something really different to my audience. What do you love about what your company brings to its customers? I love the idea that folks are collecting and keeping my prints, and using them as signifiers of how they feel about food or gardening. I personally love the excitement of keeping something, thinking about its mysteries, and wondering what new stuff will be coming. I hope people feel that way about my things.

How does your brand convey its unique personality?

My primary brand project is something I call “The Victory Garden of Tomorrow” and it speaks through posters to channel the pervasive arc of American aspirations. People understand my work speaks in an older American voice and yet realize it works today, and perhaps there’s more for the future. All across America, people realize there’s a need to rethink what and how we consume, and understanding our home kitchen’s history is part of that. This urgent desire to eat better is fuel for the VGoT project.

The old fashioned charms you’ll never give up are:

Pencil and paper

What is the best advice you’ve received recently?

Don’t over-think it, go with your gut, and make what you like.

make your own

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