Walker Art Center

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Insights: Brian Roettinger (Hand Held Heart), Los Angeles



Part of Insights 2016 Design Lecture Series: Celebrating 30 Years

The work of graphic designer/artist Brian Roettinger is an uncanny union of punk ideology with a conceptually driven mode of modernist design. He frequently employs architectural strategies such as repetition and structure (think die-cuts and folds), while subverting this sense of order by manipulating the production process in unexpected or “wrong” ways (think pulling the sheet out of the printer before it is done).

Hailing from Los Angeles, Roettinger launched his own record label in 1998 called Hand Held Heart and began to release albums by bands such as the Liars, No Age, and the Chromatics, featuring artwork that he designed and produced himself. The moniker Hand Held Heart came to encompass all of his creative output—curating, publishing, editing, artwork—including stints as the in-house designer for the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), art director for LA-based fashion magazine JUNK, a variety of projects for clients such as Yves Saint Laurent and MIT Press, and most obviously, his ongoing work in the music industry.

As Rolling Stone’s 2009 Album Designer of the Year, Roettinger has created album artwork for Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk, Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet, and most recently, Florence + the Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. In 2013, Roettinger was commissioned to design Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail album, which was nominated for a Grammy (his second nomination).

With friends, Roettinger was also responsible for celebrating the now-legendary Colby Printing Press in LA, for which he created an official archives, curated an exhibition, and designed and edited a beautiful catalogue. In 2015, he released a monograph of his work as an edition of The Thing Quarterly, a subscription-based service that delivers a new art object to your door every three months. Roettinger’s work has been shown at galleries and museums in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brno, and Los Angeles.