El Jefe Design is the secret code name for successful designer, illustrator, author and failed-rock star Jeffrey Everett. Located outside of Washington, DC, El Jefe Design has had the pleasure of designing and illustrating for a wide variety of entertainment, corporate, and non-profit clients. Bands he has worked with include My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Foo Fighters, The Decemberists, and Flight of the Conchords. Jeff's work has been published in numerous books such as New Vintage Type and Design Entrepreneur, and seen in major magazines including Print, HOW, and Step Inside Design. He has his MFA in Graphic Design from The School of Visual Arts in New York City, NY.
He is the recipient of gold and silver awards from The Art Directors Club and three best-in-category from the AdClub (Addys), and is included in the AIGA Fifty Show. His work has been stapled on walls of dingy rock clubs and framed in high-end galleries around the world. Jeff is the author, curator, and designer of "1,000 Garment Graphics" for Rockport Press, and has taught and lectured for American University, University of Baltimore, and the AIGA.
When and how did you get started doing posters?
I started doing poster in NYC while getting my MFA at The School of Visual Arts. I was taking screen printing classes and started doing posters as a way to get into shows for free and to help bands I love. My first poster was for the mighty Firewater!
When I moved back to DC I just kept going as a way to stay sane and have been lucky to meet and work with people who support me. The wonderful people at The Black Cat, The Nightclub 9:30, and The Rock-N-Roll Hotel have allowed me to (dis)grace their walls so I thank them for that.
Favorite poster or art print you've done?
I would have to say the El Jefe Alphabet/Lucha Library print. I did that one to celebrate my son's birth and to hang in his nursery.
Describe your creative space.
A very small basement office in my home that has clutter strewn about. There is a drafting table for drawing/storage with a set of full flat files underneath. My IKEA desk is sagging under the weight of my computer, monitor, Wacom tablet, scanner, far too many books, sketch books, T-shirt samples, a collection of Dunnies and Baseman Bunnies. There is a hodgepodge of posters by Edward Gorey, Twin Peaks ephemera, lucha libre masks, CDs and NPR and music playing nonstop. And to keep my ego in check, I am appropriately placed next to the kitty litter room.
Describe your creative process.
I approach each band individually and I really try to understand the band and audience. With rare exceptions I am usually a fan of the band and want something that I would want to purchase if someone else did it. Some pieces look more "designy" and some look illustrative. Some pieces rely on heavy concepts and inside themes to drive the design yet some other pieces use skulls and sexiness. I would say that I try to make each piece fun and something that can be hung on a wall and stared at for years.
What's your favorite thing about being a designer in your city? The most challenging?
Washington, DC is not considered an "art-forward" place due to the Federal Government casting a long shadow over the town. Most people think that DC can only do boring, hotel-room work that must be as generic as possible as to not have the PC police come after you. Not so. Duke Ellington, Chuck Brown, Henry Rollins, Ian McKaye, and many, many more all have left a legacy of DIY Culture that runs below the current in DC. There is so much great music, art, architecture, opinions, and people coming through this town that it is hard not to be inspired.
I will say I like taking traditional DC landmarks (White House, Washington Monument, Capitol Dome) and having fun with them.
Favorite poster or art print someone else has done?
I really am enjoying Young Monsters right now, especially The Kills and Detroit Cobras posters by Zach Hobbs. My all time favorite gig poster is by Alan Hynes and I am shocked my wife lets me display it. I also have TONS of Edward Gorey posters and prints throughout the house. He is my favorite artist, I have his work tattooed on me, and is a complete inspiration for my everyday.
Latest poster or print that you bought?
Chuck Sperry's poster for Reel Big Fish and The English Beat. An example of liking the art over the band.
One group you wish you could do a poster for?
(Current): Silversun Pickups
(Historic): Girls Against Boys - a huge fan for over half my life! Seen them thirty plus times.
We have posters for Gaslight Anthem, The Raveonettes, Ra Ra Riot, Dinosaur Jr., Soulsavers, a Twin Peaks tribute show, and Placebo. We will be at Crafty Bastards selling our posters and prints on October 3rd. There are also some gallery shows and such coming up in the fall. Keep up to date by checking out our website.
Jeff will be returning monthly (new baby permitting) covering the intersection of music and design in DC and beyond. And he's got quite a few interesting things in store, I should add...