Design Brain: Plastic Attack and Yeehaw Studio
Interviews & Features
Look around. See that? Someone designed it. The app buttons on your phone, the logo on your favorite can of beer and yes, even this page of SLUG Magazine—every line and color was thoughtfully placed to tell a story. The world simply looks different once you train your eyes to see design everywhere, and no one understands that better than local designers Erik DeWaal of Plastic Attack and McKenzie Wallace of Yeehaw Studio. During work or play, on and off the clock, these two artists have design on the brain.
Erik DeWaal of Plastic Attack
“I think separating design from life is impossible,” says Erik DeWaal, the creative force behind Tour of Utah’s print ads, Lick’d Pops boxes and even Hi-Chew packaging. “Everything is designed and is part of a system. I am constantly looking at what works and what doesn’t work.”
After studying printmaking in art school, DeWaal developed an interest in typography and bought a letterpress with two friends. “I bought some design books and started learning the computer programs. Then it was just a matter of putting in the work,” he says. “It took me a while to figure out that producing good work means putting in some hours.” What happened next was a well-deserved stroke of luck: After admiring a billboard on his way to work, DeWaal asked the design firm that created it if they were hiring. “They gave me a job, and I have been working there for six years now,” he says.
“It took me a while to figure out that producing good work means putting in some hours.”
What lights the fire under DeWaal’s creative wings? Well, everything. Quirky typography, foreign movie posters, old packaging and even seemingly design-unrelated activities like listening to music, watching soccer or cooking for his family inspire DeWaal in his design pursuits. “I love anything that seems well thought out and executed. It can be a parking lot layout or a set piece by a soccer team,” DeWaal says. “If something is put in place with a goal in mind, and it achieves that goal, I find it inspiring, even more so if the goal is accomplished in an efficient, entertaining or unexpected way.”
Efficient, entertaining and unexpected are all exemplary words to describe DeWaal’s own design work. Follow him on Instagram (@plasticattack) to peruse his impressive portfolio of delightful personal projects, including a style guide for the 1989 dark comedy The ‘Burbs. Typophiles beware—you’ll be scrolling for a while.
McKenzie Wallace of Yeehaw Studio
Oftentimes, my patronage to local businesses starts with an interest in their brand identity. In several cases (as with Pie Party, Desert Rose Jewelry or The Bearded Lady), it was YeeHaw Studio’s McKenzie Wallace who crafted it for them. Identifiable by bold typefaces and minimal line drawings, Wallace describes her work like the exclamation “Yeehaw!” itself: fun, full of life, not taking itself too seriously and “maybe a little whacky at times.”
“I see design as a way of combining things I’ve always held interest in, like letters, typesetting, illustration, cool signage and space, all the while trying to say something beyond what can be articulated with words,” Wallace says of her interest in a design career. After a stint waiting tables and some sporadic freelancing, a pandemic-inspired shift in perspective has led to her doubling down and focusing on getting her art into the world.
“A large part of my creative process is incubating an idea for a good while.”
Eating out at restaurants, developing film, roller skating and even conversations with her peers all feed Wallace’s creative process. “I think anything can make you a better designer if you go into it with that mindset. Everything you do can inform your work in some way,” she says. “A large part of my creative process is incubating an idea for a good while. As it’s in there, the things I do and look at will usually evolve that idea, giving it legs and eventually a face and a name.”
The music and movies Wallace consumes all play a part in inspiring her next designs, but she finds inspiration in the most unsuspecting of places as well. “I love when, in the middle of a seemingly mundane activity, I’m like, ‘damn look at that butter carton,’” she says, “and [I] have to buy it because it’s too striking to not.” Follow along with Wallace’s latest work on Instagram at @yeehaw.studio.