Chris Eichenseer wears many hats. The Someoddpilot founder may be the creative director and photographer of the Wicker Park-based branding agency/design studio, but he also is a dad and drummer of Chicago metal band Beak. Some of his biggest and most recognizable clients include Pitchfork, Merrell and even Budweiser. However, Eichenseer’s love for music is what introduced him to design.
The U of I photography grad started designing as a kid when he wanted to recreate a Van Halen poster. From that point on, he started making album covers for his bands and eventually landed a job at Design Kitchen.
“The owner thought that I had some kind of promise, I guess, because I didn’t know how to use Illustrator very well or any of those things and I really had very little experience,” Eichenseer says. His earlier album designs were mainly composed of collages and text from a typewriter.
After a year at Design Kitchen, Eichensser started Someoddpilot, named after a song from a past band.
“It was kind of that teenage angsty thing of everything is so fucked up, whoever is in control of all of this, whoever started all of this has to be a mad genius,” he says.
Throughout his career as a designer and photographer, Eichenseer learned these valuable lessons:
1. You can’t tackle everything – Since Someoddpilot started, Eichenseer says he learned even though he was the founder, he couldn’t tackle everything. He needed to find people who were experts at the things he couldn’t do. The agency now consists of a cast of characters from an architect to a stylist.
2. Don’t glorify the busy life. – It’s not as fulfilling.
“We have this like, this cultural push, this idea that the busy life is all awesome, and that’s what everyone should do. You could work your ass off then die and that’s not a good way to life your life.”
3. Tell the truth – As children we ‘re told the importance of the truth. As a designer, Eichenseer learned the importance of finding the essence of a company and telling its truth. “And if you’re going to say [the truth] you’ve got to say it with gusto, you’ve got to make that thing sing, its gotta be epic, its gotta be inspiring, its gotta be huge,” he says. Researching the company and getting to know the people who work for it are the most important parts of a successful project. When Eichenseer was asked to create a new campaign for Merrell Origins, he spent time with the customer and looked back on past ads to come up with new ideas.
4. Make it iconic, make it huge, make it original – When designing albums (Eichenseer has created over a dozen), swing for the fences. Eichenseer says sometimes you have to follow a whacky idea. This includes lugging a 500 pound telephone booth around the Chicago.
5. Pretend like you’re supposed to be there – While Eichenseer was on the phone booth shoot, he and the crew carried on no matter what. Usually a shoot like that would require permits, he says, but the crew would have had to jump through hoops to get them. At one point Eichenseer and the crew dragged the phone booth to the lakefront and even passed the park police without a problem. “Maybe we went far enough where it was like, ‘yeah, this fucking thing is huge, these guys have to belong here.’” He says maybe part of why they got away with it was because they looked like they belonged there.