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Poster Backstory: Oen Hammonds — ARTCRANK Austin 2014

Written by in Profiles

Poster Backstory: Oen Hammonds

ARTCRANK® is a poster show about bicycles. Since 2007, ARTCRANK has staged more than 50 pop-up art shows featuring handmade, bike-inspired posters created by local artists and graphic designers in the U.S., the U.K. and France. A longtime sponsor of ARTCRANK, Neenah Paper is teaming up with the show to highlight the work of four poster artists in 10 U.S. cities throughout 2014: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC. 

Each Poster Backstory feature follows the artist’s creative process as they develop their ideas and print them on a Neenah Paper stock, using craft techniques such as silkscreen and letterpress. Behind-the-scenes poster stories will appear on the ARTCRANK site and here on Against The Grain.


Oen Hammonds is a senior visual designer at the recently formed IBM Design business unit in Austin, Texas. Alongside other top-notch design talent, he’s working to make dramatic changes to IBM’s product portfolio through improvements in user experience and user interface of legacy software. And like many designers, he’s got more than a few creative endeavors that extend beyond the bounds of the workday. For the past three years, he’s contributed bike-inspired poster designs to ARTCRANK Austin.

While many designers begin to articulate a concept with rough sketches and drawings, Hammonds starts his design process with words. He writes out a story that goes along with a project to help imagine possible outcomes.

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“I write down or doodle every idea I have on whatever I have in front of me,” he says. “The majority of them don’t work. Others help solve different projects that I’m working on. The tiny few that are left become the foundation for the actual project I was working on originally.”

For ARTCRANK this year, Hammond’s poster inspiration came from a scribbled re-working of a classic nursery rhyme — admittedly a little heavier on violence and vengeance than the Mother Goose original:

Jack and Jill rode up a hill
To fetch a pail of water
A car hit Jack and broke his crown,
And Jill went chasing after.

Visually, Oens has an uncanny ability to execute a concept using only necessary elements. And nothing else.

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“I’ve always enjoyed breaking things down to their most basic shapes and forms,” says Hammonds. “It’s how I learned to draw, and it naturally carried over into my design work. It’s a challenge, though, as there’s a fine line between too flat or too much detail.”

The carefully selected shapes, color and texture in Hammond’s effort for this year’s ARTCRANK Austin show are a prime example of how he keeps things simple, to impressive effect.

As he was working through his design, Hammonds met with Judy Schulz of Olmstead-Kirk Paper to decide on a final paper for the project.

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Paper plays a critical role in Hammonds’ designs, and his ARTCRANK poster was no exception. “I think about paper early in the process because it can make or break the final design. Paper is more than a structural support for the ink. Paper can be a character in the story. It can be a fifth or sixth color. When I look at paper I look for something that can add to the story rather than overshadow the design.”

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“After touching, feeling and looking at the textures of the papers I choose Neenah’s CRANE’S LETTRA®  110lb Cover PEARL WHITE,” says Hammonds.

CRANE’S LETTRA has long been a favorite of letterpress printers, and Hammonds found it ideally suited for the colorful monarchs in his poster — even though his plan was to go with screen printing. “The texture and quality of the 100% cotton paper went along with royalty of the king and queen in my design.”

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Hammonds printed his poster at Coronado Studio in Austin, where he’s worked with Jonathan Rebolloso, Coronado’s master printer, for several years–both learning as a student in screen printing classes and as a client for large-scale commercial work.

“Jonathan is a train,” says Oen. “Once he gets in his groove, six colors go down quickly and smoothly. He nailed my PMS colors dead-on and his alignment is tight.”

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