Japanese retail company, UNIQLO, has brought back its popular UTme customization program to its global flagship store in New York City. The UTme program encourages adults and kids alike to express their creativity in a fun, socially distanced, and interactive way utilizing the brand’s UT 100% cotton t-shirt range.
Users will be able to paint, insert texts and photographs, or create personalized stickers for a one-of-a-kind bespoke product. UNIQLO’s partnership with regional artists further highlights the brand’s commitment to the arts and support of the local community, especially during such unprecedented times. Customers will be directed to the in-store UTme booth where they will use tablets to either design their very own t-shirt or choose from UNIQLO’s content library featuring exclusive designs from local artists Danny Casale (AKA Coolman Cofeedan), Timothy Goodman and Poster House Museum’s Ola Baldych who have recreated iconic New York imagery including the “I Love NYC” slogan, a taxi cab, a pretzel and many more.
Casale is an artist who has gained millions of fans around the world due to his surreal, humorous and crudely-drawn animations. The self-titled “Bad Animator” first went viral with his cartoon titled “Snakes Have Legs” in 2017. In a social media world with so much negativity, he realized his goal of brightening up people’s timelines. I spoke to Casale about his extremely successful art career, background, and inspiration for his impressive work.
Congratulations on being a part of Forbes 30 Under 30 Arts & Style Class of 2020! How has your art career transformed since you first began?
DC: I always doodled growing up in class to help pass the time, and now I’m doing it professionally. The fact that I can even say that much is a dream come true. I would say the biggest transformation is the reach of my art thanks to the Internet. Growing up, my doodles would entertain a few of my friends and classmates. Now, they entertain millions. It’s pretty cool.
Where did the nickname “Coolman Coffeedan” come from?
DC: One day in 11th grade, I changed my Twitter profile picture to be a photoshopped image of me with a skeleton face (it was Halloween season) and changed my handle to be “cool man skeleton dan.” The next week, I changed my profile picture to a selfie of me drinking a mug of coffee. I then changed my handle to “cool man coffee dan.” I thought it would be cool to change my profile picture and handle weekly… but that never happened and Coolman Coffeedan stuck forever.
7 million social followers is very impressive! Do you have any advice for any aspiring artists who want to create a brand and grow as strongly as you have?
DC: Find what makes your channel/profile different from everything else. For years, I was trying to find what made me stand out as a creator. I didn’t realize that the secret recipe was as simple as posting my dumb little doodles.
What message(s) do you want to convey with your art? How would you like it to be perceived?
DC: My most well-known catchphrase is “UR SPECIAL” which helps remind people that they are unique and amazing. My other videos consist of messages on love, depression, friendship, and mental health. If these videos help make you laugh, smile, or think… then my mission is accomplished.
Tell us about your exclusive design for UNIQLO.
DC: My designs for UNIQLO focus on blobby characters enjoying their visit to New York while rocking classic NYC tourist hats and socks. They are happy and colorful, just like the people who live here.
Baldych is the Director of Design for Poster House, the first museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to posters, since 2019. Through exhibitions, events, and publications, Poster House presents a global view of posters from their earliest appearance in the late 1800s to their present-day use. I spoke to Baldych to learn more about her role at Poster House and the designs she created for UTme! view of “what is New York.”
What are the highlights of your role as Director of Design for Poster House, the first museum for posters in the United States?
OB: The whole experience is pretty awesome: building a new institution from the ground up, seeing it grow and attract others; imagining its potential, putting in the work, and seeing it come to life—it really feels good.
My role requires that I manage a wide array of multi-medium design from selecting the appropriate paper for our brand experience and printed materials, to wireframing the website, creating custom products for the Shop, and designing and installing our exhibitions. There is always this one moment when it gets quiet after the installation of a new exhibition is finished: the space is empty for awhile, just cleaned up, and ready for the first visitor. I like to walk through the gallery then. I see all the aspects that led to creating the exhibition, the story behind it, research, process, sketches, blueprints, decisions, people. This is the thrill—to see the full cycle of work well done from concept to fruition; to see people coming in, filling the gallery, and exploring what we have built for them.
Your graphic designs are beloved by universities and art institutions alike. Who have been some of your favorite clients to work with so far in your career?
OB: I really enjoyed our recent partnership with Print Magazine and Times Square Arts where we produced a large PSA poster campaign with messages of love, support, and gratitude for health care and essential workers, which was screened on 1,800 Link NYC kiosks as well as on electronic billboards in Times Square, New York City, Chicago, Boston, and LA.
This exciting collaborative project also featured fellow designers Paula Sher, Seymour Chwast, Maira Kalman, Edel Rodriguez, Gemma O’Brien, Klass Verplancke, Emily Oberman, Bobby Martin, and the late Milton Glaser, among others. It was an honor to work with them all.
Besides being a renowned graphic designer and artist, how else do you like to spend your days? How did you get involved in jazz photography?
OB: I have always loved live concerts, especially with improvised music: the interaction between the musicians, the light, the sound. It’s all a stimulating, multi-sensory experience that often carries me away. I think photographing it is a way for me to focus back on the moment, a single composition, one frame capturing others in their flow.
My husband Josh Lawrence is a composer and plays trumpet with some of the finest jazz musicians in the world. They have become our community over our life together and my jazz photography has resulted from this.
What was the inspiration for the “What is New York” posters created for UNIQLO?
OB: When Poster House closed its doors due to the pandemic in early March, we looked for ways to keep our Poster House family connected. We held a weekly town hall meeting via Google Meet for all of our staff members. It was an opportunity to see everyone and check in on each other.
Each week I would see my colleague Mike with his Yankees cap on, a world traveller born and raised in the Bronx. To me, he is the essence of New York and inspired me to create a poster series featuring symbols, things, places New Yorkers recognize instantly and have a bond with.
As I was working on the first sketches, I realized this was a way to engage with others. I asked our staff to send their ideas on what they missed while in isolation, what New York meant to them. I would then create a poster with their beloved symbols and share it with everyone with the hope that it would bring us all some cheer. And it did.
That’s why I chose to incorporate these symbols into designs inspired by the people of Poster House for the UNIQLO UTme! project.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
OB: Come visit us at Poster House!
Goodman is an award-winning designer, muralist, and author whose art and words have populated walls, packaging, cars, clothing, magazine covers and galleries all over the world. I spoke to Goodman about his popular art books, murals, and current endeavors.
Your book Sharpie Art Workshop can now be found in countless art offices and craft chains around the country. What will readers learn from your 2015 instructional book?
TG: The book highlights different ideas and techniques you can use with a Sharpie marker, from making handmade gifts to creating murals to repurposing and drawing on old objects to simply doodling in your notebook. The book also features some amazing artists from around the world who use markers in their work. Sharpie is kind of the everyday marker: kids use them to draw pictures, athletes use them to sign autographs, people might use them to touch up a scratch on their piano, my mom uses them to write a grocery list, etc. So I wanted to show how accessible it is with making art, and celebrate a tool that has been a catalyst for me to do a lot of things in the world.
For those who you don’t know, what is the 40 Days of Dating blog turned book? How did the small experiment between you and Jessica Walsh turn into a global sensation?
TG: They say it takes 40 days to change a bad habit. As long time friends, Jessica and I were falling into habitual relationship issues constantly feeling disappointed, so we decided to “date” each other for 40 days. By documenting our relationship with a daily questionnaire, illustrations, and videos, we were able to explore our issues through the lens of this social experiment that held us accountable with six rules we had to obey. We released it daily over the course of a summer, as sort of a “web-reality” and it caught pretty quickly, eventually gaining over 2o million unique visitors, and the film rights were optioned by Warner Bros.
Outside of the gallery, your art has been seen plastered on walls, packaging, cars, clothing, and magazines. Do you have a favorite or surprising adaptations and uses of your art?
TG: Definitely my global clothing collection with Uniqlo that launched back in 2018. To see people wearing my art and words all over the world was one of the highlights of my career. We sold 1 million units over the course of 7 months. Also Justin Bieber recently shared some of my work on IG so that was cool.
How have you been connecting your artwork to current social issues and activism messaging? What is the People of Craftsmanship organization?
TG: People of Craft was co-created by me and my friend Amélie Lamont. It is a growing resource website showcasing creatives of color and their craft in design, advertising, tech, illustration, lettering, art, and more. You can find and hire talented folks maybe you’ve never heard of in different cities across the world.
Tell us about your exclusive design for UNIQLO.
TG: After the success of our collection in 2018, I jumped at the opportunity to work with them again. I’ve lived in NYC for 16 years now, moving here to go to SVA for art & design school, so making art specifically about New York for New Yorkers is a real privilege. I’m excited about the two shirts selling at the 5th Ave store.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
TG: Register to vote!
UNIQLO UT 100% cotton short-sleeve crewneck t-shirts will be available for adults (XS-XXL) for $24.90 and children (ages 3-12) for $19.90. Upon design submission and payment, shirts will be printed in approximately 15 minutes for a carefree and rewarding shopping experience.
UNIQLO is located at 666 5th Avenue, New York , NY 10103 USA. For more information, visit www.uniqlo.com/us.