Sandford Design and Illustration




Hi! My name is Aaron Sandford. I am a graphic designer and the owner and operator of Sandford Design + Illustration.

What's your mission?

My mission is twofold: To create beauty and visually to solve problems of communication. I sincerely want to see my clients succeed in selling their products, their thoughts, and their passions. Visual communication is powerful; an infographic can condense thousands of data points into a digestible thought, and a color scheme can set a mood more quickly and powerfully than a paragraph. And anywhere we can create beauty, the world becomes a better place. Creating beauty is something humans are meant to do.

How did you become a designer?

There are a number of designers and artists in my extended family, and I used to play for hours with the cheap design program Printmaster Gold, so I got an early start.

For years, though, I thought I'd go into architecture: My dad is an engineer, and I've always loved the idea of combining technical problem-solving with art and beauty. When I was a student at Hillsdale College, I took a design class and realized that there's plenty of technical problem-solving there, too. A series of side jobs and internships (and the documentary Helvetica) got me hooked. I graduated from Hillsdale with a degree in art in 2014, and I've been designing professionally ever since.

What's your favorite kind of design job?

I love creating illustrations with multiple layers of meaning, and that require just enough effort to understand to produce an aha! moment.

I love working within the limitations of the rules of typography and classical proportions to produce clean, harmonious text that doesn't distract from its message but is also beautiful on its own.

I like to work with my hands and make products that I can hold.

And I love collaborating with people to produce work that's better than what I could do on my own.

It's a rare project that includes all four elements, but any one of those things will make me happy. Book and magazine layout, editorial illustration, poster design, and packaging and label design are all right up my alley. Anything that requires me to pull out my craft knife is a bonus.

Where do you get your inspiration?

My favorite design class in college was History of Design and Photography. We really could have spent two semesters on design history alone instead of making it share one semester with the history of the photograph, but the teacher made the best of what time we had. I loved learning about how culture, politics, and ideology shaped the design of their times, and how many aesthetic movements were reactions to reactions. It's humbling to see the stunning intricacies of art nouveau and the stark brilliance of constructivism, to grasp the commitment those early graphic artists had to their craft and to their ideas.

Humbling, but also inspiring. Some of the greatest painters in history learned by copying masterworks, and 21st-century designers have an incredible library of past work to study, emulate, and react to. I love symbolism, so some of my most direct inspiration has been from the International Style—the design that was stripped down to its barest, most abstract forms in an attempt to transcend local preferences and bridge communication gaps. Massimo Vignelli's New York City Subway map is appropriately one of the most famous works from this period. Its brilliance is in its simplicity.

As a classical sculptor, I also love work that draws on the human form. I'm thinking more of architecture than graphic design here—I love the work of sculptor and architect Santiago Calatrava and his focus on abstraction of the human body. I would love to explore ways of using similar abstractions and even sculpture in my work as a designer, though this is a frontier for me and not something I can point to very readily in my extant work.

Finally I draw inspiration from my surroundings. Whether that's my office space or the countryside, I'm refreshed by beauty and inspired to create it. I live in New Hampshire (the best state in the USA), and when I get outside to enjoy the colors and smells of the changing seasons, the stars at night and the brilliant blue skies in the daytime, I feel more ready to create beauty of my own.

What else do you do besides design?

So many things! I'm a classical musician as well as a visual artist. I sing with the Manchester Choral Society and am always on the lookout for opportunities to sing or play the piano (or both!) with others. I love to learn, and I try to read much and often (a smattering of blogs and news articles, but mostly books these days: a mix of classic fiction, business, design, and psychology books, and discussions of theology). I love hiking, rowing, and skating, depending on the season. I'll go indoor rock climbing any time of year. I enjoy all things hospitality: baking, cooking, decorating, hosting, deep conversation, games, and laughter.

Besides my work for SD+I, I manage IT for my dad's surveying and engineering business, and I'm the graphic designer for the digital marketing company Jabberwocky Studios.

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