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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