Lowered Values was my undergraduate thesis, and debuted nearly three years ago. I wanted to express what I've learned, what I hope to do, and what I love about being lucky enough to continue progressing Lowered Values--three years later.
(varnish bold extended, 2015. 20x20')
The past two years have tested me; it's difficult to balance being an MFA student, a freelance graphic designer at a major hip-hop label, and a company owner. I came to graduate school to establish a studio practice, search for an authentic aesthetic, and to question my values as a designer. I was not expecting these two years to have paved a way for me to connect my studio practice with my role as owner/designer of Lowered Values. While it is not my intent with LV to ‘re-invent the wheel’ (I'll leave that to the better half of LV, That Wheel Guy) I believe in using our visibility to progress and innovate a community I’m deeply passionate about*. In a community that prides itself on innovation of historical models, I believe as a company we should follow the same. Keeping a keen eye on quality, everything LV does is made in house with a feverous passion. From vinyl cuts, to sewing our own labels, to screen printing our tees, to hand lettering the store sign… LV is not here to ride other's (aesthetic, formal, and structural) coat tails. We are here to give you nothing but our best.
(varnish bold extended, 2015. 20x20')
“[…it takes] courage to find forms of representation that are not culturally understood.” - Elliott Earls
First and foremost, I’m a classically trained sign maker, painter, and typographer. My thesis for graduate school resides in the overlap between lowriding** and typography… as mediums that create and define cultural identity. Through highly decorating and modifying the form of our cars, they become subversive performers in the landscape of industry from which they come from. I believe typography has the same ability. And while I’m not here to talk at nauseam about my studio work nor thesis***, I think it’s important to outline that cars and Lowered Values is in everything I do—regardless of if it’s in a gallery, for a client, or at a car show. Power comes from talking/making about what you know. I know type (and signage), deeply…And typography cannot escape language… Which is why Lowered Values will continue to specialize in custom typography, rooted in the vernacular of car culture. We will continue to attempt to be fearless in finding form that is unfamiliar. ‘Varnish’ is a typeface I spent two years developing, designing, and coding for thesis, and it will be utilized for Lowered Values' signature typeface. It is rooted in hand lettering I documented on car washes, used car lots, and auto repair shops in Detroit. It’s structured to be endlessly variable, and is coded to allow the user to ‘customize’ the type—akin to what we do in the garage with our cars… You will be seeing it on new merchandise, promotions, and wherever else it may be need.
(varnish bold: detail, 2016. 6x10')
Wheels are to a build, as typography is to design.
I’m excited to show you what Lowered Values’ has been hustling on for this spring's lineup, and hope to chat with everyone this summer about what you’ve been up to in your life. I'm excited to push the envelope with Lowered Values over this next year after graduation. On deck, are nearly 10 new items of merchandise that will be revealed over this next month, so stay tuned for pre-order deals and steals!!! If you’re still reading this far, first, thank you. Second, I’d like to end with one more quote from my mentor here at the Cranbrook Academy of Art—one of the most passionate humans I’ve ever met. A statement I hold near, and use to question the work that I’ve made and take action moving forward.
“All work is the residue of human labor, and therefore flawed.” Elliott Earls
My work (with Lowered Values and otherwise) and the sentiments behind it are by no means perfect, nor claiming to be. It's in the failing steps where you grow most. Whether you are with us, or against us… I hope it is apparent that we are passionate about what we do as individuals and as a company.
(varnish bold: type specimen, 2016. 18x24")
* Fully understanding I’m a member of the patriarchal problem, I’m not even going to get into my thoughts about the continued objectification of women vs empowerment by those of visibility (companies & individuals) … (I’ll save that to be articulated by my talented and beautiful wife.) But... I do believe this is another thing that should be questioned and scrutinized if we want to progressively move forward. As a company owner, I believe in using our visibility to give voice to these things. Regardless of the feathers it may ruffle.
** And I’m using ‘lowriding’ in a non-monolythic way. In a post-modern society, no culture is monolithic. But I've found this to be a term that is broadly understood to those who are not ‘inside baseball”ers: i.e. galleries, my professors, and my mom.
*** But if your into this shit too, let’s geek out at the next show. I’m always game to talk about signage and letters!!!
¶ all photography by Harrison Moënich