Mark Andresen is a graphic one-man-band, with deep roots in the VouDou of pre-Katrina New Orleans
Design never had a term equivalent to ‘multi-instrumentalist’ in music. It’s an awkward expression but it describes a demonstrable ‘cross-platform’ ability. Modern recording technology allows musicians to become one-man bands as well as composers. The skill in design is arguably broader: there is potential to write text, design type, make images and pull it all together into a product. Though practical considerations make this rare, examples of such multi-skilling go way back as far as Geoffrey Tory, the sixteenth-century French wood engraver, designer and royal printer. But we still don’t have a term (‘polygraph’ is already taken). Usually, we choose the most prominent skill.
Yet illustrator-designer Mark Andresen is a prime example of a one-man graphic band: a jack-of-all-trades and master of many, including illustration, type design, writing and graphic design, with strong opinions about everything: few discussions on the Speak Up design blog lack a demonstrative post from ‘Pesky Illustrator’ . . .
. . . ‘I don’t think of myself as only an illustrator but some broader, designer sense . . . a conceptualist.’
It is this broader sense that is Andresen’s strength, and a rare example of his full potential and ability. As skilled and inventive as he is as an illustrator, it is almost a disappointment that he represents other people’s words, and writes only in blog posts. Andresen is a natural storyteller, with a unique voice and the ability to give the tale form, from the shape of the words’ characters, to the accompanying images. In this way, the Not Caslon type sampler stands as his most thorough and affecting work. Though he’ll always be associated with New Orleans, his stories could be about anything: lush, discomforting and real.