Sunday, October 31, 2010

Creative Process Interviews: Scott Tredeau

Scott Tredeau is a curious mix of the type of person who chooses to live in any American small town, and the type of person who desperately needs to leave. He is a devoted family man and former car mechanic who loves camping, his four-wheeler, and living in the country. He also runs the Atlanta-based graphic consultancy TredeauDesign, Inc., plays guitar, and has a lifelong passion for riding and designing skateboards.

As a teenager in Ossian, Indiana, Scott sought refuge from the more stultifying aspects of small-town life. Skateboarding provided an outlet for his creative energy, opened up a new view of the world, and gave him an urge to experience more.

That desire led him to study design at The Creative Circus in Atlanta. After graduation in 2002, he founded TredeauDesign and built a specialty in graphic communication for non-profits. For many years he also owned and operated Boulevard Skateboards a skateboard design and fabrication company.

Scott and his wife Meredith now live in Social Circle, Georgia, with their two small children. I caught up with Scott between guitar practice and working on brochure layouts to talk about his design work, creative process, and how skateboarding helped get it all started.

What part did skateboarding play in your life as a teen in small-town Indiana?
Skateboarding was my life. It was to me what Little League Baseball was to some kids. Skateboarding influenced what I wore, how I thought, and how I looked at things. Back then, skateboarding wasn’t as mainstream and common or accepted as it is today, especially in the cornfields of small town Indiana. We were considered outsiders, different than the “norm.”

Did skateboarding play any role in your interest in art or design?
To me, skateboarding is a creative outlet in that you are forced to view your surroundings in a different, creative way, while in search of places to skate. For example, a parking lot is not just a place to park your car. When on your skateboard, you look at it for ways you can incorporate it and its elements into what you want to do on your board. With design, the same process comes into effect, when I use things from my surroundings as different ways to communicate the artistic vision in my head. Design has become my new creative outlet since I’m too old and tired to skateboard anymore.

How would you describe your creative process? What are the steps you go through in creating graphics for clients or your skateboards?
The first step in a new project for a client is usually a kick-off meeting with the client to talk about the project’s scope, purpose, message, audience, medium, etc.

My creative process generally begins with a trip to the bookstore to research creative books and books related to the type of project for ideas and inspiration. I make notes and sketch layouts, which help guide me once I sit down at the computer.

I typically provide clients with three different design directions/comps. Based on client feedback, I move forward with the chosen design direction and complete the final product.

The creative process for my personal work, such as skateboard graphics, usually begins when I get an idea for something or some message I want to communicate visually, while trying to fall asleep at night.

I then start looking for images or ways to create the look/idea in a hands-on way, such as tracing, stenciling, painting, making textures with spray paint, bushes, found items. Then I start putting all the pieces together to communicate the message or vision.

As I begin including everything – all the thoughts and ideas – I realize there is too much going on, and I start editing/removing elements. It’s usually the simplicity that says the message best. The piece usually ends up much different than it starts, always evolving as it goes.

What is the difference in how you approach client work versus personal work, like a logo versus skateboard graphic?
Client work is structured, and done according to established schedules, budgets, and client needs; it’s a collaborative effort to design something that communicates the client’s vision. Personal projects are sporadic, with no structure or schedule; it’s personal and individual, and the only considerations are my ideas and messages.

You mentioned that your skateboard graphics ideas come as you're falling asleep. What do you think it is about that time or that state of being that brings about ideas?
It’s the time where my mind is free to wander where it will. Whereas during the day, I have to stay focused on my to-do list and daily priorities.

You seem to use to use a lot of non-digital media in your skateboard graphics. Why?
I think that because I use the computer and digital media so much for work, it’s when I’m not working or sitting in front of the computer that I get ideas for the graphics and inspiration from my surroundings. I want the skateboard graphics to come from what I create, not the computer.

How do your skateboard and design work influence one another?
The only way they really influence one another is that I want them to be different than one another. I really enjoy my design work and the projects I get to work on, and feel lucky that my business involves something I’m passionate about (art and design), but at the end of the day, it’s a job, it’s work. My skateboard art is a form of escape, and I want it to be everything my design work is not, and vice versa.

What’s next for TredeauDesign and your skateboard design work?
I’m in the process of a total over haul of the website, (, adding a lot of work to the portfolio, trying to tailor it to my current client base, which has evolved over the last couple years, since my last re-design of the site. My work has also expanded geographically recently, to include west coast clients and markets, and I want to take that even further. My skateboard art has had to move to the back burner for a while, because I just don’t have the extra time to spend on it. I’m focused on growing TredeauDesign right now, which is the priority. My skateboard art will always be a part of my life, just not a large part at the moment.

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