Artist Statement

I make work that celebrates great achievements in industrial design, i.e., products which, by their ability to be understood, used, and maintained, forged a symbiosis between themselves and their users, each improving the other. These were products in which savvy design decisions drove skilled manufacturing processes to transform raw materials into products with character and soul, into objects that became cultural icons, products that helped us define who we were.

What makes an icon?

There were times when technology, business, and culture, in seemingly magic harmony, produced products of quality, character, and usefulness. These periods can be considered "golden eras" of industrial design. Decades-old industries, working in mature product categories, produced objects that were technically sophisticated enough to require a level of skill from the user, but weren't so technically sophisticated as to hamper understanding. These required skills fostered deep experience and satisfaction when mastered, cars from the 1960s to the 1990s, for example (except for some dark years in the '70s), stereo equipment from the 1960s to the 1980s, and SLR cameras from the 1970s to the 1990s, just to name a few. 

My goal is to celebrate products that require something of us, that reward investigation and foster understanding. Products that, through our experience with them, build our skills instead of diminishing them. Products that, through their character and soul, illicit an emotional connection.

Why cars?

For me cars represent a pinnacle of industrial design. All products must combine style with function but vehicles must function as dynamic objects. Their design must take into account air resistance, wind noise, chassis strength, efficient energy use, functionality of interior and exterior, all while being pleasing to look at, evoking some feeling, moving us figuratively as well as literally. 

I like to draw cars that are iconic, historically interesting, and culturally significant, cars that were technical achievements, the 1965 Ford Mustang, for example, which created an entirely new car category that was exactly what young, postwar Americans were looking for, the 2+2 coupe, or the BMW 2002 Turbo, the first car to utilize the now ubiquitous combination of fuel-injection and turbocharging. In 1974 it was a revelation. 

Cars like this are symbols of what we've achieved.

How I choose to represent them

My drawings balance simplicity and detail. They convey the essence of an object in as few shapes as possible, including enough detail so that they may be understood, but not so much that viewer gets lost in them. The drawings are spare and functional, but beautiful. In them, the viewer may see similarities to 20th-century German art and poster design, particularly to the work of Hans Hartmann.

In that the drawings are not in perspective (as we see things in life) but done as elevation views (parallel lines on an object remain parallel in the drawing instead of converging towards a vanishing point) they show the objects in a pure, idealized way. To further this notion, I draw objects using only fills of color. By avoiding lines whenever possible, and never showing a door or hood seam, for example, I highlight the importance of the object's form.

I create the illustrations on a Mac in Adobe Illustrator. They are then printed on heavy, acid-free, 10-mil stock, by an Epson Stylus Pro printer, using vivid, Ultrachrome HDR inks. When framed, these archival prints are rated colorfast up to 200 years.

Why I think drawings are important

It's a common notion that we shape our tools and then our tools shape us. In celebrating great achievements in industrial design, I am offering the viewer a representation of objects that, through our interactions with them, have made us better human beings, that represent high points in our cultural understanding, and in our cultural output.

These drawings are a way to call the objects to mind, to look at what they represent, and to say, "In this I believe."

I hope you enjoy them.

Nik Schulz