The Block

Interviews — 10 months ago

Bill Connors: Physical Medium

Creating a unique visual identity in 2018 is no easy task, but dig through the work of Bill Connors and you’ll find proof that it’s possible. Operating out of Chicago, IL, the artist and musician is one of the brains behind the collaborative project ‘Physical Medium’.

 

The culmination of a group of friends working together in music and design for over 10 years, Physical Medium represents their collective aesthetics and a desire to be a wide-reaching collective that releases whatever they want – on their own terms.

 

Featuring those signature texture heavy graphics, Bill’s output is most frequently displayed as gig flyers, paste-up posters, vinyl sleeves and T-shirts, proving the ethos underpinning Physical Medium is completely authentic.

 

His latest work – a limited run of tees (one of which landed in our 30 Favourite Designs of 2018 List) – explores more personal themes, drawing on recent experience to arrange evolved graphics on his usual physical canvas’.

 

Shop the latest collection of Physical Medium tees now, available for a limited time.

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Everpress Team
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Original Artwork by Bill Connors
Original Artwork by Bill Connors

When did Physical Medium start and how did it come about? 

A little hard to say exactly when it came about, and I promise I’m not trying to be difficult here. Physical Medium is the collaborative efforts of myself, George Joseph Miller, Reid Miller, and Jimmy Steyskal – childhood friends and bandmates of mine. We’ve been working together in various forms of media for over a decade and I think only within the last year has our energy really shifted from being “a band that occasionally releases things in between live performances” to a much wider-reaching project set on the production of whatever we want, whenever we want.

Original Artwork by Bill Connors
Original Artwork by Bill Connors

Where does Bill Connors end and Physical Medium begin?

Physical Medium starts and ends with the collaboration. The four of us are notorious for spending years tinkering with projects that never see the light of day because the “this can be better” mentality is an incredibly effective roadblock. However, as we’ve grown into ourselves as artists and technicians and human beings, we’re learning how to push one another into calling something finished and being okay with it. So I mean, while I handle the design work, without all four of us there is no Physical Medium. As for splitting my time between my personal and professional work, I suppose I do it the same way everyone else does: one anxiety attack at a time.

Original Artwork by Bill Connors
Original Artwork by Bill Connors

Is there a message behind your work, or do you mainly focus on the aesthetic side of design?

 

I think each project dictates to me what it does or doesn’t need to say, not necessarily the other way around. Personally speaking, I tend to be more focused on the aesthetics of a design and the immediate pleasure that form and space bring me.

Original Artwork by Bill Connors
Original Artwork by Bill Connors

Your main ‘physical medium’ tends to be t-shirts. Why have you picked tees over other types of garments? 

I suppose mainly just because of the cost and the familiarity. I don’t have an aversion to other types of garment, but as someone whose wardrobe for the past 30 years has consisted of 98% crewneck tees, it was just immediately something I felt comfortable putting images on.

Bill Connors artwork designed for Melkbelly
Original artwork by Bill Connors

What are your aspirations for the label?

The only goal of this is to produce tangible items for people to hold, wear, read, listen to, etc. Speaking for myself here, but in the same way that I never had any delusions about being a career musician.

Original Artwork by Bill Connors
Original Artwork by Bill Connors
I don’t really aspire for this to be something that goes beyond making things I can be proud of.

I’m genuinely surprised to be even answering questions about it if I’m being honest. I’m just happy to be here.

Do you take your inspiration more from graphic or fashion design?

I’ve always been more of an illustrator at heart, and I’ve also always been a schlub who doesn’t have a great fashion sense, so my inspirations definitely lie more in the graphic design world. As such, I’ve made a lot of boring and ugly shirts.

Original Artwork by Bill Connors
Original Artwork by Bill Connors
Lately, I’ve been attempting to put more thought into the relationship between the graphic, the shirt, and the body.

I feel like it has really helped me in creating wearables that have a little more flow and don’t feel as much like a NASCAR driver’s jumpsuit.

You’ve just released 4 new items via Everpress. Can you talk us through the inspiration behind them?

Yeah, I mean I think I’ve covered a lot of it in the previous responses but these are, at base-level, a representation of our collective aesthetics at this point in time. There are these much more personal themes of  “a focused energy” and “the healing mind” that I’m not completely comfortable going all the way into in this context, but for the sake of some kind of clarity: the four of us have lost some really close friends and collaborators in recent years; boundlessly talented people we loved an incredible amount. I don’t want to speak for everyone else involved, but since then I’ve had this overwhelming feeling that I would be remiss in my duties to them if I didn’t try to spend my time here making as many things as I could. These themes vaguely address the idea of pushing forward and finding value in the attempts.

Physical Medium t-shirt designed for Everpress
Physical Medium t-shirt designed for Everpress

Any tips for young designers looking to build on their brand with physical products?

 I’m still looking for tips on how to make that happen myself, so if you hear of anything….

Shop the Bill Connors collection limited edition Physical Medium tees now.