A chat with the artist behind EXP Magazine
May 31, 2010
A few weeks ago, we brought your attention to EXP Magazine, a thesis-project-turned-Kickstarter-venture from the drawing table of Cory Schmitz. At the time of writing, he has smashed his initial target of ¢3,200 by accumulating $4,747 with still 36 days left to run. Cory kindly made time to answer some of my questions on how he put the project together, what his tutors thought of his decision to base his final project on videogames, his favourite games and his future career plans. The full interview is after the break.
infinitecontinues: Hi Cory. Who are you and what do you do?
Cory Schmitz: Hi! I’m Cory Schmitz. I just graduated from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle with a BFA in graphic design. I’m now working as a freelance designer with Wexley School for Girls, an ad agency in downtown Seattle. In my free time, I love to play video games. Actually, video games and graphic design are two of my favorite things. For my thesis project at Cornish I decided to combine these two passions and create a video game art book/magazine. It’s called EXP. It’s been finished for about a month now. I’m currently raising money to get it printed and to fund a second book called The Controller.
ic: Tell us a little more about your course. What were your tutors’ reactions to your decision to produce a videogame magazine for your thesis project? When I was at Uni, videogames still hadn’t properly broken into mass market entertainment, and I think my tutors were a little quizzical whenever I brought my passion into my work. Did you find the same?
CS: Yeah I totally know the feeling. My professors were great and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, but they couldn’t have been further from the target demographic of my project. My main professor called videogames simply “video”. It got a little frustrating after a while, always having to explain everything so thoroughly, but that’s an important part of design; making it so anyone could “understand” it, even if they aren’t in that target demographic.
I think my school might be a bit different because a good portion of the design department major in motion design, and a pretty big chunk of the motion students wanted to make videogames. Despite all this, during a critique of my project, the head of the design department told me he had never played a videogame before. I was pretty disturbed by this, but I could tell he understood why I was making the magazine. I think everyone should play video games, but a lot of non-gamers view games as violent and childish. While a ton of games are violent and childish (I still love them!), there are still games like Shadow Of The Colossus which totally push the envelope of art and storytelling in videogames.
Cory’s Shadow Of The Colossus spread
ic: Describe the process, from start to finish, of you how you created a complete article for EXP. Let’s go with your spreads for Shadow Of The Colossus, as you have already mentioned that as a strong inpiration.
CS: Since EXP was my thesis project, I was on a weird schedule. Because of the way the critiques and presentations were set up, I kind of had to make a lot of the artwork outside of the context of the magazine, rather than going in with the intention of making a layout. So several of the pieces (the Shadow Of The Colossus one included) were designed separately at first, and then I created a layout around it, whereas later in the project I was designing the art and layouts in harmony (an example of this is the Noby Noby Boy spread).
When I first started creating the artwork, I wanted the pieces to be different enough that they could stand on their own, but still be a cohesive whole. The Shadow Of The Colossus piece was actually the first one I made. It was inspired by the landscapes and the world of the game. In fact, both the Shadow Of The Colossus and the Ico piece were meant to be destination posters of sorts; the Ico one being inspired by illustrated travel posters from the 60’s and the Shadow Of The Colossus one being more specifically inspired by Pan Am’s “Helvetica Dream” campaign.
The spread for PSN oddity Noby Noby Boy
ic: What persuaded you to get EXP off the ground as a commercial project? How did you go about it and how pleased are you about the attention it has received since it has been up on Kickstarter?
CS: Well, EXP started getting a lot of press on blogs like Kotaku and Wired Game|Life, and I got so many emails from people asking where they could get it, and how long they’d been waiting for a magazine like this. I was hesitant at first because Mathew Kumar already has a really good ‘zine called exp. Unfortunately, I find out about this after the point of no return for my project. I still feel really bad about not doing my research before picking the name EXP, but my original intentions were so modest I didn’t think it would matter.
The second book will change everything that makes me uncomfortable about the first book. First, I decided to change the name to The Controller. I really like this name because it has an ominous sound, and emphasizes the control the creative contributors have on their pieces. Secondly, I’m planning on having a much larger percentage of contributed art and writing. Hopefully this will take a bit of the pressure off and give The Controller a greater variety of content.
I’m really pleased and flattered by all the attention it’s gotten, but I’m also really nervous about how people will like it when they get their copies.
ic: What are your plans for the future? Do you hope to carve out a successful career in the crossover of graphic design/videogames or begin specialising down one of those routes?
CS: Anything could happen. I’d love to work in games someday, maybe designing UI or sprites or boxart… anything like that. But for right now, I’m going to keep doing this freelance job, start working on The Controller, and just see what happens. I really love graphic design and video games so a path down either of those careers, or both, would be amazing. Seattle’s a great location for both of those industries too, so I’m lucky in that respect. But yeah, I’m just going to see what happens and take it from there.
ic: OK then Cory, to finish up, I’m going to put you on the spot. What are your top 3 games from a purely visual point of view – games that have clearly been built around solid design principles? And, if they are different, what are your top 3 favourite videogames of all time?
CS: Man what a hard question! For the first three… off the top of my head I’d have to go with Shadow of the Colossus (surprise), Katamari Damacy, and Flower. My favorite game of all time is Super Mario 64. If i were to pick two more I would probably go with Ico and one of the Metal Gear Solid games… Probably 4.
The spread inspired by Cory’s favourite ever game: the seminal Super Mario 64
Want to get your hands on EXP magazine, and maybe the upcoming follow-up The Controller? You can still do so by pledging money on Cory’s Kickstarter page – $15 will get you EXP and $30 will snag the pair. Judging by the spreads from his page, they should be well worth the money.
N.B. All images in this post are sourced from Cory’s personal website.