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June 24, 2004

{     Interview : Braveland     }    

There was a time when the world was largely unknown to man, when forays into the wild were fraught with peril, and men's imaginations met dancing shadows to form all manner of indescribable beasts. Despite the ongoing effort to sanitize our world, there still remain those untamed places and stories of things that shouldn't exist- whether they be on the ocean floor, in the darkest wood or beyond the blackness of the night sky. These myths form the tableau from which Dave Bravenec draws inspiration for Braveland Design, transmuting cryptozoology into designer fashion. His use of earthy colors and the simple pictoglyphic rendering of his subjects taps into something raw and universal, forcing a gut-level reaction to his designs. He's a true pioneer, turning pulp-adventure concepts into wearable art- forging into new territory while others languish in the torpor of more banal, safe and established designs. Welcome to Braveland...

Adam: I was checking out one of your animations- the one involving the giant octopus- It's crushing everything that gets near it; submarines, battleships and helicopters all try to defeat the creature, but eventually go down, and things start to seem a bit hopeless. Finally, the giant beast is taken out by a lone man in a canoe. You've done work for a lot of larger businesses and companies, had some success and some struggle, but have only seemed to really come into your own more recently with Braveland Design. After everything you've been through, have you found it's better to be that lone man in the canoe?
Dave: I was the lone man in the canoe when I worked for other studios and I now enjoy being my own frontiersman. But you have to paddle with some precaution; there are piranhas in the rivers. Be sure to pack a little patience in your backpack for the solo venture.

You've become quite adept at branding, whether it's working for Grand Royal back in the day helping them build a visual identity, or the work you've done for web ventures like Kick Media and Carbon 14. Where does this love for the logo come from?
The logo is the starting point and birth of a company's identity. A good logo will work with every type of collateral piece and, as a whole, create a complete visual system. The logo connotates what the company is about, so you are inventing their image and how the public will receive them. That is a very exciting aspect of graphic design for me. So logos are an extremely rewarding project, and you always know that the client is going to come back to you for further applications once you establish an exciting brand for them.

How involved were you with Grand Royal when things went south?
I was working on a coffee-table book with Harper and Collins on the history of Grand Royal Magazine, developing the new clothing label and designing the branding for a radio station with Sprite. It was a creative high point for everyone working with me on these projects and then one day the black raven came and thumped on our doorstep.

How hard was it to say goodbye to the site and the work you'd done for them?
It was extremely hard because you felt like all these projects and ideas weren't going to be realized for the public. As a designer, you know you can still show them in your portfolio, but it's more gratifying knowing fans of the Beastie Boys get to enjoy the work also. We tried to finish the book after the company shut down but funding was a problem. I was very fed up by then so I decided to carry on the ideas and energy I was feeling by starting my own company which became Braveland. I've never looked back since. And no, I'm not buying the new Beastie Boys album.

I think one of the dangers of web design is that people often view it as a disposable or consumable commodity. You've really transcended this by offering design that not only meets the need but sticks in the head. I've even found some of your designs on a site dedicated to preserving interesting work from now-defunct web projects. And I have to admit that the Braveland images have been with me ever since I first visited your site a year or two ago. Where did the idea for Braveland start?
Braveland is basically about my love for the ideas and graphics I grew up with and those that inspired me as a child of the 70s. I was really into mythological places and creatures so that factors into the designs. I also grew up with all the Davy Crockett and western-pioneer themes, coming from Texas I was tired of all the hip-hop, tough-guy street-wear brands you see in every boutique so I wanted to go in a new direction that told fables through the designs. Give the viewer something more to think about than having an image of a turn table or graffiti on your chest. I was really tired of doing that bit for Grand Royal.

Where is Braveland?
At the earth's core. 20,000 leagues beneath the sea. One million miles to Venus. When dinosaurs ruled the earth. 400 years into the future. The storage room in the back of the Alamo.

If Braveland had a soundtrack, what would be on it?
It would have some exotica music with various animal noises chirping in. Like the River of no Return ride. Then it would proceed to be some mind bending 60s psych music. Outta site!

You've selected an incredible palette, did this arise from the subject matter or were natural tones a starting point?
I've always been into natural earth tone colors and Braveland radiates geological themes- being on earth or outer space. I started with the earth-tone palette when I was doing the identity for Carbon 14. I went from greens to browns and golds. I try to keep those tones consistent especially in the t-shirt bodies. I do a different theme for each year like earth, water, space, so the color palettes adapt to those ideas.

On the subject of nature; there's a really raw and earthy vibe to a lot of the Braveland work. I'm thinking specifically about your Lycanthrope hoody with the felt applique - it reminds me of camping in the mountains when I was a kid. Do you like to kick it outdoors? Is that a conscious influence on your work?
I live in California and you just have to enjoy the great outdoors. How else are you going to spot a lake monster or hairy humanoid but to take a nice stroll in the woods? Maybe spot a UFO or two while camping out under the stars... I purposely try to create a handmade rustic look and feel with my catalogs and collateral pieces.

There's also a real pulpy nostalgia to a lot of your designs, kind of an old adventure-novel charm, or frontier comic-book feel. Where does this aspect of your work come from?
You just described my studio space. I collect pulp paperbacks and relics from old tourist attractions and trading posts. I'm an advocate of seeking out old Tiki lounges and roadside attractions of yester year. It's just been naturally flowing through my blood since I was born. And I'm a big fan of good humor so all of this material has a funny, tongue-in-cheek tone to it.

You've catalogued a nice corner of the bizarre and supernatural with your designs. A lot of the ideas you explore- monsters, aliens, mysterious places and times, have become a part of our modern mythology. We haven't been able to completely explain it all away, and many people believe strongly that these things are out there. I know a man who swears he's encountered a werewolf. Do you believe in such things?
Not particularly. I see humor in the exploitation of these subject matters and in how such myths and marvels have been passed down for generations and exaggerated. I look at everything from crop circles to hieroglyphics and appreciate that pure, simplistic graphic quality that we feel is so alien to our species. I think we really need to have these creatures and stories in our lives to take away from the drab everyday routines that consume us. It gives us something to think about and ponder, and then pass on to our kids and the next generation. My family has had an actual UFO-type encounter when I was young - and that is my family's own personal myth that we get to tell around the campfire I guess I should have become a Cryptozoologist or Anthropologist...
The werewolf has become the mascot of Braveland in the past year. It symbolizes that we all have a mischievous wild side lurking within us and we should all change into that at times, when things get a bit too stressful in life. Of course all the mythological themes are strictly for the clothing label. I wouldn't want to introduce a werewolf in a corporate client's branding unless they really needed it.

You have lived in two of the strangest states in the Union, California and Texas. Who wins in a war of the weird?
Texas naturally breeds freaks and weirdoes. They are the common folk who blend into the mix. People move out to California to play the part of a freak or weirdo. Texas would probably win in a weird war from just appearing on the surface normal but deep inside being questionable.

Braveland has offered some really nice screen-prints over the years, and I was wondering if that's something you do yourself, and whether you'll be doing more of it?
I did some screen printing while at Calarts but I have several printers make the products for Braveland. I just don't have the time with all the freelance projects and hunting of creatures I'm involved in.

I think there's a definite fine-art quality to your designs. Have you participated in any gallery shows, and is that something you aspire to?
I haven't been offered or participated in any gallery shows. I'm not on the circuit I guess. I know my type of work could go over well in a gallery show but I haven't had the time to really ponder that avenue yet. I always look at myself as a graphic designer who does projects for clients, so doing an art show is something I haven't conceived yet. I know I do posters and other types of printed materials so it's probably the next phase for Braveland. I want any opportunity to be beneficial to what I'm doing with Braveland.

It was nice to see your Reptilian vs. the Surfer design on a Hessenmob skate deck. Will you be offering design in any other unexpected formats?
I would love to do (of course) snowboards. I might be doing some more skateboards in the upcoming year. It's really up to a client to approach me to work with them on an interesting product or idea.

What are you working on next, in terms of clothing design?
I'm doing less t-shirts and concentrating on other products like bags, wallets, print stationery, etc. I don't really see myself as a t-shirt line anymore since I've designed other things, like custom polo shirts and jackets. Everybody is doing the t-shirt thing and it's become kind of tired at the moment. I still enjoy doing shirt designs and I know (by sales) that others are interested in what I'm putting on the shirt, so I will keep doing that, but at a smaller capacity. I really want stores and buyers to see that Braveland has endless possibilities.

    » Take a trip to Braveland!


Outta Signt Man!!

Totally Rad!!

Dave - you're a true design genius!

Love ya!

Popgirl! xxx

Posted by: Liz at June 29, 2004 1:42 PM
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