Aug 12, 2016 11:56AM
By James Walmsley
There is a formula for creating a generic artist name: Ditch your street name. Forget your middle name. Find a word that makes you seem “bigger and cooler” than you really are. Use that word.
Eric Nyffeler didn’t use that approach. His method was more oblique: make fun of yourself. But do so in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and slightly confusing.
“I overestimated how many people actually know that ‘Doe Eyed’ means naive and unsophisticated,” Nyffeler says about his former artist moniker of six years from his Benson studio. “I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who have told me, ‘Oh! I expected you to be some cute, hipster girl from that name.’”
Doe Eyed no more. The 32-year-old illustrator and designer has changed the name of his studio as he ventures beyond producing concert advertisements for an eclectic Grammy-nominated clientele that includes Dave Matthews Band, Phish, and Gotye. Nyffeler is taking his brand of “gritty geometry” and “mid-century whimsy” to more diverse audiences.
“I felt like I needed something of a change,” he says. “I felt like I had outgrown working under that name, and changing it felt like a fresh start for me.”
Indeed, under Eric Nyffeler Design & Illustration—a more sophisticated moniker that would likely please the artist’s parents—the Lincoln transplant has been attracting clients such as Target, Nike, and Airbnb, and publishing work in a variety of design and print publications. Though Nyffeler isn’t one to forget his roots:
“I cannot deny that cutting my teeth in the gig poster world was unbelievably huge and influential,” he says. “A lot of those people, who my work might not look anything like, were people who showed me what was doable in graphic design, and they pushed my work so it wasn’t just advertising.”
Nyffeler’s visual style can be characterized as an Arcadian dropping acid in a vibrating Eames chair. His design sensibilities tend to veer toward concise and direct as opposed to minimalistic, and his artistic sensibilities have one foot in the deep end of psychedelia. The rest of it is buried in pizza, or the artist’s muse.
“I joke that it’s Charley Harper plus Charles Bukowski,” he says, hearkening back to the minimal-realist artist and the dirty-realist author. “Because it’s the geometry, simplicity, and mid-century stuff of Harper but with a trashier, punkier, weirder vibe.”
Of course, he says, somewhere in that clean mess is a kid from Columbus, Nebraska, who used to “draw fake album art for bands that didn’t exist.” And then when they did exist, mainly his own bands, Nyffeler says he began creating “crappy Xerox flyers” that kept getting less and less crappy.
“My passion was doing design stuff for bands, and that’s what made me fall in love with design,” he admits. “Even though I love design and illustration as a whole now, my entry point was doing stuff for bands.”
Now a successful independent commercial artist, with a name that makes Nyffeler sound like himself again, the artist sits back, takes a deep breath, and wonders how he even got here.
“It was pretty much by accident,” Nyffeler says. “But when I look deeper, it makes total sense.”
Visit ericnyffeler.com for more information.