Vintage Vibes: Talking Design With Aaron Scamihorn

Aaron Scamihorn, the founder of RONLEWHORN Industries, is a designer, illustrator, and print artist. Working from his studio in Plainfield, IN, Scamihorn is creating cultural posters and advertising campaigns with an iconic vintage vibe. A skilled illustrator, Scamihorn is also known for his portraits, which have included celebrities like Jay Leno, Meghan Trainor, and Woody Allen.

We recently spoke with Scamihorn about his process, career highlights, and the meaning behind that mysterious studio name.

What is the significance behind the business name RONLEWHORN?

It is an amalgamation of my three names: AaRON LEWis ScamiHORN. I created it during a typography class project when taking apart words and putting them back together. I liked the way it sounded and loved that it would be easy to find me when you google it.

Your parents were both potters and your mother was an art teacher; how did their professions shape your childhood and early introduction to art?

I always loved watching them create. Stuff as simple as mom doing a pastel chalk portrait of a clown for a class lesson or dad throwing a mug on the potter’s wheel would blow my young mind. It definitely instilled a passion for me to create things that wouldn’t exist without me.

What specifically drew you to screen printing as a medium for graphic design? Are there certain limitations in the form when compared to digital rendering and printing?

I grew up playing in punk bands and have always had a passion for the music industry. Doing gig posters was my way to somehow stay connected to that. Once I started doing more show flyers and copy-machine-posters, I wanted to do it the old-school legit way, so I taught myself to screenprint with a mixture of YouTube and a lot of trial and error in my basement. I didn’t realize how much work it would be to take my illustrations down to a few colors and make them all line up and still show the subject the way I wanted it to look. Designing and illustrating when you know the final outcome will be screen printed definitely shapes how you create and forces you to break things down into more iconic and simplified shapes. After about 10 years of doing it, the process has definitely affected my creative style, but I love that.

Your work exhibits an iconic vintage feel, playing with the viewer’s nostalgia for the designs and advertisements of the past. Does that love of vintage appear in other aspects of your life — for instance, the way your decorate your home, the music you listen to, the way you dress, etc.?

It seems cliché, but everything used to be cooler, right? It’s all about contrast, I’m sure. Whatever decade I could have been born in, I’d probably be into whatever was roughly 30-40 years previous.

How does the process of designing for indie bands, or other cultural clients, differ from the process of working for large companies?

I think they’re fairly similar in that they both have an idea of the perception the want their consumers to have of them. The best part of indie music design is that you can be more rough around the edges and play around with subjects that are more unique.

What particular poster or advertising campaign would you identify as being the highlight of your career thus far?

The Dollar Shave Club campaign was definitely a highlight and pivotal point in my career in that it was doing exactly what I love: Illustrating portraits. And that work was seen by a wide variety of people and led to a lot of fun new projects and clients.

Do you design custom typefaces for your work?

I do a lot of brush script and hand lettering whenever the opportunity arises. It’s become a little over-saturated in the design world today, so I try to make my approach to it a little different. I love letting the brush strokes show and leave it pretty rough and grungy.

What is involved in a typical day at the studio for you?

Coffee, YouTube, playing with my dog, internet procrastination, then more coffee and cranking like a beast as inspiration starts to hit. I work super late at night. I think from 11pm to 3am are my best hours.

Do you ever paint, illustrate, screen print, etc. for your own enjoyment?

I try to do this as much as possible. I’ve had a couple gallery shows of my portrait work and have had my work in Gallery 1988 in L.A. multiple times. I also have a show coming up in August in Indy called WhoArted?, which will be in collaboration with a good friend, Amanda Keller, where we’re going to do portraits of weird and interesting people and animals.

I also started an event called Craft Brew Doodle Crew. We get together once a month at Indiana City Brewing to do Musical Chairs doodling. Every 10 minutes we rotate chairs so at the end of the night each piece is a collaboration of all the artists at the table. It’s a great creative release.

What are you currently working on?

A bunch of beer labels, logos for a few different companies, a couple of portraits, and art for that show in August. Pretty stacked up right now, but I love it that way.

All images are courtesy of the artist.