Wes Niven | Attention Getter
From hip-hop, punk rock, cartoons and graffiti influences to designing environmental space graphics and apparel graphics for Converse, Wes Niven’s bold and bright style still makes an impact.
Graphic Designer, Converse Inc.
AUArts Alum 2013, BDes | Visual Communication Design
AUArts: What do you do, and where do you currently live?
Wes Niven: I work at the Converse Inc. world headquarters. I'm a graphic designer on the global brand team, and I work on creating environmental space graphics, special project execution and motion graphics that go into retail spaces and retail events. Any kind of special retail event where they're dropping a new shoe or only influencers are allowed, I'm doing the graphics for that.
Lately, I've started getting into more managing and art directing larger projects with the external agencies that Converse works with, slowly moving away from actual executing to more art directing, managing.
I live very close to Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, where the Red Sox play.
AUArts: Did you know that you wanted to go into art or design when you were younger?
Niven: Pretty much from day one. I knew I wanted to get paid to do art somehow. But I wasn't exactly sure how to do that.
I read that as a teenager, you were really into the graffiti scene.
I was always into art. I remember me and my friend, in maybe fifth or sixth grade, going to his older brother’s room. We found all these hip hop magazines and his spray cans and sketchbooks, and I was blown away.
It was art, but it was kind of badass. There was something very appealing about the rebelliousness of it – it was like nothing that I'd ever really seen.
I think I stole a few of his sketches, and I started tracing them. And then I used to read The Source, this hip hop magazine. They had graffiti pics of the month, and I would photocopy them. I started out tracing other people's outlines, and then it sort of exploded from there.
AUArts: And that's influenced your style now?
Niven: Definitely. I bring what I learned in graffiti every day. I never knew it at the time, but it's kind of why I'm really into typography – I never realized that's basically what it is. Graffiti has definitely influenced me 100%.
AUArts: What advice would you give to someone whose parents were not supportive of them going to art school?
Niven: If you really want to check out art school, and you have parents that don't support it, I say go for it. It's your life. So go out there and do you.
AUArts: What would you say is the most important thing that you learned at AUArts?
Niven: I mean, so much. That was a big part of my life. But if I had to single one thing out – honestly, time management. I went into the Design program such a punk and so disorganized. And they kind of give you a taste of the real world.
It helped train me to deal with the pressure of juggling a ton of different projects, which is what the real world is like. I was very prepared going into my first job.
AUArts: Did you feel that you had the flexibility to take different areas of interest in your program?
Niven: I tried to design my courses the way that I wanted. And if there was something I couldn’t take, there was nothing stopping you from networking and vibing with people or instructors. Something you want to learn, they can mentor you or point you in the right direction.
Sometimes just enough where you can go home and do the YouTube tutorial and practice. I learned After Effects from courses, but also from experimenting on my own and then hitting up other people in that class who were doing that.
I remember they told us, look at your peers and the people sitting next to you. You’re going to know them in 30 years and you’re going to be hitting them up. And I laughed at that, but it’s so true.
I was using After Effects the other day and I couldn’t figure out this one thing. So I called up my buddy Scott Tronnes, who was in my program that year, and I still talk to him.
Some of my best friends, lifelong friends, I met at AUArts, and I still talk to. You have that connection of going to this small, special thing together. So you meet people that you have a lot in common with, and even if you're not friends, I've met a lot of people who are really interesting, and you can really talk shop and chop it up with them about art and design.
AUArts: What encouragement would you have offered your high school self, what would you tell yourself now?
Niven: I would say keep moving, like eyes on the prize. High school is not a big deal compared to the next 50, 60 years after you're done – that’s the real challenge. Try to keep that perspective, because it seems so big at the time. So epic, but the game hasn't really started. It doesn't start until you get out of college really, that's when real life starts. So don't worry about it too much.