By Shelby Schultheis ’14
In the world of design, Rich Deas ’94 has it covered, pencil in hand.
Upon moving to New York, Rich Deas ’94 found his calling in the children’s section of the local library. Deas, a graphic design major, had moved back to New York after graduating from Loyola. While in New Orleans, he had spent two years working as the production designer and art director at the New Orleans Publishing Group. Accompanied on this adventure by his college sweetheart and future wife, Rita Bonin ’94 (marketing), Deas moved back in with his parents and began hunting for a new job.
Once again living in the town of Garden City on Long Island, Deas was surrounded by reminders of his childhood. During his job search, he discovered a career path that he had not previously considered.
“Eventually, I found myself at my local library looking up addresses to send my resume (in the primitive times before Google, Yahoo, etc). I couldn’t help but step into the children’s section—just for old time’s sake. I began browsing the shelves, grabbing handfuls of picture books, pulling up a miniature chair, and sitting at a very low lying table. This was the same spot I sat as a child and first heard Where The Wild Things Are read aloud. As I looked through the books, I realized this is what I could do with my future. I had never considered it before, but this could actually be a great fit mixing illustration and design,” Deas says.
After the time spent in the library, Deas got a job as an art director at Scholastic in the advertising and promotions department where he worked on several projects, including the promotional materials for the Harry Potter series. He later moved into the trade division where he designed and art directed children’s books.
Currently, Deas is working full time as the senior creative director at Macmillan in the Children’s and Young Adult (YA) fiction division where he is perpetually busy. Macmillan Children’s/YA fiction division publishes approximately 200 books a year. He mostly focuses on young adult fiction, but still chooses projects to collaborate on and freelances on his own time. He is now working on sequels to some of his company’s recent best sellers: Cinder by Melissa Meyer, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, and Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson.
Following the recent release of his second fully illustrated picture book, he is also finishing up a train picture book for Scholastic.
“I’m always working on sketches and ideas for future stories as well,” Deas adds.
Perpetually creating isn’t always easy for Deas, and occasionally he finds himself struggling for ideas.
“To overcome this hurdle, I usually need to step out of the ring for a little while, maybe go for a long walk in the city for inspiration and clarity. It also helps to discuss ideas with others such as my publisher and editor,” Deas says.
Coming to Loyola as an undergrad, Deas knew that he would pursue some kind of career involving art. While in high school, he believed that he would go for illustration and painting, but after some consideration, he realized that illustration was very limiting and time consuming. He decided to enroll in graphic design because he believed it would give him more opportunities.
“Ironically, when I started my design classes at Loyola, I realized I was more of an illustrator at heart (to the dismay of a professor as I instinctively incorporated free-hand illustration into my assignments). I hit a point of frustration with this and wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue graphic design,” Deas says.
He decided to meet with a counselor outside of the art department to get a fresh perspective on his situation. As they examined his interests, they discussed the possibility of Deas creating his own major, as well as taking courses in theater and set design.
“The idea of creating and not being confined to a desk was pretty appealing, but as time went on, I learned to work beyond my illustrative impulses and stuck with graphic design,” Deas says.
These days, Deas incorporates several mediums to complete a project ranging from low-tech to high-tech.
“I can still draw a pretty straight line without using a mouse,” Deas says. “Magic? No, I use the ancient instrument of our ancestors…the almost extinct…pencil!”
A fan of the Sanford design 2B pencil, Deas starts all of his projects with a sketch, doodle, or note to himself in order to come up with a concept for whatever he is working on. He still paints and draws, but typically scans his illustrations onto his computer to finish them using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Indesign. He prefers to use his own photos and illustrations over generic Internet images.
As far as inspiration goes, Deas is enamored with music and often listens to it while he works. He likes “moody, atmospheric sounds while working,” but his favorite artists and bands are Eels, The National, Interpol, Sigor Ros, Andrew Bird, and Bob Dylan. Deas always hoped to design posters for concert events.
Deas also admires the work of Cyclone Design and Methane Studios, which are firms that specialize in creating poster designs for musical and theatrical venues. He loves their combination of illustration and handlettering. As far as individual illustrators, he looks up to his brother, Michael Deas, a resident of New Orleans, along with Joe Sorren and Ana Juan.
In the world of young adult publishing, a common trend is to feature a cover of a romanticized, model-perfect face which is supposed to represent the main character. Deas is not a fan of this trend and believes that simple graphics or symbolic images found within the story are more original.
“The cover design is basically the advertisement for the book. I’d like to believe books have more to say and should be represented by more than just a good-looking face,” Deas says. “Also, it’s difficult to give a visual to the character(s). It seems to me that is something for the reader to interpret. My goal is to capture the feeling of the story and create a visual that says something to attract the appropriate reader.”
When asked about his long-term goals in the illustrating world, Deas states that he would love to take a few years off and work on his own projects, but he has a good position and enjoys working with his group at Macmillan. He plans to continue illustrating and working on pictures as a side job.
Deas’s family is supportive of his work and loves helping him. When he brought home the first copy of Cock-A-Doodle Dance!, a children’s book he illustrated, his son, Ryan, dropped it behind the couch and, according to Deas, it’s still there. Ryan enjoyed watching his dad create the book more than he enjoyed the finished project and is already showing his own artistic talents at a young age. Deas’s younger son, Oliver, is nearly two years old and loves books. Actually, “book” was one of Oliver’s first words. Deas’s wife, Rita, also arranges local book reading and signing events.
“It’s a profession that I hope my kids will be proud of and they can share in the fun—counting and dancing at home,” Deas says.
Shelby Schultheis ’14 (English) is the publications intern for the Office of Marketing and Communications during the fall 2012 semester.
View the complete fall 2012 issue of LOYNO.