If you want to build a creative career that you are proud of, you need to embrace vulnerability and really put yourself out there — even if it means there’s a chance for failure.
Drawing on his own journey into design, we sat down with Art Director Hans Bennewitz to hear how combining his love for music and design was instrumental in leading a fulfilling lifestyle. Watch the interview and get inspired to let your own authenticity shine.
My name is Hans Bennewitz and I’m the Art Director of VSP. After hours I get all of my work done here at this collective space in Sacramento.
What does design mean to you?
Illustration and design… it changed my life. It’s one of those things that I found out about and I was hooked and obsessed about it. And it’s never really gone away. I still enjoy meeting other creatives and it’s led me to meet a lot of people that I’ve really felt like I’ve connected with emotionally. I feel like you know you find the people that get you and understand you, and you know, and still want to hang out with you.
How did you find the design world?
Starting out, I was in a punk band. I had noticed work from Asterik Studios who now is Invisible Creature , and it just blew my mind — the combination of music and design together. And it just hit that perfect sweet spot for me where I knew what I wanted to do. From there, I explored different movements of art that I fell in love with from the 50s and 60s to WPA posters, just basically everything. I just fell in love with it and wanted to read more and find out more about it.
Most challenging part of your work?
I always try to set time apart so I could actually design. Otherwise, I kind of found out early if I’m not feeling like I’m doing something that I’m really into, I get kind of depressed. And it’s like, I don’t know why. It’s something I found out early in life. It’s like I just need to make things. I need to feel like what I’m doing is not, I wouldn’t say important but, to me it’s important and a lot of fun. And so I need something I’m proud of and that I can put up there and say, “Yeah, I made that.”
What inspires me is being able to connect with the design community in general. Even social media — seeing what other people are doing. I get inspiration from seeing people hustle and put their work out there… you know they’re proud of it and they just put it up there just because they’ve made it.
I feel someone who’s really good about that is Jen and Amy Hood from Hoodzpah Design. I did some freelance with them and they’re amazing at that. It’s great also having design mentors, design friends that you can talk to. You can throw ideas back and forth. You can mention, “Hey, I’ve just been staring at this thing. I don’t even know if this is cool anymore.” I run into that a lot… where it’s to the point where I think this was cool about an hour ago but now I don’t know.
How do you handle feeling uninspired?
Even with music when I’m writing a song, there’s this part of me that’s very self-conscious. Whenever you put yourself out there you’re putting yourself up to fail at least in your mind. What if it doesn’t go well? What if this ruins the streak of good work that I’ve been doing? So, it’s just one of those things that you’ve got to put yourself out there.
Has Dribbble impacted your career?
Dribbble has definitely impacted my career. I’ve met a lot of local designers that I never knew existed. I get to kind of interact with the design titans that I really admire and look up to. For a while, I didn’t update my website. It’s that problem where you get a lot of work and you don’t have time to update your site. So I would reference my portfolio site and I’d reference my Dribbble page. This is a lot of the things that I’m working on right now. I’m really proud of it and but at the same time, you know, I might not throw it in my portfolio just because you don’t want an overcrowded portfolio. But, it kind of gives them a vibe for what my style is like.
How has design changed during your time?
I never came from the rub-off type days. A lot of my art directors from when I first started did and I think that’s cool seeing the change. But for me, just, in general, I remember there wasn’t a lot of online social sharing for design. I’d have to wait for the newest design annual to come out which you know I always would I still check them out quite a bit. But I remember that was the only way you can get a pulse on what’s happening in the design world, really. And now just with design blogs and social media sites… I mean it’s amazing how much you can connect to people.
Favorite type of work…
You know starting out, and even now, it’s still gig posters. That’s kind of been a love of mine because it combines my love of music and my love of design.
Analog in a digital world…
I think that’s why I really appreciate kind of the vintage or more throwback things of yesterday. There were more limitations back then and it required more creativity. As designers, when you have limitations, it seems you do your best work. You know you only have two colors to do something.
I love the WPA posters back in the day. I mean just, some of them went a little into propaganda but you know, but some of them are hilarious and just amazing. The levels of screen printing they did… it’s something that you can emotionally connect to and you can see that it was handcrafted. I do remember starting out before I knew about design. You don’t know how things are made and you just don’t even think about it. So it’s cool thinking that someone put all that time and effort into something.
Local design love…
In the ’80s, Sacramento had ADAC which was this big design get-together. But around the 2000s, that kind of faded out and died. We noticed that there was just this emptiness there. San Francisco had all of the cool stuff and we kind of thought, well why can’t we get something here too?
And so we started CMND SHFT . The three of us, or the four of us actually, did a design event at the Crest Theatre. From there, what’s really cool is there are two creative events that started after: Creativity + and Creative Mornings. They’re both doing monthly things now and it’s really cool seeing the Sacramento scene come alive.
You can’t do something great by occasionally doing it. Putting your stuff out there, knowing what you want to do. I think it’s really important to unapologetically say, this is me. This is my stuff. If you like it, we can work together. If not, you know, have a nice day.