You’ve seen Frank Norton’s unique designs all over 417-land. Best of Luck Beer Hall, Golden Girl Rum Club’s menu, Boulevard Brewing Company’s labels and now Lucky Tiger Sandwich Company. We spoke to Norton about his creative process, inspiration and his Ned Flanders tattoo.
417 Magazine: How did you get into graphic design?
Frank Norton: I've always been interested in art and drawing, even in school and as a really little kid. As you come of age and try to figure out what your career path is going to be, for everyone who's into art, there's an encouragement to go into graphic design and commercial art. I grew up in Springfield and went to MSU [Missouri State University] and I knew I either wanted to go into teaching or graphic design. I had met with teachers from both departments and I was really charmed with all the professors in the design and illustration department. I felt really fortunate to meet the instructors who helped to cultivate that interest in graphic design and illustration and how to blend the two. My peers at the time, too, are where I got a lot of motivation to pursue a creative career, getting inspired by the work they were doing.
417: How did your style develop?
FN: I graduated during the recession, so there was a sense of needing to serve whoever I worked for. A lot of studios and ad agencies run on the idea of 'whoever walks in the door with money, you have to do what they want.’ There's a business reality to it and you want the client to be happy, but early in my career, like a lot of young designers, I was encouraged to have multiple styles to make it more about being a jack-of-all-trades. It's taken me awhile to find the confidence to realize that my own hand with illustration is what makes me unique, and I stand to have better partnerships when people hire me for being an individual, not a generic graphic designer.
417: Do you have any specific influences?
FN: That's always a tough question because my inspiration is always changing. Growing up in the '80s, it was this cool time of very wild subject matter, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all the Jim Henson Production Company’s puppets and animation, a lot of stuff inspired by comic books. Even the horror movies coming out of the late '80s. There was an emphasis on things that were hand-made at that time, but also it seemed like no one was holding back. We sacrificed a little bit of perfection for the celebration of individualism, things that were a little bit more tongue-in-cheek or off-the-rails. I think those things represent what I'm doing today, to question what a label or a menu is supposed to be.