Tyler Spangler

Tyler Spangler

Words by Eleanor Taylor-Davis


A colourful fusion of stimuli, Tyler Spangler’s work disseminates the world around him; through psychedelic patterns and hues Spangler seeks to explore and further understand the human condition. Since his emergence on the creative scene, the California based graphic designer has attracted quite a following; his colour-saturated images instantly captivate viewers, making him a hit in both the creative and commercial worlds. Brazenly chaotic, his work draws inspiration from myriad sources and addresses multiple themes, we caught up with the artist to chat about a few of these.

You’ve previously described yourself as an introvert, how do you think this reticent nature feeds into or affects your work?
Tyler Spangler: I’m not too into having a ton of friends, going to social gatherings, or working with loads of other people. I like to keep my friendships small and intimate, but I do enjoy the occasional punk/metal show. Being this way enables me to take a step back and observe, I love watching people and understanding patterns. As a lot of my time is spent alone, creating, my work has a very personal feel, it’s almost as if I am trading normal daily interactions for the conversations occurring through my work. Since I am somewhat shy and polite in public, I release a lot of the energy I’ve saved up in my work.

Working in a highly digitalised format, do you find most inspiration comes from a similar pool, or do organic sources influence your work too?
Actually most of what inspires me is organic, but I love playing with the idea of a completely saturated digital culture. Aside from art, surfing and music are my biggest inspirations.

You’ve mentioned in previous interviews you studied psychology before turning your hand to design, do you think this training has made an impact on the work you produce?
I approach my work very spontaneously but in a methodical way, if that makes sense. I love researching and experimenting; it’s like I’m trying to crack a code by putting pieces in a slightly different variation over and over. I’ve learnt the implicit power that human emotion and reading facial expression has on a viewer and it’s this that I love to manipulate.

How heavily integrated is your practice with science and technology?
I love watching psychology lectures, documentaries, and patient interviews, I’m fascinated how the human brain can vary so much from person to person – especially in people with mental disorders. Through my work I try to convey the emotions I imagine these people are experiencing everyday.

What was the stimulus behind your abstracted portrait series? It almost seems to make a comment on the self-obsession that permeates our now highly digitalised society, was this something you considered when making it?
To be honest I think it started after watching a horror movie, or a documentary about an asylum, and trying to replicate the emotions I felt. Since I spend more then half the day in front of my computer I cant deny the effect that an obsessive Internet culture has on me, though.

Is there a differentiation between your working methodologies for client projects and personal work?
Not really. A lot of times clients will want to license already existing artwork since most of my stuff is pretty open-ended. When I do get a specific request it’s usually in the vein of what I usually create anyways. I think it’s important to stay true to what you enjoy making or there’ll just be more crappy work in the world.

What or who is the largest source of inspiration?
Surfing without a doubt, it’s taught me to think quickly on my feet and be able to work with whatever I am given.

What does your practice mean to you – why do you do it?
I made a decision a couple years ago to create at least as much as I consume. I make work that I want to see in the world and approach companies as a way of changing what is happening. I love making new work; I make new pieces every day.

What rules or concepts govern your practise?
1. Make things that you want to see in the world.
2. Make something everyday.
3. Don’t take anyone’s advice too seriously.

Finally, where do you see your practice developing? Do you think you’ll be branching out into other mediums at any time soon, or taking your designs onto other platforms?
I’m not too sure; I live in a 250 square foot place with my wife and dog so space is limited for analogue work. I’m not opposed to letterpress or screen-printing though, I think it would be great fun. I really want to hire a mural painter to paint one of my pieces HUGE onto a pier or something.