Adam J. Kurtz

February 26, 2014

Adam J. Kurtz is a graphic designer/illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2009, and has been working with studios, agencies, and commercial clients ever since. His work is inspired by the ephemera of everyday life, and self described as “really, really personal”. Some recent clients include: Urban Outfitters, The New York Times, and Warner Music Group.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m a “graphic designer,” which is a cute title that can mean nearly anything. For me, it’s working in print and digital spaces to create or organize content…and making goofy products and short-run paper goods. I also make a lot of web content for social profiles, just little bits and pieces, and literal scraps. I do whatever I want whenever I can and it’s a lot of fun. Some people call me an artist sometimes.

How has living in New York affected your work? Moving to Brooklyn forced me to do more with less space, which has actually proven to be completely fine. My online shop has grown, but I’m learning to predict and adapt, and I am handling it well for now. There are so many creative people here, so many opportunities for work and collaboration, so much support…it can be great, but also overwhelming. I think the internet has really leveled the playing field, and nobody “needs” to move to a big city, but I do love being able to meet so many people here. Sooner or later, everyone visits New York City, so I’ve been able to meet up with lots of great people who have come through.

Who is your ideal business sponsor/partner? My ideal business sponsor or partner is someone who can handle all the dirty business details of things, space, logistics, production…I just want to make things and find tiny homes for them. My work is all very personal and somewhat autobiographic, so I would be really open to the sort of personal marketing efforts that a lot of brands do in the social world. Am I a “brand influencer” or something? Can I get free sweatpants if I blog about them? Sign me up to sell out, everything is a business, no matter how much “integrity” you claim to have. For me, the goal is to make and share. Fine art exists, and I am interested in that world, but I also understand things like practicality, affordability, and marketing. Whatever.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? I’m really influenced by internet culture as a whole, the hyper-immediate, instant gratification thing. The way things spread, words are used and misconstrued, a single image spawns a tiny cultural movement. It’s powerful stuff. People are literally shouting into space, telling us what they want and how they feel. I try to acknowledge them, and myself, and make small items that speak to those needs, with a bit of a lesson, whether it’s slowing down (through my subscription-based annual mail art clubs) or literally writing out printable advice, like the “Things I Can Focus On” PDF I posted a year ago.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I’m currently working on my ADAMJK BRAIN SUBSCRIPTION, which is a year-long mail art club. About a hundred members signed up, and will receive four packages of original items over the course of the year, at near cost. The group also works together to complete some projects, and there are surprises too, it’s pretty fun. It also sort of encompasses any other smaller creative endeavors coming up, like a new issue of my HOME-BREW zine in time for the Brooklyn Zine Fest, I’m doing a Designers Talking event at The Pitch Project in Milwaukee in early April, thinking about the Renegade Craft Fair in May, and putting finishing touches on a major project for the end of the year. Most of the time, I’m making it up as I go…I also work ~50hrs a week at an ad agency in Manhattan. Sometimes I sleep.

Tell us about your work process and how it develops. My work isn’t the sort of thing you look at on a wall and think about later. I generally make small items you take with you, whether it’s an award ribbon that provides a constant reminder, or my Unsolicited Advice weekly planners, that are a useful daily tool full of jokes and thoughts. I hope people feel encouraged and supported, and maybe realize that there are people in this world who feel just like them. It’s really easy to forget that there are billions of people with the same issues. Maybe this is more personal, but sometimes I am overwhelmed by emails from people who say “WOW THAT IS EXACTLY SPOT ON WOW ARE YOU ME RIGHT NOW?” and I ship a package around the world and realize that we are all essentially the same. The internet feels disconnected, but when I can hold a “tweet” and mail it to Dubai, that’s incredible.

What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? I have a lot of favorite places, many of which I haven’t seen in a while because I work too much. I really love my bed.

What are you reading right now? I’m reading Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue currently, or at least I try to read on the train because I spend a few hours just commuting every week. Sometimes I’m too tired to focus and I just mindlessly play Candy Crush or stare at people with my glazed-over eyes.

Most embarrassing moment? My life is one giant embarrassing moment, probably.

Describe your current studio or workspace.  My current workspace is my tiny bedroom, and it’s pretty cramped. I am looking forward to finding a new space in the coming months, and dedicating room for working, shipping, and storage. It’s all just a hobby but it’s definitely growing and I need to embrace that.