Devil in the details

Ryan Thacker's bright, clear work makes him an ideal infographic designer

Published April 25, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

Infographic for Good (Ryan Thacker/William Bostwick)
Infographic for Good (Ryan Thacker/William Bostwick)

ImprintThe infographic shows incarceration rates around the world, each country a rectangle in a prison yard, each rectangle a scatter plot of milling inmates. What you notice after a few minutes: The uniform colors are accurate, from America’s eyesore orange to France’s proletarian blue. What you notice after a few more minutes: a sprinting escapee, fleeing to the margin of the page. “I love it,” says Scott Stowell, who worked on the graphic―a page in a Norton sociology textbook―with Ryan Thacker at Open. But why would a designer think to slip that detail in? “Ryan would say, ‘Why wouldn’t you think of it?’ ” Stowell says. Thacker’s work is funny (when else have incarceration rates elicited a grin?), and the humor is in the details.

Age: 29
Senior designer at Open
From: Mercer County, New Jersey
Lives in: Brooklyn, New York


Thacker came to Open from Philadelphia and a stint at Allemann Almquist & Jones, “getting out the paintbrushes, doing mechanicals,” Thacker says. Very Swiss. He had already interned at Open, after taking a workshop with Stowell at Philadelphia's University of the Arts. In school, Thacker had learned about standards; Open let him loose to play around. “I was exposed to the notion that design work could be funny and poignant and meaningful, and not just about its formal qualities,” he says. “Not that those things aren’t also important.”

[caption id="attachment_302031" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Design and illustration for Good cover (designed with Scott Stowell at Open; creative director: Casey Caplowe), 2009"]Good magazine cover[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_302041" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Op-Ed illustration for The New York Times (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2009"]Public option[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_302541" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Illustration for Bloomberg View, 2011"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_302561" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Infographic for Good (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2010"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_302571" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Infographic for Good (designed with Scott Stowell at Open), 2010"][/caption]

Surely not. Thacker’s work looks good: bright colors, clean lines, easy rhythms. Which helps, since most of those details demand careful study, like the poster on the high schooler’s wall in another Norton textbook page (the pitcher Cliff Lee, Thacker’s favorite Phillie), or the icons on a map of Brooklyn for a proposed mac-and-cheese shop (an anchor for the Navy Yard, an anchor tattoo for Williamsburg). “Even if you don’t know what it means, you can think about it,” Thacker says. “I guess I like making jokes that not everyone would get.”

[caption id="attachment_302581" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Restaurant identity, 2011 (unrealized)"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_302591" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Restaurant identity, 2011 (unrealized)"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_302601" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Reaves Bold typeface, 2009"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_302611" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Rabble Rousers pennant, 2010"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_302621" align="aligncenter" width="377" caption="Rabble Rousers flyer, 2010"][/caption]


See the other 2012 New Visual Artists:

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2012.

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By William Bostwick

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