You’ve seen Frank Norton’s one-of-a-kind creations all over 417-land. Best of Luck Beer Hall, Golden Girl Rum Club menu, Boulevard Brewerylabels and now Lucky Tiger Sandwich Company. We spoke to Norton about his creative process, his inspiration and his Ned Flanders tattoo.
Charger 417: How did you come to graphic design?
Frank Norton: I have always been interested in art and drawing, even at school and when I was very young. As you come of age and try to figure out what your career path will be, for anyone who loves art, there is encouragement to get 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 into graphic design. I had met professors from both departments and I was really charmed by all the professors in the design and illustration department. I felt really lucky to meet the instructors who helped cultivate this interest in graphic design and illustration and how to mix the two. My peers at the time also motivated me a lot to pursue a creative career, drawing inspiration from the work they were doing.
417: How did your style develop?
FN: I graduated during the recession, so I felt like I had to serve whoever I worked for. A lot of studios and ad agencies operate on the idea that “anyone who walks in the door with money, you have to do whatever they want.” There’s a business reality and you want the customer to be happy, but early in my career, like a lot of young designers, I was encouraged to have multiple styles to make it a jack-of-all-trades. It took me a while to find the confidence to realize that my own hand with illustration is what makes me unique, and I have better partnerships when people hire me to be an individual, not a generic graphic designer.
417: Do you have any particular influences?
FN: It’s always a difficult question because my inspiration is always changing. Growing up in the 80s, it was that cool time of very wild subjects, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all puppets and animation from the Jim Henson Production Company, lots of comic book inspired stuff. Even the horror movies that come out of the late 80s. The focus was on things that were handmade at that time, but it also seemed like no one was holding back. We sacrificed a bit of perfection to celebrate individualism, things that were a bit more ironic or quirky. I think those things represent what I’m doing today, questioning what a label or a menu is supposed to be.