“I knew I wanted to pursue the arts, but making money wasn't the first thing on my mind. More so, I was just focused on getting better and sooner rather than later.”
You may not know his name, but you've likely seen the work of visual artist Geo Rodriguez. Between two covers done for Jay Prince, Sonder's introductory EP and his recent work with Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight, Rodriguez' covers have been illuminated across thousands of phones.
For some, graphic design is an lifelong passion, but Geo initially entered the space to fulfill a need. “My friend wanted a clothing brand, so I decided to download Photoshop and give a couple stabs at trying to make some designs,” he explained. “We never got serious with the brand, but I continued to practice it because it felt natural.”
When working on non-cover pieces, Geo describes the process as his own form of therapy. For him, ideas ebb and flow into one another, and none of his work is forced. From the initial sketches to the finished product, Geo zooms in on a desire to create a specific “piece in [his] head.” From there, the work dictates his expression: “I just experiment with that idea and usually that leads to another idea, and so on.” Often, though, his final products evolve into works that are completely different from those original pieces in his head.
When asked specifically about his most recent cover for Nyck @ Knight, Geo explained that he’s known Nyck for years, having connected with the Pro Era emcee for the first time in 2014 for a track called “Wycked.” From there, he and Nyck became trusted collaborators. Geo’s inspiration for the cover struck him after he heard the title of the project. “I knew it had to resemble a movie cover,” he said. “We bounced with the whole movie poster, idea but eventually landed on it being a VHS-style cover.”
As for the photo they used, it was also an instinctual decision. “The photo really represented the energy they had in the album.”
Geo’s organic connection with art explains why he took most of my questions in stride. When asked about some of his greatest challenges, he had little to say about the industry and was much more focused on his own artistic impact. Apart from the dismal amount of respect and credit that is given to artists, Geo attests that his biggest challenge is far greater. "[I'm] trying to create something that makes someone feel something immensely, even if it’s through a phone screen," he explained.
Geo’s goal is to summon a feeling, the notoriety will come in time.
Looking back on our conversation, Geo's path to art and design appears to be a natural fit, especially when you consider the range of his appreciation for the medium. He prides himself on studying old and new school artists alike.
When pressed with picking his top influences of the moment, his first answer was the prolific Henock Sileshi, who you may know from his work with Kevin Abstract, BROCKHAMPTON and the A$AP Mob. Other influences include the subversive designs of David Rudnick, as well as the bold juxtapositions of color and collaging done by colorsbynet. You’ll likely know colorsbynet’s work if you’ve heard of a singer named Halsey. If, right?
Patience seems to be key when it comes to flipping your passion into your career, as Geo admits that he didn’t charge clients from the get-go. “I knew I wanted to pursue the arts, but making money wasn't the first thing on my mind,” he said. “More so, I was just focused on getting better and sooner rather than later.” It was that impressive portfolio that began to garner attention and commissions. Geo’s unexpected use of colors and layering, as well as the catching geometry of his work, has led to his inbox becoming flooded with work requests.
When we did get down to the finer industry details, Geo remained optimistic. Though he admits that when he first began his design work online, it was often difficult to find out who deserved credit for cover art, merch, stage design, etc., there’s been a noticeable shift. “Proper credit [is being given] to everyone that worked on the project,” he said.
We should all be taking notes from Tyler, The Creator, who proudly shouted out his cover artist, Eric White, after unveiling the dual covers for his newly-released album, Flower Boy. The hope, of course, is that more and more artists begin to include creative credits in digital album booklets or on their socials.
Geo concluded our interview with compelling advice to aspiring designers. Apart from the usual tenets of never giving up and believing in yourself, he stressed the importance of studying those around you and those who came before you. He also made it clear that you should “pay your dues,” but also understand the value of your work.
His last piece of advice rang out as potent self-validation: “Believe in yourself, even when no one else does.”