An Interview with John Massey and Matthew Terdich

John Massey is a renowned Chicago-based designer, AIGA medalist and educator. We recently had the pleasure of producing an amazing book for John entitled Vision. Vision explores John’s work through the years and is perfectly designed by Matthew Terdich and his colleagues. Matthew is a former student of John’s and current partner at Programme. Below is an in-depth interview with Matthew in addition to a brief interview with John Massey himself.


Q: How long have you known John Massey? How did you meet?

A: I initially met John as a young design student at UIC. Our professional relationship began after graduation in 2001 when Philip Burton recommended to John that I help him with the design of the book.

Q: How did the book project come to be?

A: John initiated the book project. I believe he wanted to create a piece that would bring together, not only the work he’s is most widely known for at Container Corporation of American and the Center for Advanced Research in Design, but also his life-long pursuit of painting. The book brings together John’s various interests and pursuits in the visual arts and presents them together as a unified philosophy, which is inspiring to say the least. I think he was interested in presenting and celebrating those connections through the book.

On another note, the book also came into being through a lot of hard work, dedication, and discipline on the part of all those involved, Carissa, Maren, Victor, John, and myself.

Q: If you worked with him in the past, what was the most impactful thing you learned from him?

A: John, Carissa, Maren, Victor, and I have been working with John on the book for over 10 years. It’s been a long but amazing process and I’ve learned so much from it throughout each stage of the process.

John has an incredible sensitivity to color, especially in relation to space, composition, type, etc. Every time I look at his work there are new interactions and relationships to discover. It’s absolutely fascinating. John also has such an inspiring way of talking about design; one can’t help but get excited and energized by it! I’ve just tried to absorb as much as I can over the years and it’s really helped me grow and evolve as a designer and person.

Q: How has his work inspired your practice?

A: I mentioned design sensibilities above, so I think in this respect, I would say his presentation, management, and collaboration style. I’ve learned a lot about how to talk about design, just by watching and listening to John. I’m still amazed at how effortlessly he’s able to present, what at times, can be very abstract ideas.

Q: If you had to pick a favorite piece from the book, what would it be?

A: That’s a hard one… there are so many beautiful pieces that it’s hard to pick just one. For color, I really love the Connections poster and Landscape Chicago, as well as Paper Structure and Aquarius II. But I also really like the colored pencil drawings that he’s been doing more recently. Two examples are the Millennium pieces towards the end of the book. I’m also a sucker for metallic inks/paper so any of those also make the list.

Q: What kind of feedback have you gotten on the book?

A: Although we haven’t officially released or distributed the book yet we’ve gotten incredible feedback from those who have seen it. I feel very honored to have been a part of this project, it really was—I believe—a once in a lifetime experience and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity.


Q: What makes Chicago a unique location in the context of the global design discussion?

A: Chicago is a diversified economic environment and the transportation, communications, and agricultural center of North America.

Q: In addition to design history and current events, what areas of exploration and study have influenced your work?

A: Astrophysics.

Q: If you were to design a campaign for Chicago 2015 what would you focus on?

A: The evolving energy and spirit of Chicago.

John Massey's book will be distributed by the Chicago Design Museum. Check out this blog entry for full details.

Add comment

  • Comment
  • Preview