Brizzi: Logo pimpin' ain't easy

But it's art. Just check out the MICA alum's cool throwback designs

(Brian Krista, b )
July 01, 2011|By Jordan Bartel

You can't miss Todd Brizzi's artistic stamp on Harford Road in Lauraville/Hamilton. He'd just never tell you that.

He'd never tell you, as he makes your coffee at Zeke's, that the company's distinctive logo is his work. Or that the company's peculiar-cool coffee-bean-in-a-crab design, its answer to the "siren" logo of a certain company that must not be named, is his as well.

That "Fueled by Zeke's" bumper sticker on the Honda Accord driving by? That’s Brizzi, too. He has created the instantly memorable logos for many of the shops on this block -- the barber store Chop Shop, the knitting supply store Spinster, Great Soul Wellness Studio.

There's more, even as we walk the few blocks from Zeke's to Charmed Life Studio, which is exhibiting Brizzi's work starting Saturday. He doesn't brag, even though he has dubbed himself the Logo Pimp of Greater Lauraville.

"Oh yeah, that one's mine," he says when prodded, pointing to the logo for Wilson's Tavern. When he reaches Charmed Life, goes to the back room where his posters for special events and bands sit on the ground in frames ready to be hung, he pauses as if overwhelmed. "I have to say, when it's in this form and not just tacked up on a wall, it changes the focus a bit."

Quiet. A quick look around. "Just, wow."

Brizzi, 42, boasting a full bushy beard with wisps of white and a shock of thick dark hair, wields his computer mouse with inventive authority, carving out tiny details and expressive fonts while still winking at and informing his audience. His fanciful, colorful posters resonate with 1930s sensibility.

He's inspired by the bold kid-appeal of classic Workers Progress Administration posters (now recognized for the art they are), the starkness of Soviet propaganda and woodcut prints. They're industrial. There's elements of circus and carnival posters. There's a certain flair. And his posters for local bands are very adult (you'll never think of My Little Pony in the same way again), blazing with you-can’t-look-away color.

Brizzi has to pack in the dates for events, the admission cost, the addresses. But his designs are clean and nostalgic, with words that shout, "Bring your blanket!" and "Bring family and friends!"

"It feels conversational and kind-of cozy," Brizzi notes.

These are posters. Fliers. You see them in the windows of businesses, on the wooden phone poles on the street. They aren't meant to stick around, really. Brizzi's work is, when it comes down to it, utilitarian. But it's art.

"I'd say it's both," he says. "I think layout is art, to tell you the truth. I often wondered if I didn't find this maybe I'd be a mason. I think of myself as a mason/plumber/tradesman of sorts. This is just what I chose to make."

He has done freelance design projects since he was majoring in fine arts at MICA. Mostly stuff for friends, bands who wanted punkish rave cards for small shows. After graduating in 1991, Brizzi dove into the video-game industry, designing graphics for flight simulators and bombed-out landscapes of war games.

While working on games, he continued to freelance under the Toddfather Art banner. His big break was with Zeke's in 2005. He won't reveal how much he was paid for his initial Zeke's work, but he now is in charge of the company’s graphics and is also a roaster.

"Zeke's opened a lot of doors for me," Brizzi says. "The recognizability and ubiquity of the Zeke's branding has found me other customers, for sure."

In 2008, he was let go from his gaming industry job and began devoting more time to design work -- on his own terms, strictly freelance. Local businesses and organizations started calling, knowing what they'd get: something classic, timeless (Brizzi points out that it's others, not himself, who call his work "timeless." But it's true.) and churned out quickly and at relatively low-cost (typical range: $250-$300).

Brizzi does this type of work not just because he enjoys it -- he sees it as giving something back to his community. He says this and it doesn't sound cheesy somehow.

He lives in Arcadia with his wife, Heather, and 6-year-old triplets, two boys and a girl. Brizzi, originally from New Jersey, loves this area of town, its hidden-gem atmosphere. He calls it "sort of this organically developing sort-of incubator for homegrown cottage industry."

Brizzi can't claim responsibility for the town’s feel or individuality. But his work, the posters, the logos, the art of it all, adds a defiant exclamation point to what this area represents.

"I am part of the community," he says. "But it's the community that informs me and the work."

IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “Volume One,” a retrospective of work by Todd Brizzi, the Logo Pimp of Greater Lauraville
WHEN: Opens with a “big neighborhood barbecue,” 4-10 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Charmed Life Studio, 4505 Harford Road, Lauraville
COST: Free
INFO: charmedlifegallery.com; toddbrizzi.com

Jordan Bartel is assistant editor at b. Email him at jordan@bthesite.com or follow on Twitter: @jordanbartel.

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