Rock Beats Paper
Steve Altan is a New York City based artist, graphic designer and fashion designer. He has attended The School of Visual Arts and The Fashion Institute of Technology and have studied both fine art and graphic design. Steve has over 13 years of working experience in apparel graphics, garment design, brand development consulting, advertising, and packaging. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated repeated success as an artist and in building popular brands. He’s worked closely with recording artists and professional athletes like Jaden Smith, Nelly, Diddy, Penny Hardaway, Carmelo Anthony and Alan Houston, to name a few, and has held Art Director and Consulting positions for many popular apparel brands that he has helped build, such as MSFTSRep, Marquee Vega, Rock Beats Paper, Nicki Minaj, Fly Society, Levi’s, Apple Bottoms, Sean John, Ecko Red and UNK NBA. Steve designs men’s, junior’s, as well as children apparel collections sold at popular stores like Forever 21, Macy’s, JC Penny, Burlington, Walmart and TJ Maxx.
What should everyone know about you?
SA: I’m a New York City based fine artist, graphic designer, and fashion designer. I’ve been working as a designer for over 20 years, with a concentration in the fashion industry in the last 13 years. My line of work has been mostly in celebrity owned street-wear lines. I design for the product side, as well as the marketing side of all the brands I’m involved with.
Why did you choose to be a designer?
SA: I would probably have to say that I was born into the fashion industry. My father is a Master Tailor/Suit Maker and has been running a successful business in New York City for over 40 years. We currently share a space in the fashion district and work together on some projects. Although our styles and ideas differ, we get along pretty well (he wears a suit and tie every day and I’m in ripped jeans and a t-shirt). My uncle was also in the import/export side of fashion and was the first to bring Jou Jou jeans to the states back in the 80s. Another uncle and cousins are on the production side of the industry and make products in Turkey. With all this fashion influence around me, I did the most logical thing: I became a starving artist showing and selling paintings on the lower east side throughout the 90’s. In my late 20’s I bought my first Mac and I started working on designs in my basement, mostly making graphic t-shirts for myself and my friends- silk screening and making heat transfers. The computer became another tool to make art and to me it was the most amazing tool. I could scan in drawings, photos and manipulate them in ways I couldn’t do before – I was hooked!
What steps did you take to become a designer?
SA: I started taking classes at School of Visual Arts and Fashion Institute of Technology to learn all the design software and fundamentals of design. I wanted to be able to design for all industries so I took classes in advertising, packaging design, product design, and screen printing. I would be up all night experimenting with and learning Photoshop and Illustrator- creating a huge portfolio of designs that would help me get work. I was also introduced, by some friends, to working designers who took time to give me advice and mentor me.
Best/Most Challenging part of your job?
SA: The best and most challenging part of my job are the same – coming up with new design ideas. Most honest designers will tell you that they have no idea where their next great idea will come from. We wake up in the morning and we know we’re in trouble. There are days I will completely stress myself out because I have nothing, I hate everything I forced myself to design and that deadline is looming. But, that’s just part of the process and the great ideas do eventually come to me. There has to be some suffering in the process. When you get that spark, it’s the greatest feeling in the world and then you can’t stop. My research process is simple – I go for a walk around New York City and pay attention to everything and everyone around me.
If you weren’t a designer what would you be?
SA: I would most likely be a musician – playing guitar, touring in a van, and playing in dive bars. I love making music.
How did you get started in design?
SA: While I was in school, I took on some small freelance projects and was offered a full time position with a toy company as a packaging designer. I left FIT a few credits shy of graduating and began my career as a designer. During my time in that industry, I designed toy packaging and toys, mainly remote control cars for brands like West Coast Choppers, Harley Davidson and Warner Brothers. Within a year, I was introduced to an opportunity in working for an apparel company designing graphics for children’s lounge wear, at which point, I made the switch in industry and have been in fashion ever since. I went on to design for brands like Apple Bottoms, Rocawear, Ecko Red, Sean John, Baby Phat, Fly Society, MSFTSRep, The NBA and many more.
What do you like about what you do?
SA: Besides making art every single day, I like that I get to collaborate with many other creative people. One day I’ll be working with a group of young talented designers trying to get their brand off the ground, and the next day I’ll be designing a collection with celebrities like Jaden Smith and Carmelo Anthony. I’ve been lucky enough to work with diverse groups of creatives – each with their own style, ideas and innovations. This has been a key factor to my growth as a designer and an artist. You never stop learning.
What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?
SA: That anyone can do it. The best is when people ask me “Can you design me a logo? It’s easy! It will only take you 15 minutes.” to which I reply “You do it in 15 minutes, and let’s see the results.” As an artist and a professional in this industry, I like to put thought into what I do and aspire to have great results. My wife tends to think I’m a perfectionist.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
SA: I started my own music inspired clothing brand a few months ago called Rock Beats Paper and it already has a bit of a buzz. My vision is to turn this line into a successful company with different licenses outside of apparel.
What sparked your interest in design?
SA: Not so much “what” but “who” … David Carson and RAYGUN Magazine. If you don’t know him, look him up and you’ll know why!
How has your work evolved since you began your career?
SA: I like to push myself outside my comfort zone. There are designs I can do in my sleep, but I like a challenge. I’ll take on projects that I’ve never done before; it’s the only way to evolve and grow. I started out by designing novelty repeat patterns for children’s lounge wear and evolved to designing full fashion collections and the marketing campaigns for some top brands. It’s also important to work with good factories that will experiment with different techniques and take some risks to help you achieve your vision.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
SA: Right now I’m really into designing Rock and Hip Hop posters. I love the art of concert posters- there are some talented designers out there creating some amazing art. I started designing rock posters of the bands I love, just for fun, then I took that rock poster concept and created a line of graphic t-shirts, customized jackets and shirts called Rock Beats Paper. I’m working on collaborations with some current hip hop artists and legends like Dave East and Ed Lover- there are a few others, but I can’t name them right now…check out my instagram @rockbeatspaper for new announcements (smiley).
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your career?
SA: Relationships are important, don’t burn bridges and always be professional. Don’t take things personally – not everyone is going to like or understand my work and what I do is completely subjective. Can’t make everyone happy, but I will work like crazy to try.
What advice would you give to young designers?
SA: Oh there’s a lot. Treat each project like it’s your last. Always do your best and remember the work you put out there is a reflection of you. Work your ass off. This may mean work for free if you have to. Think of the project and not the money; exposure is important when you’re first starting out. Have a diverse portfolio of different styles and don’t get pigeon holed as having one particular style. Design every single day. This may require creating design projects when work is slow. Challenge Yourself!
Are you superstitious or do you have any rules you live by?
SA: I believe in karma – If you put out positive vibes the universe will give it back to you. I try to help as many people as I can to realize their dreams. I’m living mine and it’s great.
What’s your motto?
SA: Respect the past – Support the future.
SA: I’m Steve Altan- artist, designer, musician, student, teacher. I’ve been working as a creative for over 20 years. These are the brands and people I have worked with:
Current Projects/Clients: MSFTSRep by Jaden Smith – Fly Society – Marquee Vega Co. – TWNTYTWO – Rock Beats Paper – Famous Nobodys – Raury – Adam Jensen – Heart Clothing
Passed Clients: Apple Bottoms – Ecko Red – Sean John Ladies – Baby Phat – Dereon – NBA X Forever 21 – UNK NBA – Protege Footwear- Levis – Brooklyn Cloth – Nicki Minaj for KMart – Enyce – Vampire Life – Tupac Shakur
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