One step into Bill DeForest’s new office at Castleton and you’ll know that he’s made himself right at home. DeForest always has music playing while he is in his office, and it’s pretty groovy. Across from his collection of 14 crocheted star wars characters that he received from a student, you’ll find a massive, smiling Frankenstein’s Monster cut-up and glued together into giant print that has it’s own personality.
“He’s sympathetic.” said DeForest. “He’s the ultimate sympathetic character. He’s a mashup. He came to be, he didn’t ask to be as he was. He got a lot of flack going through life, he’s trying hard; but as you can see, there’s a kindness, a friendliness. There’s a monster, but he’s trying to have a soul. Also, it’s just kind of fun. Frankie has been with me for a while now.”
Then we got into the good stuff.
Q: One week down, how are you holding up?
- A: I’m loving it. I’m in that “pinch me, pinch me, can this be real? I think this is real.” This is really as good as I hoped it would be. It just hasn’t let up. The nice is coming in from every direction. I had a student tell me after class today, as everybody got out, she just stopped and said “I just want you to know I love your class,” and that just made me so over-the-top happy. It was unbelievable. It gave me so much confidence to go forward with my crazy dreams.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background? What’s your history? The backstory! The prequel to Castleton.
- A: Oh, those dark early years! As I told some people today, I’ve had a varied life. I started of fin the fine arts; printmaking and drawing. Drawing was always my thing, and still is a big thing with me. Printmaking taught me to work in layers, which taught me to be flexible with imagery. That imagery was interactive and you could work with it in different ways. So I went on and got a masters in printmaking and drawing, and that was wonderful. And I lived an excitedly boring small life in Ithaca, New York for about eight years, I taught at Ithaca college, I tended bar, I worked on a groovy hippy-dippy farm-y, commune-y kind of thing, which was wonderful. Then I decided this needed to…I could kind of see a light at the end of the tunnel, it was a train, it was me not doing much about my future. I decided I needed to take my future in hand and go for a degree that was career oriented, but still use my art. That degree was a medical illustration degree program at RIT and that’s where I got computer graphics, I had a concentration in computer graphics. Which is where I learned I was a lousy graphic designer. But then because I knew Adobe Products, I was asked to teach them, and because I was teaching them I began using them. And soon I fell in love with design and working in layers, and images, and layouts being interactive, and having multiple forms. Then working with clients brought me out into the wider world, which is why I love design, because you work with people, and your designs go out into the world, and they have an effect, and they’re part of what makes the world the way it is.
Q: Where were you living and teaching prior to Castleton?
- A: I was living in central New York, in Oswego, my hometown, land of wide waters and lots of flat land and soil. I was teaching at Bryant Stratton College where I was the program director. I built the program, and after about 13 years there and some changes in my personal life; losing some people and my horse, I realized I had another gear I had never hit in life, and I wanted to take it further. I wanted to take my teaching further, I was looking for new opportunities. I was looking for a school so much like Castleton that when I saw Castleton it was the very first school that I applied to when I had all my materials done; and apparently Castleton was looking for me. And it’s been great ever since.
Q: You’ve been in Vermont about three weeks, so what do you think? What do you like? What do you not like?
- A: The best thing about Vermont is Vermonters. I push my cars to the limit in terms of mileage, I’ve always had jeeps, so the other day my jeep wasn’t starting and I got to the grocery store, and my jeep just didn’t start. There was this Aubuchon’s, and someone in the parking lot said “Hey, what’s your trouble? Maybe it’s this – you need to bang on the Solenoid with a hammer.” He got under my car, showed me where it was. I went into Aubuchon’ and I said “Do you have a hammer I can use to bang on my Solenoid?” And the guy came out and showed me how to do it, and I was happily down the road. But I asked him, “What can I do to repay you?” and he said “you can just come around, be a regular” and I said “Why wouldn’t I?” Everybody has been like that. Everybody has been so straight up, straightforward, and nice.
Q: Is there anything you’re not a fan of? There’s always a “but”
- A: Here’s the thing, this isn’t so much a “but,” as it is that I’m learning to adjust to the irregularity of my phone service. I’ve learned to be more relaxed, there are times when I’m just not going to have access, and that is fine. It’s so funny, I have it up to 100 yards away from where I live. I have three bars, and then I have nothing. It’s a sign from the universe I think.
Q: What are you teaching this semester?
- A: I’m teaching Digital Photography; I think we’re all digital photographers already, so it’s more about how we can take our images and make them say more, do more, and be more. I’m teaching two sections of Graphic Design I, Introduction to Graphic Design which I absolutely love, because it really shows how art and human interactions and life as it is lived. How they come into play in a design, how they’re lived, how our feels become reals is what I like to say. How expectations from a client become affectations in a layout that we can point to. I also teach a really exciting hybrid class of Graphic Design two, three, and four students and we’re using that as a design service agency. We’re going to do actual projects; one project this semester has been from David Blow, who has kindly given us an opportunity to propose a makeover to the Spartan.
Q: What do you hope to contribute to Castleton?
- A: I hope to contribute a record of career placement after graduation. I hope to support local economies and environmentally healthy projects and initiatives. I hope to support not-for-profits and do-good organizations, and I hope that students while they’re here will have an opportunityto use their classwork to make a difference before they graduate. The other thing I hope to do is help connect high school students with Castleton for Graphic Design.
Q: As a Graphic Designer, do you have a favorite font? I know you won’t say Comic Sans
- A: No I won’t, but I have an obscene love of the font Impact, but this morning I decided that I really love Avenir…again.
Q: Is there anything in particular that you do to keep up with modern trends? Do you pull a 30-rock and just Steve Buscemi it? (How do you do fellow kids?)
- A: I do. Well, first of all I’m a member of the AIGA (The American Institute for Graphic Artists); I plan to attend their conference, and I am a part of AIGI Upstate in New York, so I go to Upstate Creates. I read my news letters, I get feeds, and of course I have some of my favorites that I follow on social media. I want to join the Vermont version of the AIGA, but that’s on a bread-and-butter level of how I stay connected.
Q: How do you feel about rapid fire questions?
- A: They make me breathless.
Q: Left Twix or Right Twix?
- A: (excitedly) I’m totally right Twix.
Q: Pepsi or Coke?
- A: Pepsi with Lemon.
Q: Xbox or Playstation?
- A: Let me put it this way: Tetris, Super Mario, and I have beat the mother-brain out of Metroid. I’m classic Nintendo.
Q: Tea or Coffee?
- A: Coffee. One cup a day, but it’s endless.
Q: Pandora or Spotify?
- A: Pandora. And I’ve gotta say this, algorithms for music are making me a believer in robot love.
Q: Cats or Dogs?
- A: Hit me where it hurts. Cats. Charlie, he’s got three legs, he’s beautiful. He’s my guy. Came in through my kitchen window.
Q: Cake or Pie?
- A: Pie! Berry Pie.
Q: Any specific?
- A: If it ends in Berry I love it.
Q: Hulu, HBO, or Netflix?
- A: HBO.
Q: Photoshop or Illustrator?
- A: (punched-in-the-gut reaction) Oh, I would say Illustrator. I’ve become a lover of flat, clean design. I think Illustrator speaks more to the moment that we’re in these days.
Q: Do you have any guilty pleasures that you wouldn’t mind sharing with the entire population of Castleton and the internet?
- A: I’m hooked on the rail trail, it’s my jam. I walked to Poultney and back yesterday and almost destroyed my foot. I can go bad on Ben & Jerry’s and I have to be careful. It’s very close to my Kryptonite here. I cannot wait to binge the rest of Game of Thrones, but in this move I’ve sort of lost track of a lot of my shows.
Q: Are you prepared for Vermont roads in the winter?
- A: I would say that I have had a lot of classical training in driving in the snow. I think what I’m not prepared for is mud season.