Design Philosophy with artist David Pohl

David Pohl is an award winning illustrator based in Pittsburgh and designed the logo and illustrations for the Onward Facing Yoga app.

Q: You work artistically with several mediums. What drew you most heavily into visual art?

David Pohl (DP): I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I discovered very early in life that drawing was something I could do all by myself. It was my own little thing. In the solitude of making pictures I could easily disappear into another realm.

Q: How do you come up with ideas for your personal projects?

DP: For about 10 years, I was heavily invested in The Loop Yoga Project, which grew out of my Kundalini yoga practice and my work as a musician/drummer. It was a two-fold project that included visual and sound art. It started with me making music to facilitate my meditation practice and grew into a series of large scale wall drawings, created with a Spirograph. I let this project go several years ago, but I can see returning to it because I don’t think I’ve have exhausted the concept yet.

Just Breathe

Just Breathe | Client: Fitness Magazine

Q: Your work manages to be equally evocative and reflective. It’s often both child-like in whimsy and at the same time very studied and exact. What feeds your work on a daily basis toward either of these abilities?

DP: There is a Japanese term; Wabi-sabi which very basically, represents an aesthetic philosophy centered around the acceptance of transience and imperfection.

Q: What has been most inspirational to your work in the past year?

DP: The work of graphic designer Paul Rand. I recently completed a series of banners for Pittsburgh’s Market Square. The banners have faces on them made up of purely geometric shapes that reflect the architecture of the surrounding space. I was thinking about Paul Rand’s Westinghouse sign which used to be on the North Side of Pittsburgh. I was always intrigued by it as a kid. I wanted to pay homage to that piece in some way, and in doing so it opened up a completely new direction for my work.


Q: The Onward Facing Yoga (OFY) logo can be appreciated on several different levels: as a pair of faces, a landscape, a yin/yang symbol, or a texture. Is there a minimum or maximum number of levels you feel good design operates on?

DP: I feel my work is best when it communicates on at least two levels. I’m trying to create work that is both conceptual and emotionally evocative. The OFY logo is a re-imagination of the yin-yang symbol; which represents the concept of opposites acting as compliments to each other; How one thing gives rise to the other. I wanted to illustrate both calmness and energy, inner reflection and outward vision, grounded-ness and flight. All those metaphors are contained within the simple concept of earth meets sky.

Onward Facing Yoga Logo

Q: You cycled through several designs before settling on one and refining the OFY logo. How much of the work is intuitive and experimental, and how much is wringing your hands solving a problem logically?

DP: I really believe that intuition and logic are the same thing, but I see what you’re getting at. It’s very rare that an idea just pops into my head. Experimentation is the playful work that chases all the noise out of my head so a fresh idea can enter. In a way this process is very much like meditation.

Q: The logo had to be identifiable as an app button on a phone screen and also be dynamic as a large piece. How did you address scale?

DP: The original concept sketch was initially much more complex, so taking the app button into consideration helped me to simplify the image. The texture adds to the image when viewed larger, but virtually disappears when reduced to an icon. During my refinement process I sent tiny versions of the logo to view on my phone so I could see the differences.

The Heart

Heart | Client: Table Magazine

Q: OFY was designed to be as organic as possible. How do you view the marriage of organic and digital design?

DP: All of my commissioned work since 2003 has been created on the computer. For 12 years before that I made everything by hand and the the work was photographed. I’m often asked if I make my illustrations now on the computer, or by hand, which makes me feel that I’ve reached a good balance. I work in Photoshop rather than Illustrator because it “feels” better and unexpected, unplanned things can still happen. Photoshop is organic software to me. It’s a happy accident making kind of software.