Often considered Minneapolis' best totally unknown design super team, Aesthetic Apparatus was founded around 1999 in Madison, Wisconsin by Dan Ibarra and Michael Byzewski as a fun side project from their "real" jobs. Over the years their limited edition, screen printed concert posters have secretly snuck into the hearts and minds of a small, rather silent group of socially awkward music and design nerds. Now, Aesthetic Apparatus is a full time, full fledged, insanely unstoppable, and occasionally award winning design mega-studio.
We call Aesthetic Apparatus a “commercial art and printmaking studio.” But what does that mean? On the surface, it means our work is a bit too commercial for “fine art”, and our studio is a bit too messy for “graphic design.” On a deeper level it also means that we have recognized a tendency towards expansion in many studio practices, and see a creative price often paid for unchecked growth. So we designed an intentionally small design studio, and included our small-scale printmaking discipline within it to seal the deal. But balance is important. We’re not puritans. We love the tactility of ink on paper, and we also love the shared cultural experience of a well-executed national campaign. Of course, when we’re called on to collaborate on such a campaign, the caller would not find themselves in any automated phone system.
So are we artists? Inescapably, yes. We feel that emotional tug to create work that reflects our ideas about our world and our existence. But we are also dubious of those white gallery walls that delineate “art” from “everything else.” So we are graphic designers as well. We love and respect the creative potential of ideas that need to function and communicate with the public. Basically, we’re humans— complex, creative, and up for a challenge— and we’ve constructed a studio that reflects that. So if you are an established agency who respects our visual ideas, or maybe a small local business owner who sees the added-value of a graphic design studio with its own printmaking division, or a patron of the arts that would just like to tour our messy studio, you should call us. Operators are standing by.
- Michael Byzewski, Aesthetic Apparatus