Visualized: Samüel Johnson

Samüel Johnson is a graphic designer who has worked with folks like Vagrant Records, Blackbird Blackbird & The 1975.


Visualized spotlights visual artists in the music world.

Samüel Johnson is a graphic designer who has worked with folks like Vagrant Records, Blackbird Blackbird, The 1975, Waves and Waves, YVYNYL, Marble, and Samaritan. He is also the owner of Fortyounce Clothing, the art director of Wordplay Magazine, and frequently collaborates with David Drake at Johnson and Drake. He was nice enough to give us a moment to discuss his unique artistic and design vision.

How and when did you become interested in the visual arts?

I have been interested in graphic design and drawing as far back as I can remember, at school I remember drawing logos for imaginary companies in my text book which is pretty sad. I was useless at more academic subjects but seemed to have a knack with art.

Was there any artist(s)/individual(s) that inspired you to pursue that path?

As a kid I really liked surreal artists such as Dali, Escher and Rene Magritte. As I got older I became more aware of Graphic Design as a discipline and liked designers such as Joseph Müller Brockmann and generally the Swiss movement. Now I have gone back to my routes a little and prefer to look to surrealists for inspiration. My favourite artist currently is Andrey Remnev, I particularly like the colours seen in his paintings.

How did Fortyounce begin?

Fortyounce began in my first year of Art School, it was a way to make extra money whilst I studied but more importantly it gave me a platform to design without any restraints. When it started we had no money but there was a t-shirt printer in my city so we used to steal plain t-shirts from a shop in town and run over to the printers, get our designs printed, and then take them over to the local skateboard shop ( and sell them in there. This went on until I got caught stealing the tees and got in a bit of trouble. But by then we had sold enough tees and made a bit of money so we could start doing things properly.

What prompted the integration of music/mixtapes/blogs with Fortyounce?

I used to run a music blog called The Unfound, this is where I started making mixtapes, etc, but eventually I ran out of time to run the clothing line, the blog and study so I merged the two.

The imagery and typefaces you develop have an iconic feel to them most of the time (for me at least). Can you get into where these visuals come from?

I spend hours searching for imagery but could probably spend more. I think I have a knack for visualizing the potential of an image and this is always the basis of my designs. If an image has potential you will be able to eventually create something from it. Sometimes it takes days and they won’t go anywhere. I’ve recently gotten into a bad habit of deleting my work completely if I’m not fully satisfied with it—my outflow of work has decreased a lot recently, though I’m working harder than ever and have lots of new stuff waiting to be published.

Tell me a bit about the Fortyounce logo, triple triangle, or…mountains (what I think they are at least).

For the logo I wanted to create something between a continuous shape and an impossible shape, not much I can really say about it, just wanted something recognizable and aesthetically pleasing.

You’ve done a lot of work collaborating with David Drake. Can you speak of that relationship/history?

David contacted me to inquire about taking some photos for Fortyounce and we had very similar ideas and seemed to click when it came to the creative process. We both have different skill sets but the same tastes so we work well together and decided to form a design partnership ( I think my best work has been in collaboration with David and we have loads of stuff in the pipeline that will be published soon.

Thanks for your time Samüel!