A little over two years ago, Marc Howell and Luke Paisley left the design studio where they were employed to create “SORRY. Design.” The duo has created many successful screenprints, infographics and other designs, ranging from client work to personal projects. They have been able to mix the practical with the ornamental while coordinating work across continents.
Their four-color screenprint “animal onomatopoeia,” displays 11 animal silhouettes and text of the sounds they make. The print is colorful and perfect for any school teacher’s classroom, with information to help children learn; it’s also quirky enough to compliment an apartment’s wall decor.
Paisley lives and works between Tokyo and London, while Howell lives in Chicago. Sleep schedules are completely opposite between the pair. While one man sleeps, the other works, and, somehow, they keep the business running.
Howell was born and raised in Cleveland but left in 2007 to attend Columbia College, where he studied art and design. He graduated in 2011 and stayed in Chicago. In 2012, he began working for Delicious Design League (2061 W. Concord Place).
The duo primarily focuses on screenprints, infographics and other graphic design work. Most of their job consists of designing prints, logos, etc. for clients, but they also create, display and sell their own designs just for fun.
Howell and Paisley were working for Delicious Design League when they decided to split off and become their own brand. Although they liked their work, they did not want to have to compromise or cater to an employer, and they also knew they worked well together, explained Howell. According to their website, they call themselves SORRY because, “It is [their] way of saying ‘Sorry, this time we’re doing our thing.’”
Paisley was more proficient in design, Howell in print. They bonded over soccer and keepy-ups— juggling a soccer ball, sort of like hacky sack— and they both enjoy infographics.
SORRY. Design displays their work at fairs, festivals and galleries, which is a great way to get their name out and bring in revenue. Fairs are often juried— meaning artists must be judged first in order to be a vendor— so having a presence is an accomplishment in itself. They have a few popular prints that go quicker than others, but their items typically sell consistently across the board.
Creating their own prints is an organic process for Paisley and Howell. It can take anywhere from a day to several months to bring a vision to fruition. But it’s often the part of their work that they enjoy most, according to Howell.
Working with clients, on the other hand, takes up most of their Monday to Friday grind. The client will go through several rounds of feedback so that they get a say in their new logo or advertisement. During this feedback process, SORRY. will assemble “mood boards”—collages of different images that take on a concept. That way, Howell said, they can gage the aesthetic and direction for which the client is aiming.
The fact that most of their work is digital makes it easy for Howell and Paisley to collaborate remotely. That is how SORRY. is able to survive while the two members are continents apart, Howell said.
“We have a certain amount of respect for each other,” Howell said in an interview with the PHOENIX.
Howell said he loves screenprinting because it’s so versatile, and he considers himself quite fortunate that he has a job in his field of study. Paisley, however, studied marine biology. This is evident in many of their prints, especially in their infographics, which make the art distinctive.
What makes the company’s work successful is that it’s for everybody.
A popular print by SORRY. is titled “My Body My Bush,” sold as a poster print and as an enamel pin. The words, in teal, take up the frame in front of a background of naked and headless torsos. The pin simply has the slogan.
“We were totally aware that we’re two white guys,” Howell said. “We feel pretty strongly about human rights and gender equality.”
“My Body My Bush” was made for a show at Gallery F (2415 N. Milwaukee Ave.) under the prompt “revolution.” The duo made something they could stand behind without co-opting the movements of others, according to Howell.
“The intent was to be as inclusive as possible,” Howell said. “Too many people are stifled and not allowed to be who they are.”
Other prints aren’t taken so seriously. One such print, “Boiled Eggs,” is just for fun. It mixes the informative with the visually interesting, as many of their prints do.
SORRY. currently doesn’t have a studio of its own, but it has friends all around Chicago who let them print at their facilities. The digital work is done on both men’s computers, and Howell is now in charge of packaging and shipping prints out of his house.
Howell’s goal for the future is to continue designing, and he hopes SORRY. will continue to grow. He made a point to note that any artist, whether they work in music, film or visual art, must also be their own business manager.
“To be a working artist is not impossible,” Howell said. “If you’re passionate about it, there’s a way to make it work.”
SORRY. Design will appear at the Show of Hands Holiday 2017 show Nov. 10-12 at Artifact Events (4325 N. Ravenswood Ave.) and at Renegade Craft Fair Dec. 2-3 at the Bridgeport Art Center (1200 W. 35th St.).
Their merchandise is priced from $4 to $40, and can be purchased on their website. For more information about “SORRY. Design,” visit www.sorry.design.